The GOAT: Star centre smashes MVP record
BASKETBALL: It's official. Suzy Batkovic is the GOAT of the WNBL after the Townsville Fire superstar claimed an unprecedented sixth league MVP award on Tuesday.
Batkovic polled 117 of a possible 189 votes, which were cast by referees and coaches after every WNBL game this season, to pip fellow Opal and star centre Liz Cambage (104 votes) from the Melbourne Boomers.
American imports Courtney Williams (95) and Asia Taylor (85) finished third and fourth respectively, while star Lynx shooter Sami Whitcomb (82) rounded out the top five.
All five aforementioned players also made up the league's All-Star Five, which was announced on Monday afternoon.
Batkovic's MVP victory - her third in a row and, remarkably, sixth in seven seasons - comes in her 16th WNBL season and one month after she turned 37.
Former teammate Lauren Jackson is widely considered Australia's greatest basketballer, male or female, of all-time. But Jackson only won four WNBL MVPs during her career as she balanced her hugely successful WNBA career with the Seattle Storm, as well as stints in Russia, Spain and South Korea.
In the lead-up to the first game of this season's grand final series last weekend, Jackson declared Batkovic as "definitely the best player this league has seen over the period of her career".
"I'm so happy for her. It's a credit she's managed to look after her body as well as she has and she's able to get out there and do her thing," Jackson said.
This season, Batkovic ranked third in the league for average points (20.5) and second for rebounds (10), recording 13 double-doubles across her 21 regular season games. She was also among the competition's top 10 players for steals and blocks.
Batkovic described her sixth MVP gong as "a great honour" but credited the Townsville Fire culture and her teammates for helping her maintain a high output deep into her 30s.
"I've been in my body for 37 years now so I have learned when to push forward and when to pull back," she said.
"It's just about being smart in how I manage myself."
For most of the 2017/18 WNBL season, Batkovic and Cambage had been the two hot favourites to take out the MVP award.
Cambage finished the regular season with a stunning form surge, recording eight double-doubles and five 30-plus point hauls from her final nine home and away matches. But Batkovic's consistency - she scored 20 or more points 14 times - ultimately earned her the award.
"This season has had some of the best post players in the world and it's been tough but it's great to have that competition. I am a competitor so it gets me motivated and it makes
you better as a player," Batkovic said.
The two stars meet again on Thursday night for Game 2 of the grand final series, with a win to Batkovic's Fire securing the club's third WNBL premiership in four seasons.
But no matter the result on Thursday - or Game 3 on Sunday, should it be required - Batkovic still has the hunger to play on into a 17th WNBL campaign.
"I'll definitely be back next season," Batkovic declared.
2017/18 WNBL MVP votes
1. Suzy Batkovic (Townsville Fire) - 117 votes
2. Liz Cambage (Melbourne Boomers) - 104 votes
3. Courtney Williams (Perth Lynx) - 95 votes
4. Asia Taylor (Sydney Uni Flames) - 85 votes
5. Sami Whitcomb (Perth Lynx) - 82 votes
6. Steph Blicavs (Dandenong Rangers) - 57 votes
=7. Jenna O'Hea (Melbourne Boomers) and Abby Bishop (Adelaide Lightning) - 55 votes
9. Jennifer Hamson (Sydney Uni Flames) - 54 votes
10. Nicole Seekamp (Adelaide Lightning) - 52 votes