On Sunday December 6 Dandenong Jayco Rangers point guard Amelia Todhunter played her 150th WNBL game against Adelaide at Adelaide Arena, becoming the third player on the Rangers 2015/16 roster to reach this milestone, joining forward Alison Downie (315 games) and shooting guard Steph Cumming (214 games).
Todhunter is in her ninth WNBL season, having played her first three seasons with the Dandenong Rangers from 2007/08 to 2009/10, before spending four of the next five seasons playing for the Boomers in two separate stints, separated by one season in between, 2012/13 with the West Coast Waves (now known as the Perth Lynx). In Amelia’s first two seasons with the Boomers they were known as Bulleen Boomers, however when Amelia returned to the club after her season with West Coast the Boomers had changed their name from Bulleen to Melbourne.
Although Todhunter returned to the Dandenong Rangers WNBL team in 2015/16 for her second WNBL stint at the club after five seasons away from 2010/11 to 2014/15 she had remained heavily involved with the Dandenong Rangers program during this period, having played six seasons in the South East Australia Basketball League (SEABL) with the Dandenong Rangers from 2010 to 2015, and played a key role in the Rangers being arguably the greatest women’s SEABL team of all-time with Dandenong winning four championships in six seasons, a three-peat from 2010 to 2012 before winning another SEABL championship in 2015. In all six seasons Todhunter averaged at least 11 points, 2.5 assists and 4 rebounds per game, and in the last two Dandenong Rangers championships, 2012 and 2015 Amelia won the Grand Final MVP award with brilliant all-round performances.
After predominantly playing as a back-up point guard getting under 15 minutes court-time per game during her first five WNBL seasons Todhunter played increased court time and was given some opportunities as the starting point guard in her next two seasons, 2012/13 for the West Coast Waves and 2013/14 for the Melbourne Boomers, averaging 24.7 and 21.6 minutes per game in each season respectively. Amelia relished the extra responsibility and in 2012/13 was ranked in the top 25 of the WNBL for both assists and steals, whilst in 2013/14 she ranked equal 10th in the WNBL for steals with 26.
During 2014/15 Todhunter’s court-time was cut-back dramatically to 12.0 minutes per game with Tess Madgen and Rebecca Cole being Melbourne Boomers head coach Guy Molloy’s preferred options as point guard. For the 2015/16 season 27 year-old Todhunter joined the club that she started her WNBL career with, the Dandenong Rangers. Whilst co-captain Aimie Clydesdale would be the Rangers starting point guard there was still an important role for Todhunter to play off the bench and to utilise her leadership and experience to assist Clydesdale and other Dandenong team-mates. However Clydesdale injured her knee in the opening round win against Canberra and has played a total of just 13 minutes game-time for the season. This has resulted in Amelia playing a more prominent role than expected at the start of the season, being the Rangers starting point guard for 10 consecutive games from Round 2 onwards. Todhunter’s defense, hustle and ability to contribute in the critical areas of scoring, rebounds and assists has been recognised in recent weeks with Todhunter being awarded the game MVP by Dandenong head coach Larissa Anderson after the Round 5 win against former side Melbourne, and she was judged by Rangers fans as the club’s Player of the Week in the Round 8 win against Sydney for a performance in which she led Dandenong for rebounds and assists, whilst committing just two turnovers. Amelia also contributed on the defensive end, doing a great job whether defending Katie-Rae Ebzery or Tahlia Tupea.
Todhnunter played the 149th and 150th WNBL games of her career in Round 9 of the 2015/16 WNBL season, at the end of the round Todhunter had played all 11 games this season and was ranked in the top four at Dandenong for assists, steals and offensive rebounds and ranked 21st in the WNBL for assists per game.
