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The 2016/17 WNBL season is now in full swing and for me it’s my 10th season in the league; two seasons under scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport and this is my 8th season for the MAC Adelaide Lightning. If you include the 7 seasons that I spent playing in Europe, it prompts the question 'where has that 17 years gone and how am I now the oldest in the Lightning squad!?'
This then leads into being asked (at least once a day!) “what are you going to do after basketball?" This question both excites me and daunts me, but allows me to reflect back to 1992 and the day that I was heading to my first basketball game with the Sturt Sabres Basketball Club. I clearly remember not wanting to go and was so close to quitting my basketball career before it even began.
At the time I was very content with being in the pool swimming and playing netball. Trying anything new was terrifying, especially if I wasn’t very good at something. For me, basketball seemed like quite the challenge. Luckily, my older yet much shorter sister Jane, was quite a good player and had come to watch me play that day.
Jane was dressed nicely in a pair of jeans, casual shoes and a woollen jumper. It started badly as I refused to join the team for the warm up (mainly because I had not yet perfected my lay-up prior to my debut game!). Mum instructed Jane to get me onto the court as she didn’t want to waste the entry fee. Jane, clearly unimpressed but still maintaining her role as a supportive older sister, took my hand and lined me up for lay-ups. I didn’t want to let go of her hand and told her to run in with me. Being the older and wiser sister, she muttered under her breath “this is so embarrassing, we can’t do lay-ups holding hands!”
We continued to hold hands throughout the warm up and I was fortunate that Jane was talented enough to catch the ball with one hand and shoot the lay-up for me; not my finest hour. Luckily, the rules of basketball restricted me from bringing my sister onto the court after the tip-off, otherwise I would have looked even more ridiculous than I already did. All it took was this first game to get me hooked as my competitive nature set in and basketball quickly became another passion of mine.
Apart from my family and friends, sport has been one of the biggest influences in my life. The Adelaide Lightning made one of the greatest impacts on me well before I even played for them. As a junior club basketballer, the highlight of my week was going to see my idols from the Lightning play. The atmosphere at what is now known as Titanium Security Arena, was always amazing. To watch my idol, Rachael Sporn, play live made me dream of following in her footsteps. Although it wasn’t just the Lightning players that I enjoyed watching. How could you not get excited when rival teams would come to town with Opals stars like Michele Timms, Trish Fallon, Jenny Whittle, Robyn Maher and Sandy Brondello? I truly believe if I didn’t have these players to inspire me I would have never had the drive and desire to play in the WNBL, let alone for my country.
During the first 3 seasons in the WNBL, I had Phil Brown, Debbie Cook, Jan Stirling and Ray Tomlinson (Australian Gems Coach) as my main coaches. I look at those names today and think most 15 to 18-year-olds playing basketball would be fortunate to have one of those coaches, but I got to learn from all four. Throw in the likes of Neil Gliddon, Patrick Hunt, Barry Barnes and Tom Maher as guest coaches at Junior All-Australian camps and it certainly makes me realise how lucky I was. These coaches certainly influenced my style of game during such crucial developmental years.
Nearly every one of these coaches have helped impact so many players from the WNBL and the Australian Opals. This is a reason why so many players have had such long, successful careers. And speaking of long successful careers, the league still has Suzy Batkovic, Belinda Snell, Carly Wilson and Jacinta Kennedy playing. These girls were playing in the year 2000, when I played my first WNBL game. All four of them have won WNBL championships and are huge key impacts for their teams. I’m lucky enough to say that they are all friends of mine and those friendships are one of the best things to come out of playing this great game. Although, I wasn’t so impressed when Carly (pink socks) Wilson hit a huge three in my face a few weeks ago in Canberra when the game was on the line.
Playing in France last year and then returning to the MAC Adelaide Lightning, there are many new, young faces and debutantes in the WNBL. So far I have been extremely impressed with the commitment and enthusiasm they’ve brought to the program. The total number of WNBL games played by this MAC Adelaide Lightning squad is 428, of which I’ve played 201! That really makes me realise how young we are as a team! Compared to the total games played by current squads in Bendigo, Dandenong and Townsville being well over 1000 games, it just shows that with more game experience there’s positive things ahead for us.
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Australian professional basketball player, having played in Australia's Women's National Basketball League (WNBL), Europe, and the WNBA. MAC Brand Ambassador. Chocolate Lover.