Three-time Olympian Suzy Batkovic has thrown her support behind a Newcastle based Women’s National Basketball League franchise ahead of making her seniors debut for the Hunters this weekend.
The 36-year-old arrived home this weekend and will play a Basketball NSW Waratah Championship League double header, but the dream remains to have a national team out of the Broadmeadow headquarters in the future.
Newcastle Basketball Association general manager Neil Goffet said despite preliminary talks about an WNBL squad nothing formal had been tabled at this stage while plans to start a new $5 million upgrade of the Newcastle Basketball Stadium precinct are finalised.
Batkovic, who recently re-signed for another season with the Townsville Fire, said she was hopeful a proposal would be put forward one day and saw little reason why it wouldn’t be well received by the local community.
“I think it’s really important for those young people to be able to aspire to something, and not having that here [in Newcastle] is disappointing,” Batkovic said.
“For me, I know I’ve had to leave and play in other states because we don’t have that here and to play in front of family and friends would have been amazing.
“And I think it’s something good to get the kids to aspire to something and get them off the streets playing any sport, but to have that national level [for basketball] in Newcastle would be amazing.
“I hope it does go ahead and I think it would be great for this community. Newcastle does have a great community so I can’t see that it wouldn’t work. I think it would be really positive.”
Batkovic last played for the Hunters as a junior representative two decades ago.
Three Olympic medals, a record five WNBL MVP awards and countless countries later she now returns to where it all began.
The call to wear the all-familiar uniform once more was also prompted by her mother’s recent ill health.
“It’s home,” she said.
“And it kind of made the decision really easy because my mum became ill in December, which was a bit of a whirlwind for me during [the WNBL] season commuting back and forth.
“She’s on the mend now, but I wanted to come home and spend some time with her and it all just fell into place to play back in the green and white. The timing has been good.”
After meeting her new teammates at training on Thursday, the centre will line up with the defending champions against Bansktown on Saturday (5pm) and Hornsby on Sunday (1pm).
Meanwhile, the Hunters men will try and defend the Kibble-Mallon Cup against rivals Maitland on Saturday (7pm) before hosting Bansktown on Sunday (3pm).