The five seasons playing in the SEABL for the Dandenong Rangers under head coach Larissa Anderson has proved invaluable for Amelia in Larissa’s first season as coach of the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL as Larissa knew Todhunter’s game intimately and was confident that Amelia could step into the role as the starting point guard whilst Aimie Clydesdale was recovering from injury. Speaking to Roy Ward from ‘The Age’ Amelia commented “With the bond I’ve built with (coach) Larissa Anderson over the years, I know she has all the confidence in the world in me and that’s something I’ve missed out on over the years with different coaches.”1
Amelia grew up in Albury, a major regional city in Southern New South Wales located on the Northern Side of the Murray River, with twin City Wodonga located on the Southern side of the Murray River in Victoria, currently the population in the Albury-Wodonga region is more than 100,000. Albury is 260 km north-east of Melbourne in a straight-line (325km by road). Australia’s greatest women’s basketball player of all-time, Lauren Jackson was born and grew up in Albury and is a four-time Olympian, has played on three WNBA championship winning teams, five WNBL championship winning teams and been named the WNBA MVP three times, the equal most of all-time along with Sheryl Swoopes. Amelia drew inspiration from seeing what Jackson has achieved throughout her basketball career and when Amelia was asked in the Round 5 2015/16 edition of ‘Spotlight’ the WNBL’s Official Game Program ‘Do you have a role model or someone who inspired you to pursue basketball?’ Amelia responded “Coming from Albury Lauren Jackson was growing as a superstar when I was a teenager so I guess that inspired me and made me strive to succeed in basketball. Also my sisters, as I always wanted to do everything they did but wanted to do it better (call me a little competitive!).”2
After impressive performances as a point guard for her junior club Albury, Amelia was selected to play representative basketball for New South Wales. As a junior Amelia played for the New South Wales state team at the National Championships in the under 16’s, under 18’s and under 20’s, with the under 18’s team winning the National Championship. In 2005 and 2006 Amelia attended Box Hill Secondary College which has a renowned basketball program that begun in 1995. Box Hill is located in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Amelia was named in the 2006 Victorian State Schools Team.
Todhunter played 20 of a possible 24 games for the Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits in the SEABL in 2006, one of her team-mates for the Bandits inaugural game was her idol Lauren Jackson who scored 45 points in the Bandits one point win against Nunawading. Todhunter averaged 5.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists for the Bandits in 2006.
WNBL career from debut to 2014-15 season
Amelia made her WNBL debut at 19 years of age in 2007/2008 for the Dandenong Jayco Rangers, playing little court-time in her 20 games she averaged 1.1 points, 0.4 rebounds and 0.1 assists per game, with a strength being her three point shooting, making five shots from 13 attempts at 38%.
In 2008/09 continuing in her role has back-up point guard Todhunter played all 22 games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 2.9 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game from 12.9 minutes court time, she ranked fifth at Dandenong for steals behind Emily McInerney, Caitlin Ryan, Nicole Hunt and Jennifer Benningfield. Dandenong team-mates in 2008/09 included several players that would play alongside Todhunter in SEABL Championships for the Dandenong Rangers, Faith Probst, Alison Downie, Clare Papavs, Hope Terdich and Catherine Guest
In 2009/10 lower leg injuries limited Todhunter to just three WNBL games for the Dandenong Rangers, averaging 3.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game from 14.7 minutes court time. In Amelia’s three seasons at the club Dandenong finished fourth in 2007/08, losing the Preliminary Final by to Adelaide by 10 points, finished seventh in 2008/09 and eighth in 2009/10.
Todhunter joined the Bulleen Boomers for the 2010/11 season, a club that was yet to win a WNBL Championship but had come extremely close to breaking the drought, losing the Grand Final in both 2008/09 and 2009/10 to Canberra, by three points and five points respectively and in 2010/11 had retained their core group from the previous season, Jenna O’Hea, Liz Cambage, Rachel Jarry, Elyse Penaluna, Hanna Zavecs, Sharin Milner, Kylie Reid and Desiree Glaubitz.
In 2010/11 Todhunter played 20 WNBL games as back-up point guard for the Bulleen Boomers including both finals, averaging 2.7 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game from 12.7 minutes court time. In another close final between the two clubs Bulleen defeated Canberra by four points in the Semi Final, 71 to 67. The two clubs met in the Grand Final for the third year in a row, however the result was reversed with Bulleen proving far too strong and winning by 25 points, 103 to 78 to claim the club’s first WNBL championship. At the time of playing in Bulleen’s championship winning side Amelia was 23 years old and had played 57 WNBL games.
