Canberra Capitals centre Abby Bishop’s journey to 200 WNBL games and beyond

In her 10th WNBL season Canberra Capitals centre Abby Bishop played her 200th WNBL game on 5 December 2015 against Sydney at Tuggeranong Southern Cross Stadium in Canberra, becoming just the 13th player on a 2015/16 WNBL roster to reach this milestone, joining Capitals team-mates Jess Bibby and Carly Wilson. Throughout her decorated career Bishop has regularly featured among the league’s leaders for both scoring and rebounding, in all eight WNBL seasons from her second season in 2006/07 until 2014/15 Bishop ranked in the top 10 of the WNBL for rebounds per game and in five of her six seasons from 2008/09 to 2014/15 Abby also ranked in the top six of the league for points per game.

During her debut WNBL season with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 2005/06 Bishop won the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year award as a 17 year-old. The following season Bishop joined the Canberra Capitals, the club she has spent the majority of her career, having played 147 of her 204 WNBL games to the end of December 2015 with the Capitals. Since Bishop made her WNBL debut she has missed only one season, 2012/13 to play with French club Perpignan. At 189 centimetres tall Bishop has played as a power forward or centre throughout her WNBL career and has been able to adapt her role depending on if she is the primary target in the post or if she is playing alongside another strong post player such as Lauren Jackson or Suzy Batkovic. Bishop was part of Canberra Capitals championship winning teams three times in four seasons, 2006/07, 2008/09 and 2009/10 and has also been recognised for her outstanding individual performances, twice being named in the WNBL All-Star five, in 2008/09 and 2014/15, also winning the league’s highest individual honour in the latter season, being named the 2014/15 WNBL Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Speaking to Our Sporting Life SA on the eve of her 200th WNBL game Bishop commented “The championships I have won with the Canberra Capitals have been the most memorable. The friendships I have formed through the sport during my 200 games have also been a significant part for me. The next thing on my list is to go to another Olympics. So I’ll be doing everything I can to try and crack that team.”1

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In late November and early December 2015 Bishop had much to celebrate, turning 27 years of age on November 29, and playing her 200th WNBL game and then three days after her milestone game Bishop was named in the Australian Opals squad on December 8 for the test event in mid-January 2016 at Carioca Arena at the Barra Olympic Park, the venue for the 2016 Women’s Basketball Olympics finals in Rio, Brazil. Although Bishop had represented Australia at the 2010 World Championships and the 2012 London Olympics, after not playing at the 2014 World Championships Bishop feared that her international career representing the Australian Opals may be over. Bishop not playing for Australia at the 2014 World Championships held in Turkey during September and October had nothing to do with her basketball performance but was due to non-basketball factors. In a mutually agreed decision Abby took custody of her niece Zala in August 2013 from older sister Chloe who was based in Darwin. At the time that Abby took custody Zala was just two days old and the agreement was that Abby would have custody for at least 12 months, however subsequently Abby was granted full custody of Zala until she turned 18 years old. Basketball Australia ruled that if Bishop was to be part of the Australian Opals 2014 World Championship team in Turkey during September and October Abby had to pay for flights, accommodation and a caregiver for Zala. Due to Basketball Australia’s parenting policy Abby withdrew from the Australian Jayco Opals squad for 2014 including the World Championships, but hoped to be able to return to the national team in the future.

In the 15 months since the 2014 World Championships Basketball Australia have reviewed their parenting policy and Abby’s manager has been in frequent discussions with Basketball Australia officials, aiming for a compromise which would involve Basketball Australia paying for part of the child-care costs Abby would incur whilst representing the Australian Opals. After being named in the Opals squad for the test event in Rio next month Abby commented “I’m excited to be back in the program and feel privileged to be suiting up after more than a year. Zala won’t come with me to Brazil … I do feel proud, and proud because that’s the person I am. I do stand up for myself, I would have been disappointed in myself if I didn’t. I took in Zala and it’s my responsibility to look after her. She will always come first. I’m just happy and respectful of Basketball Australia for re-evaluating and helping. I never wanted too much or everything paid for, just a bit of help. I might have helped someone else to stand up or get their sport to help with their child.”2

Although players currently playing in overseas leagues could not be considered for the test-event in Rio, Basketball Australia have still been able to name a strong 12 player squad purely from the WNBL, with nine of the squad members having represented Australia at a major championship (Olympic Games or World Championship) previously, being: Rebecca Allen, Suzy Batkovic, Bishop, Natalie Burton, Cayla George, Rachel Jarry, Tessa Lavey, Leilani Mitchell and Erin Phillips. The three squad members without major championship experience, Katie-Rae Ebzery, Tess Madgen and Bishop’s Canberra Capitals ream-mate Stephanie Talbot have worked their way into the squad with impressive performances in the past 15 months for the Opals and for their respective WNBL clubs. Madgen was named in the 2014/15 WNBL All-Star five alongside Bishop, Ebzery was named the WNBL player of the month for November 2015, whilst 21 year-old Talbot impressed playing for the Opals in 2015, earning praise from Opals head-coach Brendon Joyce for her versatility and defensive play. Players that couldn’t be considered by Basketball Australia for the January 2016 test event squad included Liz Cambage and Penny Taylor (both playing for Chinese clubs), Laura Hodges and Jenna O’Hea (both playing for French clubs), and Lauren Jackson and Mariana Tolo (both injured).

Bishop was born on 29th November 1988, and grew up on a farm just outside Melrose, a small country town located in the Southern Flinders Ranges, 265 kilometres north of South Australia’s capital, Adelaide. Abby started playing basketball as a junior with the Agnes basketball club in Port Pirie. After a couple of years Abby started to play for a representative club North Adelaide, travelling to Adelaide two or three times a week for training and to play games. At 14 years of age Abby was awarded a basketball scholarship with Cabra Dominican College which resulted in her moving to Adelaide and boarding with a family.

After completing Year 10 at Cabra Dominican College in Adelaide Abby moved to live in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), allowing her to devote more time to training and playing basketball whilst also completing Year 11 and 12.

In July 2005 Abby played for Australia at the under 19 World Championships in Tunisia as the youngest member of the team at 16 years of age, Abby played every game and although she averaged only 10 minutes court-time per game her rebounding was a strength, taking 25 for the tournament, only seven less than Australia’s third ranked player. Australia finished the tournament in seventh place, having five wins and three losses.

Bishop made her WNBL debut for the AIS at 16 years of age at the start of the 2005/06 season. Other members of the AIS team included Mariana Tolo, Louella Tomlinson, Cayla Francis (George), Katie-Rae Ebzery, Amy Lewis, Mia Newley (Murray), Emma Langford and Renae Camino (Garlepp). Bishop played 12 games for the AIS in 2005/06, averaging 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. The AIS lost all 21 games for the season, finishing with a percentage of 60, however the season with the AIS had been great for Abby’s basketball development, playing against the best basketball players in the country and playing on a side with the cream of Australia’s young talent. Bishop had an outstanding debut WNBL season and won the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year award.

