FORMER captain Kate Willey is leaving Ballarat Rush to play with South East Australian Basketball League rival Geelong Lady Supercats.
Her departure is a setback for the Auslec Rush, which is focusing on fostering youngsters from Ballarat Basketball’s development program.
Willey also won Rush’s most valuable player award last year.
“It’s disappointing to lose her,” Rush coach Peter Cunningham said.
“She’s vastly experienced and our best defensive player by far.
“That means she always gets the opposition’s best offensive player, who is usually a WNBL player.
“It’s going to be tough. She’s not the sort of player you can replace.”
Cunningham said he wished her all the best with Geelong.
Ballarat Basketball chief executive Peter Eddy said Willey had made the call to make the move after an end-of-season break.
He said Rush was looking to give more court time to emerging youngsters such as Bronte Clark and Abby Wehrung.
Willey, 24, spent three seasons with Ballarat after being recruited from Brisbane in 2011, where she played with Logan in the WNBL and captained the Spartans in the SEABL.
She was a key signing for then new Rush coach
Donna Rinaldi, who had coached Willey at the Spartans.
Willey said she had been close to stepping away from the game.
“At the end of last season I thought that I would have a break, because it can be long and time-consuming, and tiring,” she told the Lady Supercats.
“And I’d just started a new job as well, so I originally wasn’t planning on playing the season.”
Willey also believes she has a better chance of being part of a SEABL championship with Geelong.
She said while Ballarat was concentrating on the development of its juniors, Geelong was focused on winning a championship.
“And I thought it might be a better fit for me and where I am in my basketball,” she added.
Geelong has also signed another former Ballarat player in Brianna Massey.
She spent this year with Nunawading in the Big V Youth Championship after coming through the Ballarat representative program.