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As New Year’s resolutions were being set for 2017, our goals at the MAC Adelaide Lightning hadn’t changed from 2016. Even though Chris Lucas’ vision has always been focussed on individual and team improvement - given our young and inexperienced side - we were all desperate for that first win. So, to start the New Year with an away victory against the Melbourne Boomers was exciting and rewarding for all the hard work on the training track.
I missed that game through injury and could only follow the scores on live stats - one of the more nerve-racking experiences watching the score and time tick over! It was sad to miss out on the bear hugs and celebrations, but I couldn’t have been more proud of what the girls and coaching staff had achieved.
The celebrations had to end quickly as their focus needed to switch to playing top-of-the-table Dandenong the next day. Back-to-back games are never easy, but confidence remained high and the girls didn’t falter, claiming that second victory, 80-73.
On their return to Adelaide, I noticed a more confident team than before they left for the tough Victorian double-header. I truly believe confidence is a vital component to a successful team. I couldn’t help but be boosted from these brilliant wins, but I did say to myself, “they don’t need Grandma Hodge anymore!!”
After missing 5 straight games, I was excited to be back vs the Sydney Flames at home. This was a thrilling contest that came down to the wire. The first time we played Sydney they out-rebounded us by 20. So, our biggest focus for this game was to win the rebound count, which we did, but it wasn’t enough to get the win. Our free-throw percentage let us down hugely, being only 46% (a coach’s worst nightmare) - which hurt us down the stretch.
A great highlight from the two interstate wins, was the dominant performances from Tayla Roberts and Colleen Planeta. This display deservedly awarded Tayla with Round 13 Player-of-the-Week and the inclusion of Colleen in Team-of-the-Week. Round 14 followed with Sam Logic also receiving Team-of-the-Week accolades for her double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) performance against Sydney - further indication of our improvement as a team through the season.
A big announcement was made in the WNBL last week from an absolute star of our game, Carly Wilson. After a brilliant career spanning 17 seasons she has announced that she will retire at the end of this 16/17 WNBL season. I regard myself as one of the lucky ones that can say I got to play alongside her both in the WNBL and for the Opals. What I have always loved about Carly’s game is she makes everything look so easy. Her fade-away-turnaround-jumper is one of those things, all while not raising a sweat. She is certainly a coach’s dream because of her high basketball IQ and versatility. The Capitals and the WNBL will certainly miss her infectious fun-loving personality, reflected in her trademark ‘pink socks’.
Since Carly has announced her retirement it has been a time of reflection for me. I have started to reminisce back to my teenage years when I first started playing elite basketball for the Australian Institute of Sport. The MAC Adelaide Lightning has three young talented 18-year-old’s this year - Anneli Maley, Chelsea Brook and Sarah Elsworthy. Sometimes I am envious of their youth because I know they have so much to look forward to in their careers. At the same time if I could do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing. The reason why I say this is not only because I have had great basketball experiences but I have developed amazing friendships that will last a lifetime. Carly Wilson is certainly one of those.
It will be a privilege to play against Carly in the last weekend of her basketball career. The MAC Adelaide Lightning are scheduled to meet the Capitals on Thursday the 16th of February in Canberra where our friendship started 17 years ago.
With the WNBL regular season quickly coming to the end. There are only 5 games left for us, and although we’re not able to make the finals, there’s no letting up. We can, however, ruffle the feathers of the current top 6, as well as positioning ourselves favourably for the next season. It will provide a good foundation if we can gain some momentum leading into the start of next season. And on a personal level, I would love to share that winning feeling and to perhaps witness Chris’ famous celebratory dances moves!
Australian professional basketball player, having played in Australia's Women's National Basketball League (WNBL), Europe, and the WNBA. MAC Brand Ambassador. Chocolate Lover.