Melbourne Boomers 2015/16 MVP Maddie Garrick reaches 150 WNBL games

On Sunday October 23 Deakin Melbourne Boomers guard Maddie Garrick played her 150th WNBL game at the State Basketball Centre against her former team the Bendigo Spirit in a City versus Country Round 3 clash. After trailing by 17 points in the second quarter the Boomers staged a tremendous fightback to win a thrilling contest by four points, 71-67 to celebrate Maddie’s milestone in style on their home court. In a high pressure final quarter Garrick led all scorers with eight points, with Melbourne trailing 57-61 with five minutes to play Maddie scored her team’s next eight points comprised of a three point play after being fouled on a lay-up, another lay-up and a three-pointer to give the Boomers a two point lead with two minutes and three seconds to play. Maddie finished her milestone game with 14 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Below – Garrick in the Melbourne Boomers huddle to right of picture after victory in her 150th WNBL game

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Before joining the Melbourne Boomers for the 2015/16 season Garrick had played a total of 122 WNBL games over six seasons comprised of 43 games for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and 79 games for the Bendigo Spirit, making her WNBL debut at 17 years of age in 2009/10 for Bendigo. During this time Garrick predominantly was utilised as a role player off the bench with her most court-time being 23.0 minutes per game playing for the AIS in 2011/12. In three seasons playing for the Bendigo Spirit from 2012/13 to 2014/15 Garrick played in WNBL Championships in her first two seasons with the club and was able to play alongside three players that were each selected in at least one WNBL All-Star five during this three season period – Kristi Harrower, Kelsey Griffin, and Gabe Richards. Whilst playing alongside players of this calibre and achieving team success with the Bendigo Spirit was great for her development the opportunity to show her wares in games was limited with her most court-time in her three seasons for the club being 11.1 minutes per game in 2014/15. Whilst Garrick played limited court-time for Bendigo she made an impact in her minutes, displaying composure and making some big plays in pressure situations.

From 2012 to 2014 Garrick played full seasons during winter in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) and rapidly improved playing for the Bendigo Braves during her first two seasons in the league, winning the 2013 SEABL Youth Player of the Year and finishing equal 11th in the SEABL MVP award in the same season. Garrick joined the Frankston Blues for the 2014 SEABL season and exceeded all expectations to win the SEABL MVP award, averaging 18.5 points and 6.7 rebounds in her 24 games. A key reason for Garrick’s improvement in 2014 was the development of her perimeter game, making a league-high 41.9% of three-pointers and increasing her three-pointers made from 11 in 2013 to 54 in 2014. One of Garrick’s greatest strengths at 179 centimetre tall is her versatility, whilst best suited to playing as a shooting guard due to her speed and shooting ability, she is also able to play as a small forward or point guard.

Garrick’s rise continued in 2015 & 2016, excelling at her first Australian Opals camp in April 2015 to earn selection for an Opals European tour. Garrick regularly played for the Opals during 2015 and also represented Australia at the 2015 World University games. These commitments to represent Australia restricted Garrick to only nine games for Frankston in the SEABL during 2015. Garrick opted not to play in the SEABL during 2016 to recuperate her body and to devote more time to her Exercise and Sports Science course at Deakin University.  

In April 2015 Garrick signed a two year contract with the Melbourne Boomers, with the increased playing opportunities at the Boomers being a key factor in the move from Bendigo. Garrick commented on the move to join the Melbourne Boomers “It’s sort of like coming home for me because while I grew up in Shepparton I played in the Victorian Junior Basketball League for Bulleen Boomers for years. I’m really excited about this new chapter, [Boomers coach] Guy Molloy is a fantastic coach and you can see what he has done with the girls in the last couple of years. I’m really excited to work on my game and take the next step in my career.”1

In her first season as a starter in the WNBL Garrick was one of only two players along with forward and fellow Deakin University student Alice Kunek that regularly started games for the Melbourne Boomers throughout the entire 2015/16 season as in the second half of the season fellow starters Tess Madgen and Elyse Penaluna were both hampered by injury, forcing the duo to miss six games each and have their court-time managed in some other games. When Boomers head coach Guy Molloy had a full line-up to pick from the person filling the role as the fifth starter wasn’t settled, changing throughout the season. Garrick flourished with the additional responsibility and in the last 13 games of the season scored more than 13 points nine times. For her impressive performances Garrick was selected in the WNBL team of the week twice in 2015/16, Rounds 4 and 10. After making a total of 42 three-pointers in her first six WNBL seasons from 2009/10 to 2014/15 Garrick stamped herself as one of the best three point shooters in the league during the 2015/16 season, making 57 three-pointers – ranked third in the league during the regular season behind Sami Whitcomb and Belinda Snell. Maddie also ranked in the top 20 of the WNBL for total points scored during the 2015/16 regular season with 320, an increase of over 240% on her previous highest season tally of 130 with the AIS in 2011/12.

