The road to championship glory can feel like a long one as teams battle hard each week just to make finals, followed by the nervous wait prior to each finals contest. No doubt Melbourne and Western Bulldogs fans can relate to this in the lead up to the AFL Grand Final!
But time in sport can also fly by, with seasons running back-to-back and players always on the go from training to games to recovery. This is the case for our three-peater SEABL Championship Women, with today making it 10 years since the middle of their 2010-2012 title winning run.
Led by co-captains Amelia Todhunter and Faith Miller (nee Probst) and head coach Larissa Anderson, the team turned themselves from underdogs to an unstoppable powerhouse over the course of three years and set the SEABL Rangers program up for a decade of dominance that may never be replicated at SEABL/NBL1 level.
While the team featured a number of WNBL players during the Jayco Rangers heyday, this team had a very separate identity than that of our WNBL side, with a strong emphasis on developing future basketball leaders. Names on this championship roster like Clare Papavs, Alison Downie and Steph Blicavs are evidence of this program’s success, along with the strong relationships the girls have to this day.
Playing for and with each other is something Amelia Todhunter remembers fondly now 10 years down the track. As she continues to push herself at the NBL1 and WNBL level her time with this 2010-2012 championship team are some of her fondest basketball memories, something she deeply cherishes upon reflection.
“The accomplishment of winning three SEABL championships in a row (plus two more later that decade) I guess has never really sunk in for me,” said Amelia. “It is only now as I reflect back 10 years ago on what an incredible achievement that is. I guess at the time we were just playing basketball with our best friends… never did it feel like hard work or a slog.”
Readers who were not around during this time may think now with the roster assembled the team would be favourites going into each year, but this was simply not the case. With our elite winter programs transitioning from BigV to SEABL only a few years prior this new competition was fierce, featuring the best associations from across the country.
Winning was not guaranteed and hard work was essential, something Mealz and her co-captain Faith Miller focused on while building a great team environment. Upon reflection Faith stated that the team were the underdogs in both 2010 and even 2011 after winning the title the year before.
‘I don’t think anyone would have ever picked us to win a Championship back in 2010, let alone again in 2011,” said Faith. “We were underdogs both times, the Knox Raiders had caused us all kinds of headaches all year and the championship grand final was no exception.”
The 2011 SEABL Grand Final between our Rangers and the Knox Raiders was a nail biter, neck-and-neck through the whole game. Adding to the stress of this matchup was the injury of star centre Elyse Penaluna midway through the fourth quarter, seriously injuring her knee that forced her to sit out not only this contest but the next WNBL season. At that point the Rangers were up two but had their backs against the wall, the shock of that injury no doubt jarring the team.
However they were able to re-focus and finished the game strong, battling hard at both ends and going on a 9-3 run after Elyse’s injury to secure the lead and the championship. How they mustered up the strength to do that is something only these girls know, but it may have had something to do with the passing of DBA President Charles Ryan during the finals series.
The team dedicated their championship victory to Charles after the DBA icon passed away from illness just before the finals series, an emotional campaign capped off with an incredible run to the title. No doubt Charles would have been proud of the amazing spirit and comradery shown by these Ranger Women throughout this season, something treasured by the whole team.
“We were relentless and had so much to play for, ultimately we won that Championship for Chuck Ryan,” said Faith. “Our 2011 Championship is just one of so many amazing memories I have shared with such a brilliant bunch of girls. We played together and for each other, week in, week out and it’s so rare to find a team with such a tight bond, who genuinely loved being around each other. I am forever grateful to have been a part of such an incredible team.”
Being part of a team, amongst friends, is what sport is all about and something the entire DBA community is missing during these COVID-interrupted times. We can’t wait to get back to making memories and friendships very soon, playing the game we love for the right reasons is something we’ll never take for granted again!
With this in mind Amelia Todhunter is grateful for the time she has had throughout her career but particularly with this team, counting a number of her 2010-2012 teammates as some of her closest friends. While she plans on continuing her amazing career and making new friendships on the court she knows that this was a very special time in her life, something she’ll cherish after she is done playing.
“Larissa did so well to put together a team where everyone knew their roles and everyone just wanted to be a part of a group that gelled on and off the court,” said Amelia.
“I am so lucky to have co-captained the team but our achievements would not have been possible if we all had ulterior motives. We just loved what we did and played for each other. What an incredible experience to reflect back on. We will forever share the most incredible memories and friendship together.”
Stay tuned for our special three-peat feature in 2022!