NEWCASTLE’S greatest-ever basketballer, three-time Olympian Suzy Batkovic, has welcomed the news that her home town will soon have a stadium capable of hosting WNBL action.
Whether she gets to play in it is another matter altogether.
“I’d love to be able to say for the next three years I’ll be on top of my game and my body will hold together,’’ she told the Newcastle Herald.
“But realistically that’s just a dream … I guess we just have to wait and see how I feel and where I’m at with my life.
“But the bigger picture is it would be amazing if Newcastle gets a WNBL team and girls from the Hunter get to play in it. I’d be a bit jealous if I’m not able to share that opportunity.’’
Newcastle Basketball hope to submit a team for 2018-19 WNBL season, by which time the evergreen centre would be 37.
Batkovic has played for WNBL teams in Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide and Townsville and said she would love to have suited up for her home town at some point.
The skipper of two-time champions Townsville Fire remains one of the competition’s dominant forces, as evidenced by her player-of-the-match performance in the season-opener against Perth.
Newcastle Basketball president Greg Luck made no secret of his desire to have Batkovic involved in what would be the inaugural Newcastle WNBL team.
“Let’s bring her home,’’ Luck said. “She still trains here in the off-season at our stadium. She heads back to Townsville when the competition starts.
“She’s looked after herself.
“First game back last week and she scored 25 points, player of the match.
“Not bad for someone they thought they didn’t need at the Olympics.’’
Luck said it was time Newcastle’s best young players were able to compete at national-league level in their home town.
“We’ve got four Newcastle girls in the [Sydney] Flames,’’ he said. “We’ve got Suzy Batkovic up in Townsville, and Katie Ebzery in Russia. Two of our girls won a gold medal at the world under-17 championships.
“So we think we could have a team full of local talent, not just an imported side.
“At the moment they have to leave Newcastle, to create their pathway. What we’d like is for them to be able to stay in Newcastle and still play at the highest level.’’
Luck was confident basketball was on the rebound in Australia, after a period when it appeared to be struggling.
“The highest rating program in Australia during the Olympics was the Boomers versus the USA,’’ Luck said.
“And you’d have to think with Ben Simmons and people like that getting exposure in America, we’ve got to capitalise on that.
“Give him [Simmons] two years and he’ll be the highest-paid Australian sportsman.
“That’s pretty big for a kid from Newcastle. That’s what happened in the ’80s. That’s why basketball became so big, because of Michael Jordan.’’