After spending one season with the AIS Bishop joined the Canberra Capitals, the reigning WNBL champions for the 2006/07 season. The Capitals maintained their standing as one of the best clubs in the WNBL, finishing the 2006/07 regular season in second position with 15 wins and six losses. Several Canberra players finished amongst the league-leaders in key statistical categories at the end of the regular season, guard Tully Bevilaqua ranked second in the league with 2.2 steals per game and centre Tracey Beatty led the league for blocked shots with 2.8 per game and ranked fifth in the WNBL with 5.5 defensive rebounds per game. Bishop at just 18 years of age exceeded expectations to finish the regular season ranked fifth in the WNBL for rebounds with 8.0 per game and second for offensive rebounds with 3.5 per game, behind Tracy Gahan (3.7). Jess Bibby, a shooting guard recruited from the Dandenong Rangers led Canberra in scoring with 15.5 points per game.

Canberra lost the second semi-final to Sydney 65 to 74 but progressed to their second consecutive Grand Final by defeating Adelaide in the preliminary final, 82 points to 74. The Capitals were too strong for Sydney in the Grand Final, winning 73 to 59 to make it back to back WNBL titles and the club’s fifth title overall. During 2006/07 Bishop played all 24 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 9.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game.

During 2007 Bishop represented Australia at three age levels, playing for the Australian under 19 and under 21 teams at the respective World Championships and then made her debut for the senior Australian team, the Opals later in the year, playing in the three game Oceania series against New Zealand (2 games) and Fiji (1 game).

Playing for Australia at the under 21 World Championships in Russia during June and July 2007 Bishop at 18 years of age was Australia’s second youngest player, being five months older than Cayla Francis (George). Bishop played all eight games, averaging 10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 23.1 minutes per game. Australia had six wins and two losses for the tournament, both against the United States of America, in Australia’s opening game and in the gold medal game. In the opening game Australia had a blistering start to lead 31 to 19 at quarter-time however the USA had a massive final quarter outscoring Australia 36 to 18 to win by two points 90-88. Australia won their next six games with the closest margin being seven points to both Brazil and France to advance to the gold medal game. The USA outclassed Australia to win the gold medal game 96 to 73, resulting in Australia winning the silver medal. For the tournament Bishop ranked fourth for Australia for points behind Jenna O’Hea (16.5), Renae Camino (15.6) and Kathleen MacLeod (12.3), second for rebounds behind Cayla Francis (George) (7.4) and fourth for assists behind Kathleen MacLeod (6.3), Jenna O’Hea (3.4) and Mikela Dombkins (1.4). Five years later Bishop, O’Hea and MacLeod were all part of the Australian Opals team that won bronze at the 2012 Olympics in London, whilst Cayla George (nee Francis) is the only other member of the 2007 under 21 team along with Bishop that is part of Australia’s senior squad travelling to Rio for the test event in January 2016.

At the under 19 World Championships held in the Slovak Republic during July & August 2007 Bishop was Australia’s best player, playing all nine games and averaging 12.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 25.6 minutes per game. Australia won seven of their nine games and finished fifth, losing a tight quarter final to Spain 72-69 after being outscored 25 points to seven in the third quarter. Bishop was Australia’s best player in the quarter-final scoring a team-high 19 points at 56.2% from the field and took a game-high 14 rebounds, the Australian team as a whole took only 29 rebounds. Bishop was extremely effective in her 28 minutes court-time, also having two assists and two steals, however she fouled out late in the game with her fifth foul. Bishop led Australia at the tournament for points and rebounds and was ranked third for assists behind Nicole Hunt (2.7) and Katie-Rae Ebzery (2.1). Abby’s 10.7 rebounds per game ranked fourth overall at the championships.

Despite the massive step up from playing for the Australian under 19 team earlier in the year to play   for the senior team in the 2007 FIBA Oceania Championship in September 2007 held in Dunedin New Zealand Abby adjusted to the standard well, averaging 5.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game to be ranked fourth for Australia for rebounds. Bishop was one of two 18 year-olds along with Mariana Tolo to represent the senior Australian team in the 2007 Oceania Championship. Australia won all three games, defeating Fiji by 104 points and New Zealand by 32 points and 41 points in the countries two games to qualify Australia for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Benefitting from the experience gained representing Australia at three different age levels in 2007 Bishop playing in her third WNBL season in 2007/08 for Canberra and set new career highs for points (a 41% increase on her debut season), rebounds (a 23% increase on her 2006/07 season) and steals (a 28% increase on her debut season).

Canberra had 17 wins and seven losses during the WNBL 2007/08 regular season, however they were upset in the first semi-final by Dandenong 54-60. For the second season in a row Bishop didn’t miss a game, playing all 25 games, averaging 14.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. In 2007/08 Bishop ranked fifth in the league for total rebounds per game and fourth for defensive rebounds.

Canberra recorded 19 wins and three losses to finish on top of the ladder at the conclusion of the 2008/09 season, two games clear of the Bulleen Boomers in second place. The Capitals relied heavily on the first seven players in their rotation, being Bishop, Natalie Hurst, Kellie Abrams, Jess Bibby, Mariana Tolo, Michelle Cosier and Chantella Perara, with all seven playing over 390 minutes court-time for the season, no other player played more than 120 minutes for the club. During the 2008/09 season Bishop further enhanced her game to clearly be Canberra’s best player and one of the best players in the league, at the end of the regular season being ranked fourth in the WNBL for points per game with 17.3 and leading the league for rebounds with 10.7 per game.

After comfortably accounting for Bulleen in the second semi-final 60-52 Canberra faced a tougher contest in the Grand Final on 13 March 2009 at AIS Arena. After the scores were tied at half-time Canberra gained the ascendancy to lead by six points at three-quarter-time and increased the lead to 11 points. Chasing their first WNBL title Bulleen finished the game strongly to reduce the margin to one point with one minute and 23 seconds remaining. Bishop got an offensive rebound in a key play which led to a basket for team-mate Mariana Tolo with 15 seconds left to increase the margin to three points, the final margin in the game. Bishop scored six points and had a team-high 14 rebounds in the Grand Final victory.

Bishop playing all 24 games to make it three seasons without missing a game, averaging 16.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 30.4 minutes per game. Bishop was rewarded for her brilliant season with selection in the WNBL 2008/09 All-Star five, being named in the team alongside Bendigo guard Kristi Harrower, Perth guard Deanna Smith and Townsville frontcourt duo Rohanee Cox and Jennifer Crouse.