Bulleen had retained a remarkably stable roster for three straights seasons from 2008/09 to 2010/11, however there were several changes for the 2011/12 season due to retirement, injury and players changing clubs, with only two of the starters from 2010/11 returning in 2011/12, Cambage and Jarry. Penaluna missed the entire season due to a knee reconstruction, Zavecs left to play in Europe and O’Hea joined cross-town rivals the Dandenong Rangers.
Despite the change in personnel and several players spending prolonged periods on the sidelines injured Bulleen maintained their status as one of the strongest teams in the WNBL. The three additions to the starting line-up for Bulleen in 2011/12 were point guard Sam Richards, shooting guard Joannah Leedham and forward Alice Kunek who had played limited minutes for the Boomers off the bench the previous season.
The point guard’s at Bulleen were the hardest hit by injury and in early February all three point guards, starter Sam Richards and back-ups Amelia Todhunter and Kerryn Harrington were on the sidelines injured. It was unfortunate timing for Amelia as if she hadn’t been injured she would have had the opportunity to play significant court-time. For the second season out of three Todhunter played less than half the games in the season, in 2011/12 it was due to a knee injury, whereas in 2009/10 it was due to lower leg injuries.
Although Bulleen lost two of their last three games of the season they finished second on the ladder with a record of 15 wins and seven losses, three games behind the minor premiers Adelaide and one game ahead of Dandenong. Todhunter recovered from her knee injury to play in the finals and a full strength Bulleen travelled to Adelaide for their Semi-Final clash. Bulleen won a thrilling contest 73 points to 70 against an Adelaide side that featured that season’s WNBL MVP Suzy Batkovic as well as future WNBL MVP Abby Bishop.
In the Preliminary Final Dandenong outscored Adelaide by 26 points from the one minute mark of the third quarter until the end of the game, turning a 13 point deficit into a 13 point victory to set up the first all-Victorian WNBL Grand Final since 1987.
Bulleen defeated Dandenong in all three encounters during the 2011/12 season and had a long winning streak over their cross-town rivals, however Dandenong reached the Grand Final in better form, having won eight games in a row. The Bulleen Boomers had a great start to lead 11 points to four, three and a half minutes into the opening quarter, however the Dandenong Rangers dominated the next 10 minutes of play to gain the ascendancy, going on a 30 points to six run to lead by 17 points, 34 to 17 with six and a half minutes left in the first half. Whilst Bulleen reduced the lead to a low single figure margin for several minutes early in the third quarter Dandenong recorded a comfortable victory by 24 points, 94 points to 70. In 2011/12 Todhunter played 11 WNBL games for the Bulleen Boomers, averaging 2.5 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game from 8.5 minutes court time.
After two seasons at Bulleen Todhunter left to join the West Coast Waves for the 2012/13 season, a key reason for the move was the opportunity to play increased game-time.
In 2012/13 Todhunter played 24 WNBL games for the West Coast Waves, averaging 4.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game from 24.7 minutes court time. Todhunter set WNBL career highs for points scored, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes played. Todhunter played her 100th WNBL games at 24 years of age late in the season and led West Coast with 62 assists, four ahead of Antonia Edmondson, ranked equal first for steals with Lisa Walbutton, fourth for rebounds, and seventh for points scored. In 2012/13 Todhunter ranked 16th in the WNBL for total assists and equal 20th for steals. Todhunter was very accurate from the free throw line making 23 of her 26 shots, equating to 88.5%. West Coast finished last on the WNBL ladder out of eight teams with four wins and 20 losses.
Todhunter rejoined the Boomers for the 2013/14 season, however the club had changed their name from Bulleen to Melbourne. Late in the 2013/2014 season Todhunter played an important role off the bench for the Boomers.
In two starts for the Boomers in December 2013 Todhunter scored 11 points against Dandenong in Round 9 and 14 points against Bendigo in Round 10, replacing Amber Hegge in the starting line-up. In Round 10 of the 2013/14 WNBL season Toddhunter started for the Melbourne Boomers against reigning champions, the Bendigo Spirit, Todhunter played a pivotal role in the Boomers getting back into the game after trailing by 15 points early in the last quarter, however the Spirit held onto win by five points, Todhunter scored a team-high 14 points and also took four rebounds.
