With this weekend being the celebration of the WNBL’s 25th anniversary the superstar of Australian Basketball that is Penny Taylor, returned to her home club, the Jayco Dandenong Rangers to help celebrate. The WNBL, Australia’s National Women’s Basketball League is known for the quality of basketball it produces, rating second in the world for its level of play and players it produces. Penny, who represented Australia at 3 Olympics and 3 World Championships, was an WNBA All Star and Champion 3 times amongst other accolades, played at the Rangers from 1999-2002 and then again for the 2014/15 season. She has a great fondness for the club, referring to it as home and was more than happy to return and be part of this celebration. “There aren’t many sporting leagues with this longevity, it’s really special.” And despite the hopes and wishes of all, won’t be showing her court prowess off on court on Saturday.
I was invited to attend the press conference held yesterday at the Dandenong Stadium ahead of Saturday’s game against rival Melbourne team, the Melbourne Boomers. Penny recently retired from basketball, the loss at the Rio Olympics being her final outing for Australia. It was evident during question time and watching her chat to journalists afterwards, just how much that loss affected her. Potential, expectations and abilities were not reached by the team expected by most to, if not bring home the gold against the US, at least make them work the hardest they’ve ever worked for it. Unfortunately, they were out before medaling. A quick google reveals a quote, used many times over, from Penny post that game, sharing her disappointment at the result which was plain for everyone to see today. “It sucks (losing) but I’m always proud to play for my country.” For she who has given so much to basketball both in Australia and overseas, the gold medal would have been the ultimate reward.
Post press conferencey bit, Penny donned the singlet the team will be wearing tomorrow for the 25th anni celebrations and had some pics with the girls and Sally Phillips, herself a legend of the game and current Head of the WNBL.
I was incredibly lucky and scored a few minutes of Penny’s time for a one on one chat. Before I go any further-if you know me personally this will be of no surprise to you, but if you don’t, I am quite a shy, reserved, awkward being around strangers. Even with close friends and family, I don’t always have good social skills! So to have interview time with an Olympian, wow, I was NERVOUS! And ultimately, I didn’t need to be as she was just lovely. Anyways, I stepped forward, shook hands (mine was sweaty, yuk, sorry Penny) and introduced myself:
“Hi I’m Liz. Unlike most people here today this is not my usual thing. I have a blog, I’m not a journo and I’m quite awkward. But I’m a big fan so I just can’t pass up the opportunity to chat to you. Just so you know.” Her response, ok, I like your earrings, where did you get them?! How gorgeous is she?!!!! Getting me, picking up I love a bit of fash and being all complimenty straight away!! #fangirl #girlcrush
I quizzed Penny about life post professional basketball…she is looking forward to taking some time out, discovering just what life without the constraints of playing professionally can mean for her. Taking the time to heal, 16 years of back to back seasons of basketball definitely takes it toll on mind and soul as well as the body. She is planning some online courses, nutrition being of great interest to her. Learning how the right nutrition can assist an athlete to reach their absolute potential. What about coaching, the question on everyone’s lips? Coaching is, of course, a possibility and a likely direction down the track. Penny freely admits she has plenty to learn before entering the coaching arena but her willingness and want to learn was clear to all today. The sport is continually evolving, growing and there is so much to learn about it.
Chatting about girls starting out in basketball and women in sport in general, her level of enthusiasm for the topic was immense. Penny being of the belief that girls should be afforded the opportunity to try all sports. Not just traditional ‘girl’ ones. Obviously basketball is her passion and the whole getting down, getting sweaty, getting rough and competitive is something all girls should have the chance to experience in her opinion. She did and it’s given her a career, the chance to travel the world, to become a role model for others. You only need to Wikipedia her to see the massive list of Penny’s accomplishments. If you could achieve half of what she has in your chosen field you would indeed be a happy camper!
To say Penny is a superstar of Women’s Basketball is to sell her short. In fact to say anyone is a superstar of *insert gender* any sport is to sell that athlete short. In the short time I’ve been involved with/supporting the WNBL Jayco Rangers, I’ve come to see just how great the divide is between the genders in the sporting field. I’m going to jump on my soapbox for a minute and rant…as I mentioned at the beginning, this league is ranked 2nd in the world of women’s basketball. Yet many of these players work full time in conjunction to playing their chosen, and much loved, sport PROFESSIONALLY. The head of the league Sally Phillips is fighting to introduce a minimum salary of $7.5-10k a season for these players so they receive something for their time. Currently there is no minimum wage and no salary cap. This article from the Herald Sun is a fantastic read about the state of the WNBL. And ZERO, or very little anyways, MEDIA EFFING COVERAGE!!!! What the actual eff babes???!!!! As Penny said today in our chat, we need media coverage, we need to get people to see just how amazing these players and this league is. With crowds comes media, media brings coverage and sponsors. Sponsors pay for these athletes to play at the absolute top of their game. Sponsorship means they aren’t rushing to training from work, they are rewarded for their hard work, skill and time they put into the game, they are able to give back to the next generation. My daughters, your daughters, your nieces, cousins, next door neighbours.
I implore you all to find your local WNBL club and go and watch a game. The cost is actually pretty low for a family outing-a family pass for 2 adults & 3 children at the Rangers is just $38! Pretty budget friendly for an afternoon or evening out! We have taken several friends along to various games throughout this 2016/17 season and not a single one has been less than majorly impressed by not only the game but the family atmosphere and meeting the players after the game. You will have seen on my Instagram after each game, the kids have a pic with their fave player Sara (who I had chats with earlier in the week and will share next week with you!). The players are amazing, they all have a smile, some chat and a hug or a pic for every child.
I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Penny and what roles she’s plays in Australian Basketball in the future. In my estimation, once she’s had the break she so richly deserves, she will be back and doing amazing things. With a passion for the sport as great as hers, she won’t be able to stay away long. Penny-thank you so much for your time today, meeting and chatting to you was just incredible and I thank you for all you’ve done for the sport of basketball, all that you’ve done for girls and women in both basketball and the sporting arena as a whole. You’re an amazing person and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for you xx
*insert selfie I really regret not getting. Maybe at the game today!
If you want to come along today, check here for tickets, there may be a few left!