During the 2009 winter season Bishop played for Rockhampton in the Queensland Basketball League (QBL). Late in the season Bishop injured her shoulder at training, X-Ray and MRI results confirmed that Abby needed surgery on her shoulder which resulted in her missing the first half of the 2009/10 WNBL season. Bishop averaged 27.9 points and 14.1 rebounds per game for Rockhampton and was named in the 2009 All-QBL team alongside Rohanee Cox, Stephanie Gandy, Jess Bibby and Natalie Hurst.

Six of Canberra’s best seven players from the 2008/09 season returned for the 2009/10 season, the exception being Michelle Cosier who missed the season due to being pregnant. Guard/forward Carly Wilson joined Canberra for the 2009/10 season, a key reason for Wilson joining the club was to play under Australian Opals head coach Carrie Graf. Wilson had spent the previous season playing with French club Challes-les-Eaux but had extensive experience playing in the WNBL, twice being named in the WNBL All-Star five, in 2002/03 with Dandenong and 2006/07 with Perth.

Bulleen started the 2009/10 season in dominant fashion and Canberra’s front-court wasn’t quite as strong as in previous seasons, hampered by Bishop being on the sidelines recuperating from her shoulder injury. In late November Canberra announced that they had signed superstar Lauren Jackson to play with the Capitals for the rest of the season. Jackson didn’t play her first game until a fortnight later as she was recovering from stress fractures in her back. Bishop and Jackson returned to the Capitals line-up in December however their court-time was carefully managed, which was helped by Canberra having three of the best frontcourt players in the WNBL, being Bishop (189 cm), Jackson (195 cm), and Tolo (196 cm) who played all 25  games in 2009/10.

Canberra finished the 2009/10 regular season in third position with 16 wins and six losses, one win behind Sydney in second place and five wins behind minor premiers Bulleen. With a 10 club-league in 2009/10 the WNBL had a top five, fourth placed Townsville defeated fifth placed Bendigo 84 to 73 to progress to the first semi-final against Canberra. Townsville, playing their second final in four days were dominated from start to finish with the Capitals winning by 31 points, 70 to 39, restricting Townsville to the lowest score in a finals game. Canberra defeated Sydney 61-56 in a low-scoring physical clash to progress to play Bulleen in the Grand Final for the second season in a row.

On 6 March 2010 Canberra played Bulleen in the Grand Final at the State Netball and Hockey Centre in Melbourne suburb Parkville. Bulleen had one of the most impressive regular seasons in WNBL history, having only one loss for the season and a percentage of 132%. Bulleen had five players that averaged more than nine points and five rebounds per game, Liz Cambage, Jenna O’Hea, Elyse Penaluna, Rachel Jarry and Hanna Zavecz, and also had veterans Sharin Milner and Desiree Glaubitz. Although Canberra had finished the regular season five wins behind Bulleen, they were a stronger team in the second half of the season after Bishop and Jackson recovered from injuries to join the line-up.

Very little separated Bulleen and Canberra throughout the Grand Final with the lead changing 23 times. Bulleen looked to be in control, leading 68 to 62 with four and a half minutes remaining, however the experience of Canberra proved critical with the Capitals being far more composed from that point on to go on a 13-2 run to win the Grand Final 75-70, winning back to back WNBL championships, their fourth title in five seasons and the club’s seventh title overall, with all championships having been won in an 11 season period from 1999/2000 to 2009/2010.

During 2009/10 Bishop played 13 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 12.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 22.8 minutes per game. Abby ranked second at Canberra for rebounds per game behind Jackson (10.1), with Tolo third (7.4) and third at Canberra for points, behind Jackson (23.8) and Bibby (13.5), just ahead of Tolo and Hurst (both 12.2). Although Bishop’s numbers were down on her previous two seasons this was largely due to a reduction in court-time from around 30 minutes per game to 22.8 minutes per game.  Despite the reduced court-time Bishop ranked sixth in the WNBL for rebounds per game, her fourth consecutive season ranked in the top six of the league.

After attending a training camp with WNBA club the Seattle Storm Bishop got the final spot on the roster for the 2010 WNBA season and commented on making the team “It’s huge, considering most people are still at college at my age. But just to be making it – no matter if I was 25 or 21 – it’s something I’ve had on my goal list for a few years now. I’ve always wanted to achieve this. I know my role isn’t going to be playing, but as the 10th, 11th player I’m still excited to be part of this great group. When my time comes, I’ll be ready.”3 Making Bishop’s transition to the WNBA easier Canberra and Australian Opals team-mate Lauren Jackson was a star at Seattle having spent her entire WNBA career at the club, playing in Seattle’s first WNBA championship in 2004 and had won the WNBA Most Valuable Player Award twice, 2003 and 2007.

Bishop made her WNBA debut on 22 May 2010 at 21 years of age. Due to Seattle having so much talent and depth Bishop played limited game-time, however she was given more opportunities late in the season as Seattle Storm head coach Brian Agler looked to freshen up his starters for the playoffs. During the regular season Bishop played 16 games, averaging 2.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 6.8 minutes per game. Bishop’s best game of the season was against Connecticut on August 13, scoring 14 points and taking five rebounds.

Seattle finished the 2010 regular season with the best record in the league, 28 wins and six losses, 13 games ahead of the second ranked team in the Western Conference, Phoenix Mercury and seven games ahead of the top ranked teams in the Eastern Conference, Washington Mystics and New York Liberty. Bishop didn’t play in any of the playoff games for Seattle after suffering a concussion at training. Seattle were undefeated in the playoffs, defeating Los Angeles 2-0 in the Western Conference Semi-finals, Phoenix 2-0 in the Western Conference Semi-finals and Atlanta 3-0 in the WNBA Finals to win the WNBA championship, the second in the club’s history. Power forward Lauren Jackson won the WNBA regular season MVP Award as well as the WNBA Finals MVP Award and was named in the All-WNBA first team for the fifth time, whilst Seattle point guard Sue Bird was named in the All-WNBA second team.

In September and October 2010 Bishop represented the Australian Jayco Opals in the 2010 World Championships hosted by the Czech Republic. At 21 years of age Bishop was the third youngest member of the Australian squad with only fellow front court players Tolo (also 21) and Cambage (19 years old) being younger. Other members of the Opals squad were guards Tully Bevilaqua, Kristi Harrower, Sam Richards, Belinda Snell and Erin Phillips, guards/forwards Penny Taylor and Jenna O’Hea and forwards/centres Lauren Jackson and Hollie Grima.

Bishop played eight of Australia’s nine games, not getting any court-time against France and playing less than five minutes twice, against Belarus and the Czech Republic, she played between 10 and 19 minutes in each of the six other games. Bishop’s best match for the tournament was against the eventual 2010 World Champions, the United States of America, scoring eight points on three of four field goal attempts, having four rebounds, all offensive, and two steals from 17 minutes court-time.