Melbourne were undermanned with Rachel Jarry playing just three games for the season due to a knee injury and starting centre Chealsea Poppens required a knee reconstruction after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament in late January 2014. Despite the injury set-backs Melbourne finished fourth on the ladder at the end of the regular season and in away Semi Final pushed Townsville all the way before being defeated by five points, 78 to 73.
During 2013/14 Todhunter played 25 WNBL games for the Melbourne Boomers, averaging 5.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game from 21.6 minutes court time. Todhunter set WNBL career highs for points scored and steals. Toddhunter ranked equal third at Melbourne along with Chealsea Poppens with 26 steals to rank equal 10th in the WNBL. The ability to steal the ball was one of the Boomers strengths, Amelia’s team-mates Rebecca Allen and Rebecca Cole ranked first and eighth in the league respectively.
During 2014/15 with the Melbourne Boomers Amelia’s court-time was significantly lower than the previous two seasons. Against Adelaide on 10 January 2015 Toddhunter played her best game of the season, scoring six points, making every shot she attempted, two field goals and two free throws and had a season-high seven assists in 17 minutes, 42 seconds court-time during the Melbourne Boomers 30 point win, 96-66.
Two games later on 24 January Todhunter played just three minutes and 49 seconds against the Canberra Capitals, in two of the remaining four games of the season Amelia played less than six minutes.
Todhunter’s court-time was significantly down on her previous two WNBL seasons when she averaged more than 20 minutes per game. Todhunter played more than 20 minutes only once in 2014/15, playing 20 minutes and 18 seconds against Townsville on 15 November and scored a season-high eight points, Amelia also had three rebounds, two assists and one block in this game. In 18 games Amelia had between 10 and 20 minutes –game-time, she played less than 10 minutes four times, including three of the last five games of the season. In 2014/15 Todhunter played 22 WNBL games for the Melbourne Boomers, averaging 2.9 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game from 12.0 minutes court time. Melbourne finished sixth on the ladder with 11 wins and 11 losses, equal with Sydney Uni and the University of Canberra Capitals, and missed out on the finals with the ladder positions of these teams being determined on the head to head record in the matches between the three teams.
SEABL career from 2009 to 2015
After four seasons out of the SEABL the Dandenong Rangers re-joined the SEABL competition in 2009. In the previous season Todhunter played in the Big V league for the Dandenong Rangers in 2008 and was one of the five nominees for youth player of the year.
Todhunter played 19 games for Dandenong Rangers in the SEABL during 2009, averaging 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Under head-coach Wayne Pollock the Rangers made the finals in their first season back in the SEABL but were defeated in a Semi Final.
Larissa Anderson was the playing head-coach of the Dandenong Rangers SEABL team in 2010. Anderson had some previous coaching experience in the SEABL, including winning the Coach of the Year Award in 2004. Anderson played 275 WNBL games between 1995 and 2008, starting and finishing her career with the Dandenong Rangers but spending most of her WNBL career playing for the Bulleen Boomers.
Dandenong lost their opening two games of the season in 2010 and then went on a 15 game winning streak to end the season with a league best record of 17 wins and five losses. The Rangers won all of their finals, winning the 2010 SEABL Championship against the Launceston Tornadoes to win the club’s fourth SEABL Championship, following 1990, 1991, and 2001. Todhunter played 24 games for the Dandenong Rangers in 2010, averaging 12.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.
After the 2010 season Larissa Anderson retired as a SEABL player and focused purely on her role as head-coach. In 2011 Dandenong finished second on the ladder, in the Semi Final against Knox who had finished the season on top of the ladder the Rangers trailed by five points with less than two minutes remaining before scoring the last eight points of the game to get a thrilling three point victory.