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On the eve of Maddie’s 150th WNBL game Melbourne Boomers head coach Guy Molloy commented “Maddie just loves to work, she is at the court most days, putting up shots and working on her game. For any junior out there wondering what it takes to play 150 games in the WNBL, you need look no further than Maddie. Opportunity presented last season with our spate of injuries and Maddie grabbed that opportunity with both hands. She hasn’t looked back. Maddie’s development and commitment to the game is something all of us in the Boomers family are really proud of.”2

In an interview with Basketball Victoria celebrating her milestone Maddie said “It is kind of crazy when you think 150 games, that is a lot of games” and went on to say “having that competitiveness against people who have been successful and are successful is, I think that is my favourite part about it, being challenged by such great athletes and kind of wanting to be the best that I can be.”

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Maddie’s journey from being a junior basketball player in Shepparton, to playing in the WNBL with the AIS and Bendigo, winning the SEABL MVP award in 2014, becoming a starter with the Melbourne Boomers in 2015/16, representing the Australian Opals and reaching 150 WNBL games is covered comprehensively below.

Madeleine Garrick was born on 1 April 1992 in Shepparton, her parents are Danny and Colleen and she has older two brothers. Madeleine grew up in the Goulburn Valley town of Toolamba, located approximately 180 kilometres from Melbourne, and 18 kilometres south of Shepparton. After playing Netball and competing in Little Athletics and Gymnastics Maddie became interested in basketball after watching her two older brothers James and Lachlan join an after school basketball competition. Maddie quickly decided that she wanted to play basketball as well, recalling “I remember playing my first game and just loving it. Everyone was involved. I enjoyed the people, the community feel and the atmosphere around it, the type of game it was…”3 Maddie joined her first basketball team when she was 11 years old which is three or four later than most of her peers that attended the AIS. 

Whilst Garrick quickly became engrossed in basketball, when she was 15 years old the opportunities to play in her age group locally were limited which could have been detrimental to her development as a basketball player. A coach, Leigh Bathman having several individual training sessions with Garrick proved to be influential, Maddie comments “That was a big thing, having a coach that would take the time out of his life to help me achieve these dreams that we sat down and wrote together was fantastic. Especially when there’s no competition. Having the family support as well has been critical.”4

As a junior Garrick played basketball in Shepparton, and later on represented the Bulleen Boomers in the Victorian Junior Basketball League (VJBL). Garrick achieved a significant goal by being selected for Vic Country at the under 16 and under 18 National Championships. In an interview with Basketball Victoria on the eve of her 150th WNBL game Maddie recalls achieving her aim of representing Vic Country at a National Championships, saying “That was kind of the big thing when you were younger, that is what you were aiming for, obviously you had really long-term goals, but that was kind of the first big goal that I wanted to achieve and to be involved in a team that you were representing Country Victoria, and under 20’s Victoria, to be at a National Championship at that age was a little bit surreal at the time, but really cool and a big achievement and definitely something that I will remember forever.”

Maddie made her WNBL debut at 17 years of age for the Bendigo Spirit in their opening game of the 2009/10 season on the road against the Dandenong Rangers, Garrick’s team-mates at Bendigo included Kristi Harrower who had represented the Australian Opals at three Olympic Games, Chelsea Aubrey, Kelly Wilson and Lauren King. In the lead-up to the 2009/10 season Garrick had trained with Bendigo for six weeks as part of an elite junior development program. At the time of making her WNBL debut Maddie was a year 11 student at Goulburn Valley Grammar in Shepparton. Training with the Bendigo Spirit required a 120 kilometre trip each way being made four times a week, Maddie spent the majority of this time studying in the car whilst mum, Colleen drove. In an interview with the Shepparton News days before making her WNBL debut with Bendigo Maddie commented “Training’s like nothing I have ever experienced before. I don’t expect to get a whole heap of court-time, but just the experience of training and watching from the sidelines matters first.”5 Later in the interview Maddie commented on her rapid progression to the WNBL “I was thinking about it the other day but I still haven’t processed it yet. It hasn’t sunk in that I’ll be just watching, training and playing with the best in Australia but I think it will soon.”6

Maddie’s first stint with the Bendigo Spirit was short lived, playing just three games for the club before accepting a scholarship with the AIS which led to her changing WNBL clubs mid-season. The change was instigated when Garrick received a call from AIS head coach Phil Brown who offered her one of eight new spots in the program for 2010. The AIS team was comprised of players between 15 years and 18 years of age. Maddie’s best game playing for Bendigo had been against the AIS, scoring 10 points from 21 minutes court-time on 31 October, 2009. Brown commented “Maddie’s caught the eye of national selectors with her performances for Vic Country and she’s going to bring a lot of athleticism and shooting skills to the perimeter. We see her as a ‘two-three’ player in a small-forward or shooting guard position. We’re excited about the talent she’s bringing in.”7 Maddie moved to Canberra in January 2010 to join the AIS, which involved training two to three times a day and playing with the AIS’ WNBL team. During the 2009/10 WNBL season Garrick played a total of nine games comprised of three for the AIS and six for Bendigo, averaging 1.8 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.6 assists per game.