Australia won their three matches in group A and two of their three matches in the eight-final round, losing to USA 75 to 83. Australia played hosts, the Czech Republic in a quarter-final and trailed 51 to 52 at three quarter-time. The Czech Republic controlled the final quarter to outscore Australia 27 to 17 to defeat the Opals by 11 points 79 to 68. Poor field goal shooting proved costly for Australia, making only 20 of their 70 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 28.6%, significantly lower than the Czech Republic’s 37.5%. Australia defeated Russia 78 to 73 and France 74 to 62 to finish the World Championships in fifth position. Bishop played eight of Australia’s nine games and averaged 2.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 11.9 minutes per game.

After four seasons at Canberra Bishop left to join the Dandenong Rangers for the 2010/11 WNBL season. Bishop played 21 games for Dandenong and averaged 15.1 points, 7.05 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 27.1 minutes per game. Dandenong finished the regular season in fourth position with 12 wins and 10 losses, but lost an elimination final against Logan at Dandenong Basketball Stadium 83 to 73. Bishop ranked second at Dandenong for points just behind point guard Kathleen MacLeod (15.4), second for rebounds just behind Tracey Gahan (7.13), and also ranked second for steals and blocked shots. Bishop ranked eighth in the WNBL for rebounds per game and sixth in the league for points per game.

In a warm-up series for the 2011 FIBA Oceania Championship Bishop played in the three game friendly series against China, held in Queensland.  At the 2011 three-game FIBA Oceania Championship against New Zealand during September in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney Bishop was very consistent, being one of Australia’s top three scorers in every game. Bishop played all three games, averaging 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 24 minutes per game. Bishop ranked second for Australia for points behind Batkovic (17.7), equal second for rebounds with Elyse Penaluna, behind Batkovic (8.0) and second for assists behind Hanna Zavecz (4.7). In all three games Bishop scored at least 14 points, had at least seven rebounds and shot the ball at more than 45% from the field. Australia swept the series, getting more dominant as the series went on, defeating New Zealand by 13, 19 and 23 points.

The series win qualified Australia for the 2012 Olympics in London. It was the fifth consecutive Olympic Games and seventh overall that Australia had qualified for. Australia failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona but had played in every other Olympic Games from 1984 onwards, and had won a medal at the previous four Olympics, winning the Bronze medal in 1996 followed by the silver medal at three consecutive Olympics, 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Later in September Bishop represented Australia at the 2011 World University Games, leading Australia for points per game during the tournament and being a key player for the Australian team which won a bronze medal.

Bishop played for her third WNBL club in three seasons, joining the Adelaide Lightning for the 2011/12 season. Adelaide’s 2011/12 roster included three players that had represented Australia at the Olympics previously, Suzy Batkovic (2004 and 2008), Jennifer Screen (2008) and Jo Hill (2000), playing alongside the experienced trio was beneficial for Bishop’s development, particularly the opportunity to play and train alongside fellow post player Batkovic. Adelaide finished on top of the ladder with 18 wins and four losses, however were unable to maintain their dominance in the finals losing the second semi-final to Bulleen 73-70 and being defeated by Dandenong 91-78 in the Preliminary Final. During 2011/12 Bishop played all 24 games, averaging 16.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, a then career-high 2.6 assists and 31.7 minutes per game. Bishop ranked second at Adelaide for points, rebounds, blocked shots and steals, being behind Suzy Batkovic in each category, and ranked equal fourth for assists behind Angela Marino, Jennifer Screen and Suzy Batkovic, level with Amy Lewis. Bishop was ranked equal first in the WNBL for offensive rebounds per game with 3.5 along with Liz Cambage, seventh in the WNBL for rebounds per game and sixth in the WNBL for points per game.

In March 2012 at the iiNet MVP Awards Bishop won the Maher medal as the 2011 Women’s Australian International Player of the Year. Previous winners of the Maher medal include Robyn Maher who the medal is named after, Michele Timms, Michelle Brogan, Suzy Batkovic and Lauren Jackson. At the Awards Abby’s Adelaide team-mate Batkovic won the WNBL 2011/12 Most Valuable Player Award.

Bishop achieved her number one goal for 2012 by being selected in the Australian Opals team for the 2012 Olympics, at 23 years of age she was the third youngest member of the team with only forward Rachel Jarry and centre Liz Cambage, both 20 years old being younger. Other members of the Opals squad were guards Kristi Harrower, Sam Richards, Belinda Snell and Kathleen MacLeod, guards/forwards Jenna O’Hea and Jennifer Screen and power forwards/centres Lauren Jackson, Suzy Batkovic and Laura Hodges.

Bishop played seven of the Opals eight games at the 2012 Olympics in London, not playing any court-time in the semi-final against the United States of America. In Australia’s first game, a 16 point win against Great Britain Bishop scored eight points, making three of her five field goal attempts and both free throws, she also had three assists, two steals, two rebounds and a blocked shot in 20 minutes game-time. In Australia’s second game they lost to France by four points in overtime after a Belinda Snell buzzer beater from beyond half-court in the final second sent the game into an extra period. Australia rebounded to win their next three games to advance to the quarter finals.

In the quarter-final 15 point win against China Bishop made an impact in her 10 minutes court-time, scoring nine points, making four of seven field goal attempts and her only free-throw attempt, and also took three rebounds. Australia lost their semi-final to the United States of America by 13 points, the fifth consecutive Olympic Games that the United States had beaten Australia, having also won a semi-final in 1996 before defeating the Opals in three consecutive Olympic gold medal games in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

The Australian Jayco Opals defeated Russia by nine points, 83-74 in the bronze medal game resulting in the Opals extending their medal winning sequence to five Olympic games. Bishop averaged 3.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 12.6 minutes per game, shooting a very respectable 47.6% from the field, ranked third for Australia behind Liz Cambage (59.5%) and Jackson (49.5%), and made all five of her free throws. Bishop is one of only three players from the Opals 2012 London Olympic team that will be playing in the Rio test event in January 2016 along with Rachel Jarry and Suzy Batkovic.

After playing seven consecutive WNBL seasons from 2005/06 to 2011/12 Bishop missed the 2012/13 season, choosing to play for French club Perpignan, the club made it to the finals but lost their series to Lattes-Montpellier 2-0. During the 2012/13 regular season Bishop played 23 games for Perpignan, averaging 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 29.2 minutes per game. Bishop led the club for points per game and ranked second for rebounds.