Knox progressed to the 2011 SEABL Grand Final to face Dandenong again. The Rangers led by a point 47 to 46 at three quarter-time, however with five minutes 43 seconds remaining and the Rangers leading by two points their centre Elyse Penaluna seriously injured her right knee which forced her off the court for not just the remainder of that game but the entire 2011/2012 WNBL season with the Bulleen Boomers as well. Dandenong again finished the final quarter strongly, going on a 9-3 run in the remaining time to win the Grand Final by eight points. Todhunter played 24 games in 2011, averaging 11.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
Going back to back as SEABL Champions for the Dandenong Rangers had an additional element of e emotion as on the morning of the Rangers Semi Final against Knox Dandenong Rangers President Charles Ryan passed away. The Dandenong Rangers dedicated their 2011 finals campaign and eventual championship to Ryan.
Like in 2010 Dandenong started 2012 slowly, losing their opening two games of the season but then rebounded strongly to win 17 of their next 19 games. Despite losing two of their final five games the Rangers finished on top of the ladder in the East Conference, 2012 was the first season that the Women’s SEABL competition had split into two conferences, South and East. In the Championship Grand Final Dandenong played Knox for the second year in a row, a club that had defeated Dandenong twice early in the season. In the Championship Grand Final scores were level 26 points apiece at half-time, however a dominant second-half performance resulted in Dandenong recording a comfortable victory 65 to 48.
The Dandenong Rangers waiting for the post-game presentation to begin after the 2012 SEABL Championship Final. Todhunter (4) is standing next to Cumming (8)
Todhunter played a critical role for the Dandenong Rangers early in their 2012 Grand Final at the State Basketball Centre against Knox, scoring eight points in the first term when some of her team-mates were unable to find their normal rhythm. Todhunter commented “I knew we had to get off to a good start. We all knew that and I think early on I just got some open shots and knocked them down.” Todhunter went onto say “For the six or seven of us who have played in all three championships it’s been so special. I hope we can all get back together again next year but who knows what will happen.”3
Todhunter played 28 games in 2012, averaging 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Over the three SEABL seasons from 2010 to 2012 Dandenong had a combined record of 65 wins and 14 losses, including 7-0 in finals for a winning percentage of 82.3%. The Dandenong Rangers became the first team in SEABL history to win three consecutive championships.
In an interview in March 2013 with SEABL TV when asked about the main reason for winning the three consecutive SEABL championships Amelia responded “On the court we played awesome together but I think that was caused by what happened off the court, every day that we would have off basketball we would always see each other anyway, either dinner or just hanging out, so I think the chemistry was definitely number one.”
Todhunter taking her turn in the traditional cutting down of the net after the 2012 SEABL Championship
After three straight championships with Dandenong head-coach Larissa Anderson stepped away from the role in 2013 due to having her second child, Cooper. Paul Flynn took-over as the Rangers head coach.
Todhunter had the best SEABL season of her career in 2013 setting new career-highs for points, rebounds and assists per game. Amelia played 28 games for the Dandenong Rangers in 2013, averaging 16.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Amelia was rewarded for her brilliant season with selection in the 2013 ALL-SEABL team, being the only Dandenong Rangers player selected in the team, however her team-mate and fellow Rangers co-captain Faith Probst received another award, the defensive player of the year.
Larissa Anderson returned as head-coach in 2014 and Dandenong finished the season with a league-best record of 21 wins and three losses and were unbeaten at home. The Rangers were clearly the best side in the SEABL during the 2014 Regular season with the next best side having a record of 17 wins and seven losses, however Dandenong were unable to continue this dominance in the finals, losing two home games in a row and didn’t reach the East Conference Final. The second loss was to the Geelong Lady Supercats, 87-96 in the Preliminary Final. In the loss Todhunter scored a season-high 28 points, including five three pointers from 11 attempts, and also had four assists.
Todhunter was selected in the 2014 ALL-SEABL team, being joined by fellow Ranger Lauren Scherf in the 10 player team. Amelia played 24 games for the Rangers during 2014, averaging 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
The Dandenong Rangers finished the 2015 regular season with a league best record of 19 wins and three losses to finish on top of the East Conference, six games ahead of the Geelong Supercats. Dandenong defeated Geelong twice in the East Finals, by 10 points in the Semi Final and 20 points in the conference final to progress to the SEABL Championship, playing the Kilsyth Cobras at Dandenong Basketball Stadium. After trailing Kilsyth by a point 30 to 31 with just over a minute remaining in the first half, Dandenong had a dominant five minutes, finishing the first half strongly and maintained their momentum early in the third quarter to go on a 14 points to two run to lead by 11 points, 44 to 33 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Dandenong Rangers won the game by 13 points, 76 to 63 to claim their fourth SEABL title in six years and the club’s seventh SEABL championship overall. Five Dandenong Rangers played in all four of the club’s Championships between 2010 and 2015, Todhunter, Clare Papavs, Alison Downie, Amanda Hobba, and Faith Probst who played her last SEABL game in the 2015 Championship. Larissa Anderson was the head-coach for all four Championship wins.
