THE Women’s National Basketball League will bounce into Sale and Maffra, with the Melbourne Boomers and Bendigo Spirit visiting a number of schools ahead of a game in Maffra on Friday night.
A part of the Triple Crown series, which will feature the two teams playing matches in Traralgon, Maffra and Warragul, some of the best female basketball players will be in action.
Friday’s game at the Cameron Sporting Complex is expected to be sold out, with more than 400 fans ready to meet some of the league’s best players.
The Boomers boast four players from Gippsland, including Jenna O’Hea (Traralgon), Jade Melbourne (Traralgon), Chelsea D’Angelo (Traralgon) and Jaz Shelley (Moe).
All will be playing in Maffra tonight, except for O’Hea, who is currently away with the Australian Opals in Europe preparing for this month’s World Cup.
Boomers general manager Justin Nelson said the presence of Gippsland players would add to the excitement for local fans.
“The WNBL is one of the very best leagues in the world, and when it comes to women’s basketball, Australians are some of the very best in the world as well,” he said.
“Traralgon would be the most represented regional city in the WNBL, that’s a talent-rich region for women’s basketball in Australia,” he said.
“They’re really excited to have the opportunity to play in front of family and friends, and also inspire local kids to follow same pathways they’ve followed to reach the top level of the game in this country.”
The series is a key part of pre-season preparation for the Boomers, and bringing a top-flight regional WNBL team like the Bendigo Spirit was good preparation.
“In putting the Triple Crown together, it was really important that we brought a team with us that understands the importance of connecting with local communities, and especially in regional Victoria, Bendigo has a very strong focus on that connection, so to be able to share this experience with Bendigo is something we’re looking forward to,” Nelson said.
“We’ve got a really good team, and we have a fantastic mix of youth and experience, plus four players in the Opals team, and a couple of Americans, and some of Australia’s very best young players as well.
“I don’t think the comp’s ever been stronger, there’s been a lot of exceptional players over the years, but the comp’s at a very high level — every team has stars, and that’ll make it very competitive.
Nelson encouraged fans to stick around afterwards.
“The Boomers are known for connecting with fans after the game, and all the fans are welcome to join us on-court, it’s a strong mantra, we do it after every single game,” he said.
“I can assure you the likes of Monique Conti, Lindsay Allen, Maddie Garrick and our Gippsland trio will have long lines of fans after the game wanting autographs and photos.
“To come back to places like Sale and Maffra where basketball is so popular, and for us to play in front of a packed house in Maffra, just highlights how much the local community loves their sport, and importantly for us, to be able to bring elite level female athletes to town is really exciting.”
For Spirit coach Simon Pritchard, the chance to support the Boomers and be a part of the Triple Crown was an opportunity too good to pass up.
“The Melbourne Boomers have worked hard to get the Triple Crown off the ground and we intend to get full value with our preparations for the upcoming WNBL season,” he said.
“We have all but one of our final roster and we will be implementing key strategies for the season. Our players are really looking forward to conducting clinics and connecting with fans and families over the four days with massive benefits for basketball in the region.
“We pride ourselves on our connections with basketball fans and hope to inspire young athletes to work the pathway to the elite level.”
Tip-off for the match is at 7pm, with doors open from 5pm.