During the 2012/13 season Bishop signed a contract with Perpignan, however during her first season with the club there were contract and player payment issues, the most significant was when Perpignan stopped paying its players in January 2013. After these contract issues Bishop took the opportunity to return to the WNBL, signing to re-join the Canberra Capitals for the 2013/14 season in a deal which would result in Bishop playing at least two of the next three seasons with Canberra. Abby commented “Everything happens for a reason and now I’m back here at the Capitals. It feels like I’m coming home … it will be a bit of a reunion.’’4 After playing four consecutive WNBL seasons for Canberra from 2006/07 to 2009/10 Bishop spent three seasons away from the club, playing one season each at three different clubs, Dandenong (2010/11), Adelaide (2011/12) and Perpignan (2012/13). Canberra Capitals head coach Carrie Graf was ideally placed to comment on what Abby could offer the club having coached her during her four seasons at Canberra before coaching Abby during her time away from the club when she represented the Australian Opals. Graf commented ‘‘I’ve been an Abby Bishop fan for a long time and will continue to be, she’s a huge addition to our program … she’s got unbelievable basketball IQ. She’s incredibly versatile, she’s older, wiser, better, bigger and stronger – when [she] left she was already bloody good and now she’s even better.’’5

In August 2013 Abby took legal care of her two-day old niece Zala for 12 months, if Abby hadn’t applied to have legal care Zala would have gone into foster care in the Northern Territory as Zala’s mum Chloe was unwell and unable to care her for. In January 2014 Abby spoke about her decision to apply to have legal care of Zala, commenting “It was an easy decision to take [Zala] and it’s been rewarding. It was a spur of the moment thing, one week I was a normal 25-year-old and the next week I had a baby. There was no pregnancy, so people were a bit surprised. From the moment we left the hospital I felt like she was mine and as time’s gone on it’s been stronger. Obviously my life has changed, but all in a good way. It’s put basketball and life into perspective. I know I didn’t give birth to this little thing, but I still see her as one of my own. Now she’s the Capitals’ mascot, too.”6 Abby was in Darwin for Zala’s birth in August 2013, two days later Abby and Zala flew to Canberra. Throughout the 2013/14 WNBL season Zala sat in her pram during Canberra Capitals training sessions, Canberra head-coach Carrie Graf a new mother to twins born by IVF was very understanding of Abby’s situation and at times Carrie would step in as baby-sitter at training if Zala was restless, holding Zala whilst giving instructions to the Capitals players. The stress of being a new mum and having sleepless nights was hard for Abby to adapt to at first and then overcome, however instinct was critical, with Abby commenting “They do say you get a mother’s instinct when you’re pregnant. I used to be a nanny. I’ve always loved kids, and the switch just goes on. Even though I didn’t carry Zala for nine months, the switch did go on for me. Plus, Google is great as well. She’s been a really good baby.”7

On road trips two Canberra Capitals players usually share a room, however being a single mum Abby took Zala on the road trips with her and paid for her a hotel room for herself and Zala so that her team-mates wouldn’t be disrupted. At the start of the 2013/14 season Zala was just two months old, the Canberra Capitals were accommodating to Abby and Zala’s situation and child-care was provided to Zala as part of Abby’s contract with the Canberra Capitals.

In 2013/14 Abby Bishop played 24 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging a then WNBL career-high 18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 34.3 minutes per game. Bishop led Canberra for points, rebounds and steals, was ranked second for assists behind Natalie Hurst, and ranked fourth for blocks behind Carley Mijovic, Carly Wilson and Alex Bunton. In 2013/14 Bishop finished the regular season ranked third in the WNBL for total points scored with 444, behind Suzy Batkovic and Jenna O’Hea and was ranked second for total rebounds behind Batkovic. Canberra had 10 wins and 14 losses to finish seventh, the third season in a row that the club had missed the finals. Bishop polled 90 votes in the WNBL 2013/14 MVP Award to finish in fourth position behind Suzy Batkovic (Townsvilee Fire) who won her third consecutive award with 136 votes, Jenna O’Hea (Dandenong Rangers) with 129 votes and Laura Hodges (Adelaide Lightning) 116 votes. Bishop won Canberra’s 2013/14 MVP award and also received the club’s Kellie Abrams defensive player of the year award.

Throughout her basketball career one of Abby’s proudest achievements has been representing the Australian Opals and whilst she wanted to represent her country at the 2014 World Championships held in Turkey during September & October she was unsure how she would combine her most important role as a single mum to niece Zala Kate Bishop, with representing Australia and what Basketball Australia’s parenting policy would be. In April 2014 Basketball Australia high performance manager Chuck Harmison commented on the parenting policy ”A child is allowed to attend games or camps, but we want to keep the sanctity of a high performance environment and make sure kids don’t disrupt training, games or team accommodation. Kids can come along, but those that need looking after need a caregiver and the athlete would have to fund that. We’re on a limited budget and if we start opening it up to covering cost of caregivers, we’ll run out of money pretty quickly.”8 The same policy would be applied by Basketball Australia to the Opals and the men’s national team the Boomers, and wheelchair team’s the Gliders and the Rollers.

In response to Basketball Australia’s parenting policy Bishop said “The lack of support has led to the decision I won’t be able to play for the Opals this year. I understand BA are trying to do the right thing, but I think it’s crazy a European team and a WNBL team can be more understanding and accommodating about this than the national team.” Abby went on to say ”It’s disappointing I won’t be with the Opals this year, but Zala comes first for me. It’s a shame it couldn’t be worked out. It’s hard for any mother when there is international travel involved and I didn’t want to affect the team. I hope to be back in the Opals in the future, but Zala is my priority.”9 As one of the terms of the parental policy if Bishop had of played at the 2014 World Championships, niece Zala would have been required to stay at a different hotel to the Australian team. On Television program ‘Good Morning America’ in June 2015 Abby commented “It wasn’t all about me anymore, life changed very quickly for me and Zala definitely put everything into perspective for me. I couldn’t just take her away and leave her in a hotel with someone I didn’t really know.”

There was an outpouring of support for Abby Bishop on social media after she withdrew from the Opals for 2014 due to Basketball Australia’s parenting policy, with many people offering Bishop financial support to assist her in caring for Zala in the hope that this would enable Abby to represent Australia at the 2014 World Championships from 25 September to 7 October. Abby refused all of these offers stating that it was her responsibility to care her Zala. Whilst Basketball Australia’s parenting policy did apply to four national teams and was designed to protect the sanctity of a high performance environment Abby Bishop’s unique position as a single mum to her niece Zala did highlight the need for some discretion to be applied, allowing each parents situation to be considered on their merits rather than having one uniform policy that applied to all parents regardless of their personal situation.

After the 2013/14 WNBL season concluded Bishop had a two-month contract in Hungary with PEAC Pecs and played an important role in the club winning the Hungarian Cup. PEAC Pecs won the final by four points against Uniqua Sopran who had won the previous three titles. Bishop played as a forward for PEAC Pecs and excelled in the championship game, scoring 19 points and winning the Grand Final MVP. Abby was also named in the All-Tournament team. Bishop played six regular season games and 10 playoff games for PEAC Pecs in 2014 and during her 16 games in total averaged 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 25.9 minutes per game.

