Amelia Todhunter. Photo: WNBL

Amelia Todhunter has a decorated career to date, but the 2020 WNBL season was something she will never forget.

Amelia Todhunter has had a great career to date, representing Australia in the 2017 FIBA 3×3 competition in France, winning a WNBL championship for the Bulleen Boomers (now Melbourne Boomers) in 2011. 

Never has she experienced a season like this one, making her first season at the Bendigo Spirit one she will never forget.

The Inner Sanctum was able to speak to Todhunter about her experience with the Spirit and WNBL hub life.

Todhunter took a year hiatus from the WNBL in 2019 to focus on her career, looking to return to the league in 2020.

After making some calls, she decided the Bendigo Spirit will be her destination.

“I went with Bendigo I guess because Dandenong changed into the Southside Flyers,” she told The Inner Sanctum.

“I was keen to get back and finish my basketball career how I wanted to finish my career, I reached out to the coach (Tracy York) as she was keen to have me and I think everything she was saying about the dynamics of the team she was trying to build and how I would fit into that vision.

“It was positive and she wanted me to be a leader and I wanted to take on that role, and I thought why not.

“We are a young group and talent and I want to help those young girls develop and be that support on and off the court.

“That’s what sold me on Bendigo. Being from a country town and me being from the country and even though we didn’t get to play there, even the two weeks before going up north it was so homely, and everyone wanted to be involved. It was an easy choice.”

2020 wasn’t a great year with the world having to contain COVID-19, but a shining light was the sports that we could still witness.

“Most sports had to adapt to the ever changing situation, the WNBL was no different with the competition being moved to Queensland,” Todhunter said.

Unlike leagues like the AFL, it was a lot more lenient after the teams especially the ones coming from Victoria completed their 14-day quarantine.

“The hard part was the quarantine for the 14 days in Brisbane before we went up north, we got to train for an hour and a weight session each day.

“The hub was very different, it was a hub but wasn’t really because we could go to the shopping centre, out to breakfast and things like that.

“We went to Mackay, Townsville and Cairns and yeah, I can’t compline because it was a lot more freedom than I had for the last six to eight months being in Melbourne.

“It was nice to have that freedom. Nothing was taken away from us.

“The only thing was you couldn’t see family after the games in the crowd there was a designated place that you had to go to after the games.

“That was difficult like I had family friends in Townsville and normally they’d would come on court after the game.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, with the rise of cases that came in South Australia in November it forced the league to adapt to the schedule.

“We had a scare when the Adelaide cases started to spike, so the Adelaide team had to go into quarantine for eight to nine days,” Todhunter said.

“They already played three games and that was a bit of a disruption to the league, going into quarantine and the whole schedule had to change because it was such a compact season the games were run in four weeks, so in that time you had 14 games that you have to play.

“It was so compacted then because Adelaide had to quarantine for a period of two or three games, it just shuffled the whole schedule around and I guess it’s more games again in a smaller amount of time.”

It was a hectic schedule with a whole season being jammed into four weeks.

With having such a young team, it meant that the Spirit trained more than any other team.

“Our team trained more than most teams, just being such a young team and struggled a bit during the season to win a game,” Todhunter said.

“So pretty much every day you had something on.

“All up I had two days off where I didn’t have to do anything, because as a team we were so close we said ‘oh let’s go-to magnetic island.’

“We’d still be all together but it was kind of that realise from basketball.

“It was challenging, but with my body, I was surprised how it held up in the normal season I’d probably have a few niggles, it suited my body type a lot better and get it over and done with.”

Outside of basketball, Todhunter is a Student Success Coordinator at the Richmond Institute of Sports Leadership, which is a partnership between the Richmond Football Club and Swinburne University of Technology.

Having to juggle work and playing a professional sport was hard, but with the help of her colleague Shane Hart and the rest of the team at Richmond Institute, it made it that little bit easier.

“It was a challenge; I think I was lucky that Shane gave me tasks that didn’t require me to do it right there and then that I could kind of chip away at it,” Todhunter said.

“There were nights where I was up until 11 pm or midnight trying to get stuff done.

“I’d know Shane would have been fine with it but it was mainly because I knew that I wanted to get it done, I think that was the challenging part.

“There were nights after a game that we didn’t finish until 10pm so I wouldn’t be able to switch off anyway, so, I’d get the laptop out and do some work that way.

“It was challenging but gave me that other dynamic of my life I could focus on other than basketball.”

The Spirit wasn’t able to win a game for 2021, but there were still lots of positives to come out of the season.

“Every game we grew and we took on board what we needed to and throughout the season we got better, who knows in a longer season we may have had more time to train together and to know each other game styles,” Todhunter.

“People forget that being a country town you have people all over the place, some in Adelaide, some in New South Wales and some in Victoria.

“Being in Victoria we couldn’t train, and we couldn’t get access to a court and people in Adelaide were playing and then obviously New South Wales they were playing.

“We probably had it the hardest because Melbourne Boomers were training as a group even though it was non-contact and so were the Southside Flyers, their whole team was in that actual state and we were all spread out and never got that opportunity think because it was such a fast season and we had to learn to play with each other.

“In a normal season if we had that time we could have won a few more games and then being what we took out of it we built some great connections, living with these girls for eight weeks, they become family and that’s just the beauty of sport, how it brings people together.

“These are girls I haven’t played with; I’ve played with two girls before; all the rest are knowing and that was special. As much as we didn’t win on the court, we had a connection off the court, and these are friendships for life.”

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