Siren Collaborator Mary Konstantopoulos catches up with newly announced Sydney Uni Flames co-captain and Opal Keely Froling to look at a big WNBL season ahead.
This WNBL off-season has led to plenty of change at the Sydney University Flames. Under the guidance of new coach Shane ‘Shyla’s dad’ Heal, the Flames have introduced some new players into the squad and are no doubt hoping to be serious title contenders.
One of those new signings is Australian Opals emerging talent, Keely Froling who has spent the last five seasons with the Canberra Capitals. Last week, despite only being new to the club, Froling was also named co-captain alongside Laura Mansfield for the 2021-22 season.
“It was an extremely exciting moment,” said Froling. “As well as being excited, I was also a little bit shocked because I had no idea it was coming. Shane made the announcement at a team day we held recently and I was extremely humbled.”
Despite being new to leadership at the Flames, Froling has had the opportunity to play alongside and learn from some incredible leaders during her career.
“I have always been surrounded by really great role models, so to be able to be named captain and be a role model and a leader for our squad, especially because we are such a young group, is really exciting.”
When Froling thinks about the leaders she has had the chance to work with, one of the first players that comes to mind is Australian Opal and Canberra Capitals captain, Marianna Tolo.
“I have been around Tolo for ages and we are really good friends, but most of all she is an incredible leader,” said Froling. “I have learnt so much from her and I really respect people like her, Kelsey Griffin and Carly Wilson.
“You learn things from everyone because they all have really different leadership styles, but I obviously have my own leadership style which probably incorporates bits from each of them.”
As a young leader, Froling acknowledges she still has plenty to learn, but has taken some time to reflect on what sort of a leader she is.
“I am a big communicator and like to talk about things and create an environment where we can all be open and honest. I like to think that I am also approachable and that people can come to me if there is something they want to talk about.
“I’m also very vocal on the court.”
The Flames will have plenty to prove on the court this year with the club not having played finals since 2017, when the club won its fourth WNBL title.
Aside from Froling, there are plenty of other exciting new recruits including Chelsea Dungee and Stephanie Watts, who were both 2021 WNBA top 10 draft picks as well as Shyla Heal.
Additionally, as Australia begins to move out of the pandemic, there will likely be more opportunity for fans across the country to watch the WNBL live, following the season that was held in the Townsville hub last year.
This is a good opportunity for the Flames given their strong relationship with the Sydney Kings.
Under the ‘two teams, one club’ mantra, Sydney fans will have the opportunity to attend six double headers across the season, with the Flames getting the chance to play at Qudos Bank Arena.
“That relationship with the Kings is one of the main reasons I signed here,” said Froling.
“I love the vision that the club has and I’m hoping that we can help build a strong fan base, have lots of people coming to the games, and really build that environment of ‘two teams, one club’.
With pre-season now in full swing, Froling is focused on getting to know her new team mates, as well as preparing for the Flames opening game against the Caps.
With a new coach and new-look squad, the Flames will have plenty to prove. But this game has particular significance for Froling, with her lining up against her twin sister Alicia.
The twins are extremely close, despite not having the opportunity to play together for a long time. Alicia made the choice to go to college in the United States and remained there, Keely came back here and studied to be a physiotherapist while playing in the WNBL. The two sisters haven’t really lived in the same place since they were 20 years old.
But that won’t take away the edge when the two meet in opposition on 5 December at Qudos Bank Arena.
“Alicia and I are super competitive, all my siblings are, but because we are twins and she is the older twin, Alicia and I are especially competitive,” said Froling.
“We have to win this game.
“I haven’t lost to her yet and I have to keep that up.”