In an interview with ABC-TV in November 2014 Abby provided more detail on her decision to care for niece Zala, saying “My sister (Chloe) fell a little bit ill and the Department of Children’s Services had to get involved and were going to take her and put her into foster care, I have always loved kids and family is everything for me, I grew up in a broken family and I just wanted Zala to have a great life and I know foster carers do such a wonderful job and they need a pat on the back, but I wanted Zala to stay in the family and I had no real reason not to take her. Obviously I am a professional basketball player but I knew that I could do it still and find a way even though I had little Zala on my side. At the end of the day life changed very, very quickly for me and I am lucky to have wonderful friends around me and to be a part of the University of Canberra Capitals because she is a part of the team, everybody loves her on the team. Grafy is great with allowing her to come on the road and totally understanding my situation.”

Abby went on to say “So I had her (Zala) for a year, that was the deal with my sister when we first went to court to see if she could get better and see what happened in a year. We have just recently been back to court and all agreed on Zala staying with me until she is 18, so I have got parental responsibility for her. I was very worried about it, a lot of people had said to me I had nothing to worry about just because of everything that had kind of happened, but obviously it is in the back of my head and I had to prepare myself to give Zala back if that’s what the court ruled, I did prepare for that but fortunately all went well and I am really, really happy about that and just pleased that my sister saw that Zala was better off with me at the moment, and she still has contact with my sister Chloe which is a great thing and a very important thing, but I am very happy Zala is with me.”

Abby Bishop was appointed the University of Canberra Capitals captain for the 2014/15 WNBL season, being voted for by her team-mates after the previous captain Jess Bibby decided to stand down from the captaincy after four years in the role. At 26 years of age Bishop led a Canberra team that included several veterans, Bibby, Carly Wilson, Lauren Jackson and Kristen Veal. On being voted in as captain of the Canberra Capitals Bishop said “I do see myself as a leader and I want to lead by my actions. I definitely think I’m ready. If I wasn’t, I would put the team first and say no. There’s a great vibe within the group, everyone is hungry for success this year.”10 On Bishop’s elevation to the captaincy Canberra head coach Carrie Graf commented “If there was a list of 10 things a captain needs, Abby ticks all of them. It’s her time. She’s mature beyond her years … motherhood has changed her but she’s always been mature, she was a leader of women at 19 years old.”11

After Abby took over parental responsibility for her two day old niece Zala in August 2013 many people including Abby’s own mum had doubts on how successfully Abby would be able to combine her new role as an overnight single mum with her role as a WNBL player with Canberra. Abby proved the doubters wrong by being an excellent mum to Zala and having one of her best WNBL seasons in 2013/14, ranking in the top three of the league for both points and rebounds. In an interview with the WNBL’s Official Game Program ‘Spotlight’ for the Round 4 2014/15 edition Abby spoke about the differences in caring for Zala during the 2014/15 season compared to the 2013/14 season “It’s way harder with her now, she is not a little baby who can sleep in your arms anymore. Now she wants to do everything the other girls are doing but the Capitals are phenomenal in helping me out. But it’s just another adjustment I have to make – it is what it is and I wouldn’t change it.”12

In 2014/15 Abby Bishop took her basketball to a new stratosphere, becoming the most dominant player in the WNBL. Most players would be ecstatic if they could score more than 27 points in three games during a season, or possibly even over the course of their entire career, with phenomenal play Bishop achieved this feat in the month of November 2014 alone, scoring 28 points against Dandenong in Round 3 on November 1 in just 25 minutes 13 seconds court-time, 29 points against Sydney in their Round 4 game on November 5 and 31 points against Adelaide in Round 7 on 29 November. In four games during November Bishop took more than 11 rebounds, including an equal season best 18 rebounds against the West Coast Waves on November 9. Bishop won the WNBL’s Player of the Week Award twice in November, Rounds 4 and 7. In Round 4 against Sydney Bishop also took 14 rebounds and had four assists in the 16 point loss to Sydney. In Canberra’s second Round 4 game Bishop scored 17 points and took an equal season-high 18 rebounds in the Capitals 10 point win. During six games in November 2015 Bishop was sublime, averaging 22.8 points and 12.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game to be a convincing winner of the WNBL’s player of the month award for November 2015. Bishop had eight double-doubles in her nine games to the end of November to emerge as the early front-runner for the WNBL’s 2014/15 MVP Award.

In Lauren Jackson’s comeback game against Adelaide Lightning on 19 December Bishop scored 33 points, took eight rebounds and shot the ball exceptionally to make 12 of her 17 field goals and eight of her nine free throws. In just under 15 minutes court-time Jackson scored 13 points and took five rebounds. Canberra defeated Adelaide by three points, 73-70 in their Round 10 encounter. The following night in Perth Canberra defeated the West Coast Waves 83-70 with Bishop playing a brilliant all-round game with 18 points, making two of her three three-pointers, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals the closest she would get to a triple double during her phenomenal 2014/15 WNBL season. The two superb performances resulted in Abby being named the WNBL’s Player of the Week for Round 10.

In a Round 14 Friday night game against Bendigo Bishop led the way in the Canberra Capitals upset win 73-70 after trailing by 14 points in the final quarter. Abby finished the game with a game-high 25 points and took 10 rebounds, taking four rebounds and scoring nine points in the final quarter, including a pair of free throws with nine seconds left. The following night against the Melbourne Boomers Bishop scored a WNBL career-high 36 points, making 12 of her 19 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63.2% and was a perfect 11 from 11 with her free throws. Bishop also finished the game with 14 rebounds and three assists after stamping her authority on the contest early, scoring 10 of her team’s first 13 points to play a key role in the Capitals getting an early 13-6 lead. Bishop scored just under half of the Capitals points, and no team-mates reached 10 points in the 74 to 66 win on the road at the State Basketball Centre. Bishop received the Round 14 WNBL Player of the Week Award, her fourth POTW award for the season.

Canberra finished the regular season with 11 wins and 11 losses, to finish in fifth position, missing out on a play-off spot to the Sydney Flames who also had 11 wins and 11 losses due to losing a tie-breaker based on the club’s head to head records.

Abby was remarkably consistent during the 2014/15 WNBL season scoring more than 16 points in 18 of her 22 games, including 28 or more points in eight games, to easily lead the WNBL in scoring during the regular season, averaging 23 points per game, 2.8 points per game more than the league’s second ranked player, Dandenong Rangers forward Penny Taylor. Bishop also led the league in rebounds, averaging 10.6 per game, narrowly ahead of Suzy Batkovic (10.5) and Cayla Francis (10.4), ranked equal fourth in the WNBL for steals with 28 and equal 14th for assists per game. In 2014/15 Abby Bishop played 22 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 23.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 34.9 minutes per game. As well as leading Canberra for points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots Abby ranked third for assists behind Stephanie Talbot (3.2) and Kristen Veal (3.0).

