Roy Ward talks to Brittany Smart of the Sandringham Sabres, plus this week’s big plays and the media wrap-up.
Brittany Smart hasn’t raised the white flag and neither have her Sandringham Sabres teammates.
There has been plenty of chances to drop their heads in a 1-15 season but within those defeats the worldly import sees improvement and persistence as shown by five losses of six points or less.
While her Sabres’ have kept fighting, Smart has put together an outstanding debut season in Australia averaging a league-best 24.4 points per game and 9.3 rebounds (10th in SEABL).
The 30-year old combination guard has flourished with the Sabres and impressed to the extent the Melbourne Boomers have signed her for the upcoming WNBL season as a replacement for Rebecca Cole who is rehabilitating a knee injury.
Smart said she had relished battling so many WNBL players this season.
“Throughout my careers I’ve heard a lot of good things about Australia from friends who have played in WNBL or SEABL or QBL,” Smart said.
“So when the opportunity came up I thought why not? It’s a nice change from playing in Sweden and Belgium where I have played the past four years.”
The Sabres’ season was always going to be a tough one with new players coming onto the roster and the program looking to re-tool.
“I knew they were rebuilding and changing things around,” Smart said.
“I knew it would be quite a battle and while we are 1-15, I would say this is the most competitive 1-15 team around.
“We are still able to compete and fight, it goes to show we still have the character to keep playing and not be discouraged.”
Running into sides with multiple WNBL stars has been one of Smart’s toughest challenges and this past round was an example of it.
The Sabres faced Bendigo Braves with recent Opals players’ Kelly Wilson and Elyse Penaluna in the side before playing Kilsyth Cobras on Sunday against Steph Cumming, Sarah Parsons and Chantella Perera.
Despite being tired and coming off a loss to Bendigo, the Sabres still pushed the Cobras to the end before losing 78-71.
“I’ve been on teams that have lost close games but we’ve usually had some wins with that as well,” Smart said.
“It’s a true test of character. If you look at this last weekend’s tough double-header, it took both teams playing well to beat us and we were able to frustrate them a bit.”
Smart credits her own stellar form to her teammates support and taking every chance to test herself against the best players available.
She believes that attitude helped earn her the chance to play WNBL this summer.
“It feels like I’ve been surrounded by WNBL players in some matches,” Smart said.
“You always want to play with and against the best players in any country and I want to be pushed and challenged and frustrated – I know it’s going prepare me well for joining the Boomers.”
Smart said making the WNBL was not at the front of her mind when she decided to join the Sabres but she was always hoping to play well.
“I always want to play at the highest level in the country I’m in and I want to be reaching my potential whether that is playing WNBL or not,” Smart said.
“I was honoured when the Boomers contacted me and it’s only because of my supportive teammates that I’ve been able to play so well.
“I think I have the skills, knowledge and experience to help the Boomers in whatever role they need filled.”
Smart has played at both point guard and shooting guard in her career and is used to playing both roles.
Off court she is teaching CrossFit classes in Sandringham and has been taking 14-15 classes a week in between her training schedule.
“As a pro athlete you are always thinking about your own performance so it’s a nice change to help someone else and stop thinking about yourself,” Smart said.
“The WNBL is a bit more demanding with training but I’ll still be teaching some classes in the summer as well.”
*Launceston’s Mikaela Ruef dominated the glass with 16 rebounds to go with 14 points against Hobart in the Tornadoes’ 10th straight win.
*Dandenong Rangers’ duo Jacinta Kennedy and Clare Papavs caught fire against Albury-Wodonga with Kennedy notching 33 points and Papavs’ 30.
*Bandits’ forward Teyla Evans had one of her best games of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds against the Rangers, she backed it up with 13 rebounds against Canberra.
*Canberra’s Julia Forster (17 points, ten rebounds, seven steals) and Bandits’ forward Kristina Baltic (12 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists) both filled the stats sheet in a Bandits’ win.
*Bendigo Braves enjoyed big games from Elyse Penaluna (23 points, nine rebounds), Stacia Robertson (20 points, 16 rebounds) and Kelly Wilson (17 points, eight rebounds, 13 assists) in their win over Sandringham.
*Sabres’ import Brittany Smart was dependable as always with 19 points, ten rebounds and five assists while Caitlin Rowe had 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. Smart backed up with 18 points in another close loss on Sunday.
*Hobart’s Kathleen Scheer had a big day with 30 points and ten rebounds in the Lady Chargers’ win over Ballarat with Rush star Abigail Wehrung finding top form with 28 points and 14 rebounds).
*Geelong centre Tayla Roberts came up big for the Supercats in their win over Launceston with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
SEABL media links
*Dandenong Journal’s Jarrod Potter (@JarrodPotter) reports the Rangers fire up for win over Albury-Wodonga. Report: http://dandenong.starcommunity.com.au/journal/2015-07-06/power-rangers-step-up/
*The Examiner’s Alexandra Humphries reports on Launceston’s 10th win in a row. Report: http://www.examiner.com.au/story/3189486/tornadoes-make-it-10-in-a-row/?cs=96
*The Examiner’s Phil Edwards reports Tornadoes’ star Emilee Harmon will be out for a month. Report: http://www.examiner.com.au/story/3184593/knee-injury-forces-harmon-to-sit-out/?cs=96
*Border Mail’s Chris Young reports on the Bandits’ long-awaited away win over Canberra. Report: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3191357/rachel-maenpaa-lifts-to-steal-victory-for-lady-bandits/?cs=10
*Young also filed this story on NSW Country under-16 player Melanie Kirby. Story: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3187479/kirby-has-the-drive-for-success/?cs=10
*Border Mail’s Steve Smith (@Stevesmithffx) reports on the Bandits’ loss to Dandenong Rangers earlier in the weekend. Report: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3189528/girls-just-not-in-the-race-with-rangers/?cs=10
*Ballarat Courier’s Melanie Whelan (@Melanie_whelan) reports on the Rush’s tough loss. Report: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3190240/frustrating-finish-again-for-rejuvenated-rush-at-home/?cs=63
*Bendigo Advertiser’s Nathan Dole reports on the Braves’ mens and womens games against Sandringham. Report: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/3190277/braves-fire-up-against-sabres/?cs=81
*WNBL website reports Sandringham import Brittany Smart has signed with Melbourne Boomers for the upcoming WNBL season. Story: http://www.wnbl.com.au/index.php?id=81&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=5670&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%
Roy Ward (@rpjward) is a freelance sports writer who has covered the NBA, NBL, WNBL, SEABL and Big V during his career. He will be filing weekly columns on the SEABL men’s and women’s competitions during this season. For feedback or suggestions send Roy a tweet or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org