After the 2015 SEABL Championship win Larissa Anderson was glowing in her praise of Todhunter, especially after missing half the season with a knee injury, commenting “She (Amelia) certainly comes for the big games, she’s only tiny but she has such a huge heart. She never, ever stops, she’s so professional and determined and to come back from missing 15 weeks with what was a pretty nasty knee injury, is a real credit to her. They all step up for the big games and they showed that tonight, especially defensively.”4 At 169 centimetres tall Amelia is shorter than most of her team-mates and opposition players, however in both 2014 and 2015 she averaged over five rebounds per game in the SEABL.
In the SEABL 2015 Grand Final Todhunter had 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, highlighting how complete Amelia’s all-round game was during the Grand Final she had outright game-highs for points and rebounds and had the equal game-high for assists along with Kilsyth’s Steph Cumming. In 37 minutes 38 seconds game-time Amelia was accurate with her shooting, making eight of her 15 field goal attempts (53.3%).
Due to her knee injury Todhunter missed just under three months of basketball, suffering the injury on 26 April against Nunawading and returning on 25 July against Geelong. A week and a half after returning from her knee injury Todhunter broke her finger, however she was able to play through that injury. Amelia’s game-time was carefully managed upon her return from the knee injury and after playing over 30 minutes in all three games before the injury she played over 30 minutes in a game only two more times for the season both finals, 31 minutes 56 seconds in the Semi-Final against Geelong and 37 minutes 38 seconds against Kilsyth in the Grand Final. Todhunter’s 2015 numbers were slightly down on her All-SEABL team 2013 and 2014 seasons, however this was largely due to the reduced court-time after her return from injury. Amelia played 12 games for the Dandenong Rangers in 2015, averaging 12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
2015/16 WNBL Season with the Dandenong Rangers
During the 2015 SEABL finals series it was announced that Amelia Todhunter had signed to play in the WNBL for the 2015/16 season with the Dandenong Jayco Rangers. Todhunter was one of the last players signed to the Rangers roster for the 2015/16 WNBL season with the signing of her SEABL team-mate Jacinta Kennedy announced at the same time as Todhunter. Another SEABL team-mate Alison Downie was the last player signed for the Rangers 2015/16 WNBL season, only being signed days before the start of the season. The trio added much needed experience to the young Dandenong line-up.
In March 2015 Larissa Anderson was named as the Dandenong Rangers WNBL head coach for the 2015/16 season, replacing Mark Wright who had the role for five years. Larissa is the first woman to coach the Dandenong Rangers in the WNBL, and shortly after her appointment she stated an intention to recruit players that had represented the Dandenong Rangers previously. The club’s two biggest signings in the off-season Steph Cumming and Sara Blicavs both fitted this bill Blicavs played one season for Dandenong in 2012/13 and played for the Opals on the European tour and in the FIBA Oceania Championships against New Zealand earlier this year. Cumming had played five WNBL seasons for Dandenong, won a club MVP award for the Rangers in 2009/10 and was a starter in the club’s most recent WNBL Championship, 2011/12. Three other current Rangers played on that team, Alison Downie, Tegan Cunningham and Aimie Clydedale.
By the time the 2015/16 WNBL season started about half of Dandenong’s roster had played for the club’s SEABL side in 2015, Todhunter, Jacinta Kennedy, Alison Downie, Aimie Clydesdale, Tenaya Phillips and Chloe Bibby. Anderson had coached some other players on the Rangers 2015/16 WNBL roster in previous SEABL seasons at Dandenong including Lauren Scherf and Cumming who was named one of the club’s two co-captains along with Clydesdale. Of the 15 player roster including development players only two hadn’t played for the Rangers in the WNBL before, centre Alex Bunton who had 87 games WNBL experience and turned 22 years old days after the season started, and 17 year-old development player Najvada George.