Whilst Lauren Jackson was part of Canberra’s 2014/15 roster injury restricted her to just six games, averaging 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 21.5 minutes per game. Bishop and Jackson combined brilliantly in their six games together with Canberra recording five wins and the only loss being at home by five points to the Dandenong Rangers 89 to 84 in one of the games of the 2014/15 WNBL season.

In 2014/15 Bishop set new career-highs for points and assists and had her second best WNBL season for rebounds per game, behind 2008/09 (10.9 rebounds per game). Bishop attempted 390 field goals during the 2014/15 and was able to improve her accuracy whilst also increasing the range of her shot, having a field goal accuracy of 46.7%, her highest since her debut season in 2005/06 (51.5%), Abby also made a career-high 26 three-pointers, seven more than her previous best in 2013/14.  Bishop received the WNBL’s Player of the Week Award a league-best four times in 2014/15, Rounds 4, 7, 10 and 14.

On 19 February 2015 Abby announced that she had signed a two-month contract with Miskolc, a club in north-east Hungary, close to the Slovakian border. Abby commented “The Caps have been amazing all season with Zala and it’s made it easier for me to be able to do what I can on the court. But with the Hungarian contract they’ve been really great too, so I’ve got a nanny coming with me from Australia and they’ve given me a two bedroom apartment and those kinds of things so I won’t have to worry about her being at training.”13

Abby Bishop was a run-away winner of the 2014/15 WNBL MVP Award, polling 135 votes to finish well ahead of Townsville frontcourt duo Cayla Francis and Suzy Batkovic on 107 and 105 votes respectively.  At the 2014/15 Canberra Capitals Presentation night head-coach Carrie Graf commented about Abby’s 2014/15 season “I thought she was outstanding in every aspect and really asserted herself as a captain. It was definitely the best of her career. She’s grown as a player and as a person, her game has evolved … she just gritted her teeth, did the hard work and made a statement on who she is as a basketballer in this country.”14  Bishop was unable to attend the 2014/15 WNBL award’s lunch due to playing in Hungary for Miskolc. On receiving the WNBL MVP Award for 2014/15 Abby commented by video “It’s a huge honour. When you look at the list of names of previous winners, I’m really privileged to be up there with all of them.” Bishop became the second Canberra Capitals player to win the WNBL’s MVP award joining four-time winner Lauren Jackson who received the award in 1998/99, 1999/2000 (joint with Trish Fallon), 2002/03 and 2003/04.

Miskolc had their most successful season in close to two decades, making their first Grand Final in 19 years, playing UNIQA-Sopran who had lost only one regular season game. Miskolc pushed UNIQA-Sopran all the way but lost the Grand Final series 3-1, winning game 2 by four points but lost games 1, 3 and 4 by three, eight and two points respectively. Bishop joined Miskolc late in the season and played a total of 11 games for the season, two regular season games and nine playoff games and started in seven of the playoff games. In her 11 games for Miskolc during 2014/15 Abby averaged 13.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 28.8 minutes per game.

Five years after making her WNBA debut in 2010 with Seattle Storm and being the 10th or 11th player on the roster for most of the season Abby returned to play for Seattle in the 2015 WNBA season and took on a far more prominent role, starting in just over half of her games. Bishop joined fellow Australian Jenna O’Hea on the team, O’Hea and Bishop knew each other very well having been team-mates on various Australian teams from under-age level through to the senior team the Opals and both represented Australia at the 2010 World Championships and 2012 Olympics. 2015 was O’Heas second season with Seattle and fifth season in the WNBA, having played for the Los Angeles Sparks from 2011 to 2013.

In 2015 Bishop played 26 games for Seattle, starting 14 times and averaged 5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 19.6 minutes per game. Late in the season Bishop injured her hamstring which resulted in her missing the last eight games of the season. Bishop scored a WNBA career-high 18 points in a 60-54 win on the road against the LA Sparks on 14 June, making seven of her 12 field goal attempts. Seattle missed the play-offs, finishing fifth out of six teams in the Western Conference with a record of 10 wins and 24 losses.

Bishop had signed a contract with Hungarian club UNIQA-Sopran for the 2015/16 season, however due to her hamstring injury Bishop was released by UNIQA-Sopran in late September 2015 the week before she was going to fly to Hungary to join the club.

Whilst scans confirmed Bishop’s hamstring injury Canberra were confident the injury could be managed effectively, Bishop would play restricted minutes early in the season and possibly miss some games, especially on a long road trip. Canberra Capitals head coach Carrie Graf commented “Our season isn’t like Europe where they have three games a week and practise twice a day, it’s 24 games across five months. She’s in a program where she can be well managed, we can reduce her minutes at practice. You’re not just getting the MVP of the league [Bishop], we’re getting one of our own players back that knows our program.”15 As well as being a player of the highest quality who knew the program Bishop also addressed a structural weakness of Canberra’s. One of Canberra’s off-season recruits Belgian centre Ann Wauters was a late withdrawal and decided against joining the club for family reasons, together with Lauren Jackson rehabilitating from a knee injury it meant that before Bishop’s recruitment Canberra didn’t have a specialist post player for the early part of the season.

In the first seven games of the 2015/16 season Bishop’s workload was carefully managed and she played over 25 minutes in a game only once. In seven of the last eight games of 2015 Bishop has played over 30 minutes. Canberra have had a horror run during 2015/16, Lauren Jackson has been unable to play a game due to a knee injury, there were delays in point-guard Renee Montgomery joining the club and guard/forward Hanna Zavecz retired due to a rib injury. The Capitals have had the worst start to a season in their 31 year history and lost their first 15 games of the 2015/16 season.

Seven times this season Canberra have lost by less than nine points with six of these losses being from Round 6 onwards. Canberra’s closest loss for the season 75-78 to the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball centre in Round 10 was Abby’s best game for the season. Playing all 40 minutes Bishop made 13 of her 23 field goal attempts including three of six three-pointers to score 31 points, she also took five rebounds and restricted Melbourne Boomers centre Elyse Penaluna to four points, 10 below her season average. Just before the final buzzer went Bishop attempted a shot from just over half-court to send the game into overtime however her shot was short. After the game Bishop commented “I was more frustrated that it shouldn’t have been me taking the shot but Renee had no other option but to pass it to me. She got trapped and I was on the only one there but realistically I should have been further back and our guards in that spot. We got a shot off but I don’t want to be shooting that.”16 Speaking to Roy Ward for the Round 10 WNBL review Bishop commented about her own form “My fitness is starting to come back and my touch today was a little bit better and it’s what the team needs, we need a mix of inside and outside scoring. I’m slowly getting back to where I used to be and it’s going to be a long process. I felt pretty good today but it wasn’t enough.”17

IMG_3954 (2)

During the first 11 rounds of the 2015/16 season Bishop played all 15 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 29.8 minutes per game. Abby’s numbers have improved as the 2015/16 season has progressed with factors being increased match conditioning and court-time after rehabilitating from her hamstring injury and having some help in the post with the mid-season recruitment of import Denesha Stallworth. Abby ranks second at Canberra for points per game behind Montgomery (14.5), and second for assists behind Talbot (7.5). Bishop ranks 16th in the WNBL for rebounds and 19th for points.

