Basketball: Visits inspire country kids

Melbourne Boomer Maddie Garrick may have pulled on the green and gold, but it was not long ago she was cheering on Australia’s basketball stars when they visited her country town. 

NATIONAL TALENT: Melbourne Boomers' Maddie Garrick looks to pass the ball in the exhibition match against Bendigo Spirit at the Minerdome on Friday. Picture: Lachlan Bence

NATIONAL TALENT: Melbourne Boomers' Maddie Garrick looks to pass the ball in the exhibition match against Bendigo Spirit at the Minerdome on Friday. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Growing up in Shepparton, Garrick said her first Women’s National Basketball League experience was when Bendigo Spirit and Perth came to play at her local stadium.

“I had no idea what the league was and I just remember that it was the most amazing thing,” she said.

“From there I wanted to play in a team like that.”

Life has come full circle for Garrick, who is participating in junior clinics, a meet and greet, and two exhibition matches for the Boomers across four days in Ballarat. 

“One thing I stand for is giving back where I can,” she said of the visit.

“In the country there are lots of pathways and bringing national league games into country towns gives young aspiring athletes the vision that they can make it to a team like this one day.”

Garrick made her debut for the Australian Opals in the Asia Cup in July and said the experience on the world stage was something she could bring back and implement with the Boomers. 

“Anytime you get an experience like that you turn out a better player,” she said.

“You have to take it to the next level because you are placed in an environment with the elite women in Australian basketball, so you have to step up and challenge yourself.”

Following the Boomers’ exhibition match against Bendigo Spirit on Friday night, the WNBL team will take to the court against Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence on Saturday. 

The game, which takes place at 3pm, will be free for the general public.

Garrick said it would provide a “fantastic experience” and learning opportunity for the next generation of basketball stars at CoE.

“It will be a really good test for them,” she said.

“Liz (Cambage) is going to be playing a couple of minutes so it’s going to change the dynamic on the floor in terms of game play.

“We will probably just be focusing on running our plays, getting it right and doing it with the full squad.”

While Garrick is aspiring towards the Commonwealth Games and Olympics, at the moment the focus is on winning that championship with the Boomers.

“For me, it’s about continuing to build on the influence I’ve had on the club for the past two seasons,” she said.

“And trying to have more of a leadership role in any capacity… being marked as one of the senior players on the team now, that comes with that.”

The Boomers finished their previous WNBL season in seventh, but have been bolstered by newcomers such as national star Liz Cambage and Jenna O’Hea.