Todhunter started the first game of the 2015/16 WNBL season, but after starting point guard Aimie Clydesdale was injured in the opening game of the season against Canberra Todhunter moved into the starting line-up for the second game of the season, most of the time starting alongside Cumming, Blicavs, Annalise Pickrel and Alex Bunton, however with Bunton missing the past few games with a knee injury Jacinta Kennedy has started. With Clydesdale out injured Todhunter and Tenaya Phillips have shared point guard duties for Dandenong. The trio have significant experience playing in the SEABL together for the Rangers, with Clydesdale and Phillips having joined the team in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
In the Rangers 32 point win against Bendigo in Round 3 Todhunter scored eight points and took five rebounds. After the win Dandenong were on top of the ladder with three winds and no losses, they were the only undefeated side in the WNBL.
Due to a heavy knock in the game against Townsville Amelia Todhunter went to the bench, whilst she returned later in the game she played less game-time than normal, only 13 minutes 52 seconds. When asked at the post-game press conference ‘Is Amelia OK? She took a real screen in that first half?’ Rangers centre Alex Bunton responded ‘she is good, she’s tough’ before Dandenong head coach Larissa Anderson elaborated “She just copped one in the ribs, a screen that she didn’t know was coming, and a fairly hard one, but she’s OK.”
The following week Todhunter played against her former club Melbourne Boomers and performed a critical role in the Rangers six point win against their cross-town rivals, scoring 11 points, having four rebounds, and played tight defense. Toddhunter shot the ball very well to make three of five field goal attempts and made four of four from the free throw line and her only three pointer. Although there was some concern early in the week on how well Todhunter would recover from the heavy knock against Townsville the previous week she showed no ill-effects against Melbourne and played 29 minutes, 43 seconds, the most time she had played in a WNBL game since late in the 2013-14 season. In the final five minutes of play Todhunter was involved in some big plays, making a steal with 4 minutes 51 seconds remaining and the Rangers trailing by a point 62 to 63, she then made 2 of 2 free throws with four minutes, seven seconds remaining to put the Rangers up by a point 64-63. Amelia, the smallest player on the court got on offensive rebound with one minute 47 seconds remaining and the score tied at 69 points apiece. From that point on Dandenong outscored Melbourne six points to nil to secure a close victory.
On November 28 against Sydney in Round 8 at Dandenong Basketball Stadium Todhunter had a game-high seven assists and a team-high seven rebounds and scored eight points in 25 minutes court-time in the Dandenong Jayco Rangers 20 point win over the Sydney Uni Flames who had entered the round as equal ladder leaders. The Rangers teamwork was superb throughout the night amassing 23 assists, an astounding 18 more than Sydney Uni Flames. At the Round 8 post-game press conference Rangers head coach Larissa Anderson commented on Amelia “I am so proud of Meels (Todhunter), the effort defensively comes every single week. I think she’s a very undervalued defender and she has embraced the role and whoever she has had to defend every week and done a fantastic job.”
Amelia was interviewed on Sunday Sportscentral by Brett Phillips for radio station SEN 1116 on November 29, when Brett asked “What’s the feeling of the girls with how you sit amongst the top five teams at the moment, is there not much in it, is there a little gulf for some areas that you really need to improve, how are you assessing the early part of the season?” Amelia responded, “It’s a bit of both, I think our team definitely has the ability to go all the way and win the championship, but at the moment we are still getting used to playing with each other, we didn’t really have a big pre-season due to SEABL and commitments to other teams. I think by the end of the season we should really be there, especially our win last night just proved to us girls what we can achieve if we play as a team, and make that extra pass and really use defense as our major focus.”