Throughout the first 204 games of her WNBL career Abby Bishop has averaged 15.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game and although only 27 years old she has been one of the best post players in the WNBL for the best part of a decade, regularly being amongst the league’s top half-dozen point scorers and rebounders in a season. In her past four seasons Abby has been able to strengthen other parts of her game and in her past three completed WNBL seasons has averaged more than 2.3 assists per game in each season, after re-joining the Canberra Capitals in 2013/14 she has also become a more damaging three-point shooter.

For 2016 Abby’s major sporting objective is to represent the Australian Opals at the Olympics in Rio. Abby Bishop is a big believer that everything happens for a reason and whilst a hamstring injury resulted in her being released from her contract with Hungarian powerhouse club UNIQA-Sopran was considered a set-back at the time, in the long-run it may prove to be a blessing in disguise. To be eligible for selection at the 2016 Rio Olympics by Australia players need to meet criteria in terms of attending training camps and playing games for the Australia Opals in the lead-up period. Playing in the WNBL for the 2015/16 season may have also resulted in discussions between her manager and Basketball Australia regarding the parental policy being fast-tracked. Australian Opals head coach Brendon Joyce has been quite open in saying that the final 12 player Australian Opals roster for the Rio Olympics is far from settled, however being able to reach a resolution with Basketball Australia regarding the parental policy enabling Bishop to play in the Opals test event in Rio later this month has got to be beneficial to Abby’s chances in making the final Olympic team, especially given that it has been a considerable time since Abby last suited up for the Opals and the team has changed significantly in the past few years.

Abby has extensive experience playing for the Australian Opals dating back to 2007 and has already played at two major championships, the 2010 World Championships in the Czech Republic and the 2012 London Olympics, however much has changed since these earlier championships. In both 2010 and 2012 Bishop was the third youngest player in the Opals squad, for the test event in Rio Bishop will be one of only three Australian players that has played at an Olympic Games and will be one of the most experienced members of the squad. The experiences she has had in recent years both as a single mum and playing basketball in the WNBL, the WNBA and the Hungarian league have resulted in Abby Bishop playing the best basketball of her career and further developing her leadership skills, making her an even more valuable inclusion in an Australian Opals squad.

Whilst Bishop has had to make sacrifices since becoming a single mum to niece Zala, the most obvious being the lack of sleep and not being able to play for Australia at the 2014 World Championships, Abby has also been willing to accept short-term contracts overseas, travelling with Zala, and has been very thankful for how accommodating her various teams have been for her and Zala, paying for a nanny’s flights, providing cots, car seats and toys. Abby is aware that she only has a relatively small window during which she can accept these overseas contracts and combine her roles as single mum to Zala and professional basketball player. When Zala starts school Abby wants to provide her with a stable and consistent school environment which will require them to settle down in one location, reducing the opportunities play in basketball leagues overseas and possibly removing this option all together. This could result in Abby missing one or two WNBL seasons before Zala goes to school to take advantage of the more lucrative contracts offered by European club’s. If this does eventuate hopefully Abby and Zala Bishop can settle down in one city in Australia when it is time for Zala to start school and Abby can play in the WNBL for several more seasons. Having bought a house in Canberra and having spent eight of her 10 WNBL seasons living in Canberra (seven with the Canberra Capitals and one with the AIS), and having so many friends in Canberra, living in Canberra and playing for the Capitals seems the most likely scenario for any season that Bishop is playing in the WNBL.

No matter what the future holds in terms of basketball and life in general we can be confident that Abby will make the decision that is best for Zala and herself as a package, whatever this entails. It is highly likely that any tests that Abby confronts in the future with Zala, the niece she shares her middle and last names with wont be as difficult as the ones Abby has already passed with flying colours. As a professional sportsperson it is often a requirement to be selfish and single-minded in your sporting pursuits to maximise your performance. As a new parent you usually have considerable time to prepare for the dramatic change caring for a child will have on your life, usually you will have a partner to share parental responsibility with, making the transition to parenthood easier. Abby had minimal time to prepare for a massive change to her life, becoming a single mum to niece Zala, and didn’t have any family living in Canberra to help her with this massive adjustment but was willing to take on this new role whole-heartedly whatever the consequences, knowing that what she was doing was in the best interests of Zala and together Abby and Zala would simply find a way to overcome any obstacles they faced on their journey together. It is a credit to Abby how well she has performed in her dual roles as ‘single mum’ and ‘professional sportswomen’ over the past two and a bit years, proving many people wrong including Abby’s own mum.

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

 

1 http://www.oursportinglifesa.com.au/#!Abby-Bishop-reaches-Milestone/c249/56610cf30cf212bd6be57cd1

2 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/abby-bishop-proud-of-stance-for-niece-zala-20151208-gli6i0.html

3 http://www.basketball.net.au/bishop-lacey-make-storm-final-cut/

4 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/the-capitals-welcome-their-new-cardinal-abby-bishop-20130904-2t4qo.html

5 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/the-capitals-welcome-their-new-cardinal-abby-bishop-20130904-2t4qo.html

6 http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-capitals-abby-bishop-shows-off-the-new-mascot-20140131-31r1z.html

7 http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-capitals-abby-bishop-shows-off-the-new-mascot-20140131-31r1z.html

8 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/parenting-rules-force-abby-bishop-to-miss-basketball-world-championships-20140408-zqsea.html

9 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/parenting-rules-force-abby-bishop-to-miss-basketball-world-championships-20140408-zqsea.html

10 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/new-canberra-capitals-captain-abby-bishop-to-prove-the-wnbl-doubters-wrong-20141014-115sto.html

11 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/new-canberra-capitals-captain-abby-bishop-to-prove-the-wnbl-doubters-wrong-20141014-115sto.html

12 Basketball Australia, Spotlight, Official Game Program, 5-9 November, 2014, page 4

13 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/abby-bishop-to-play-in-hungary-as-she-awaits-wnbl-and-wnba-deals/6140646

14 http://wnbl.com.au/uc_capitals_news/abby-bishop-wins-2014-15-wnbl-mvp-award/

15 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/medical-clearance-final-hurdle-for-abby-bishop-to-sign-with-canberra-capitals-20150929-gjx49y.html

16 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/wnbl-melbourne-boomers-make-smart-moves-in-final-term-20151213-glmda5.html

17 http://wnbl.com.au/round-10-review/

 

 

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