The 2015/16 WNBL season is shaping up as the most even since 2005/06 and it is likely that very little will separate the team that wins the Championship and a team that just misses out on making the finals. In the last nine completed WNBL seasons from 2006/07 onwards the most losses that a team that finished on top of the ladder had during the regular season was five by Sydney in 2006/07 and Townsville in 2014/15, in the seven seasons in between the team that finished on top of the ladder lost a total of just 17 games, equating to an average of 2.7 games per season, ranging from a solitary loss by Bulleen in 2009/10 to four losses by Adelaide in 2011/12. In an eight club league in 2005/06 only two games separated the team the top three teams that all finished with a record of 14 wins and seven losses and the team that finished sixth with 12 wins and nine losses. At the half-way point of the 2015/16 WNBL season every side has already had at least four losses, an extremely strong indicator of just how even the league is given that the side that finished on top of the ladder has had more than three losses only three times at the conclusion of the past nine regular seasons.
Dandenong played the Perth Lynx on Friday December 4 at Dandenong Basketball Stadium and for the second week in a row defeated a team that was equal top on the WNBL ladder. In a low scoring game Dandenong defeated Perth by two points, 65 to 63 after Perth Lynx guard Sami Whitcomb’s three point shot in the dying moments hit the front of the rim and missed. Todhunter scored four points, including a lay-up with 70 seconds remaining after getting a steal, had a team-high three assists and an equal game-high eight rebounds.
After making her WNBL debut at 19 years of age in 2006/2007 for the Dandenong Rangers Todhunter played her 150th WNBL game on Sunday 6 December 2015 for Dandenong against Adelaide Lightning at Adelaide Arena. For most of the game Dandenong were on track to secure victory in 27 year-old Amelia’s milestone game, leading by 17 points early in the third quarter, however Adelaide dominated the final quarter to outscore the Rangers 19 points to eight to record an upset two point win, 72 points to 70 after Adelaide guard Leilani Mitchell’s left handed shot from the edge of the key on the left hand side rolled around the rim and then went in as time expired. Todhunter scored nine points and had two steals which were both in the final minute and half and started plays that the Rangers scored in.
Todhunter has played the first 11 games of the 2015/16 WNBL season, averaging 5.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game from 24.4 minutes court time. Todhunter ranks third at Dandenong for assists behind equal leaders Cumming and Blicavs, fourth for steals behind the same duo along with Alison Downie, equal fifth for rebounds and sixth for points. Todhunter has taken 12 offensive rebounds ranked fourth behind Pickrel, Kennedy and Blicavs. Amelia’s three point shooting has been a strength, making seven of her 19 attempts, equating to 37%, the second most accurate season for the WNBL seasons that she has had more than two three point shots, behind 38.5% on five of 13 three point shots in her debut WNBL season with Dandenong in 2007/08. At the end of Round 9 Dandenong were fifth on the WNBL ladder with a record of six wins and five losses. Dandenong have made the WNBL finals for five consecutive seasons from 2010/11 to 2014/15 the longest current sequence in the WNBL, and an equal club record, along with the five seasons in the finals from 2003/04 to 2007/08.
Todhunter defending Madeleine Garrick straight after the opening tip on 7 November 2015
In the week leading up to her 150th WNBL game Amelia commented “I love being back – Dandenong has always been my home, I started there when I was 18 and love being back and having Riss as a coach. The group of girls is just awesome – we get along really well and it’s like home to me – just love it.”5 In every calendar year from 2007 to 2015 Amelia has spent at least one season playing for the Dandenong Rangers, either in the WNBL, SEABL or the Big V League and in some years she has played for Dandenong in both the summer and winter seasons.
In the Round 5 2015/16 edition of the WNBL’s Official game program when asked “What advice would you give to young up & coming basketballers?” Amelia responded “Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do anything! I was told as a junior basketballer I would never get anywhere in basketball. This has been my motivation to succeed.”6 With tenacity and perseverance Amelia has certainly proved the doubters wrong, having a successful career, starring in the SEABL and performing a valuable role in the WNBL, either as a starting point guard or back-up point guard.
By Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777
1 The Age, Rangers face tough tests as heat builds by Roy Ward, December 4, 2015, page 38
2 Basketball Australia, Spotlight, Official Game Program, 6-8 November, 2015, page 9
6 Basketball Australia, Spotlight, Official Game Program, 6-8 November, 2015, page 9