In 2010/11 Garrick played a full season with the AIS, her team-mates included Sara Blicavs, Rebecca Cole, Tessa Lavey, Olivia Thompson, Tayla Roberts, Carley Mijovic, Alex Bunton, Rebecca Allen, Casey Samuels and Kerryn Harrington. Garrick played 22 games for the AIS in 2010/11, averaging 5.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 23.0 minutes per game, she ranked fifth at the AIS for points per game and fourth for assists. The AIS again finished on the bottom of the ladder, but were more competitive than the previous season, having three wins and a percentage of 69.3%, level on wins with the ninth placed Adelaide.

In May 2011 Maddie was representing the Gems, the under 19 Australian Women’s basketball team in four nation tournaments against China, USA and the Czech Republic. Over a fortnight the four countries played three tournaments in cities throughout China, however after impressing in the opening game of the first tournament against host nation China, in the second training session after this game Maddie injured the medial cruciate ligament in her knee as a result of  a mid-air collision at training. Garrick took no further part in the tournaments which were a warm-up for the Under 19 Women’s World Championship.  

In an interview with ABC Shepparton Radio in July 2011 Garrick commented on receiving the AIS Scholarship and how this had helped her “I was fortunate enough to receive an AIS scholarship last year, I don’t know how I would have gone if I hadn’t gone down that path with my basketball because doing Year 12 in Victoria and trying to travel to Bendigo or Melbourne to play basketball because there is competition at the standard that I needed here in the local area. I was very fortunate to receive a scholarship and that has definitely helped me progress, and become a better basketballer as well.” Later in the interview when talking about basketball in regional areas Maddie said, “Through the Albury/Wodonga region they have got their national icon Lauren Jackson, so I guess it just proves that anyone with a bit of skill can go wherever they like if they put their mind to it.” When asked ‘’Have you had the chance to meet Lauren?” Garrick responded “Not personally, we have had a couple of meetings with her, she has talked to our Gems group, I see her around walking at the AIS and get a bit star-struck as most do.”

Although hindered by her knee injury Maddie was selected in the Australian Gems team that competed in the Under 19 World Championships in Chile. The Gems team was mainly comprised of players from the AIS’s 2010/11 WNBL team which Maddie was a member of. In the interview with ABC Shepparton Maddie said “I was talking to the coach last week and she said that they are obviously going to treat me differently coming off an injury, and obviously my role in the team has changed a bit, where I sit and stuff, she said there is always time to work up to it, so I guess that’s good feedback.” Garrick played in Australia’s first three games of the tournament but didn’t play any court-time in the last five games, averaging 2.7 points and 8.7 minutes per game in her three games. The Australian Gems finished fourth at the tournament, losing the Bronze medal game to Brazil by three points, 67-70. 

In 2011/12 Garrick played 18 WNBL games for the AIS, averaging 4.5 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 21.5 minutes per game. Garrick ranked sixth at the AIS for points per game and fifth for assists. The AIS finished in last position with a record of two wins, 20 losses and 69.0%, level on wins with West Coast whose percentage was 76.1%. 2011/12 was the AIS’s last season in the WNBL as changes were made to the Basketball program at the AIS. Whilst the program is still located at the AIS it is now referred to as the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (COE). Basketball Australia COE teams compete now in both the men’s and women’s SEABL leagues.

At the conclusion of the 2012 WNBL season Garrick returned to Bendigo and played her debut SEABL season with the Bendigo Lady Braves where her team-mates included Renae Camino, Mia Newley and Kerryn Harrington. On the return to Bendigo Maddie said “Coming back to a familiar training environment and having the opportunity to come back to an offer like that was really good. Now it’s my first real season outside the AIS, kind of in the real world doing your own thing, so I guess (I need to make) a name for myself in the SEABL to start with and then cultivating something in the WNBL. The main thing I need to work on now is developing my offensive game again, getting it back. Just getting to the basket, different ways to score and defensively things that let me down now and then.”8

In July 2012 Bendigo Spirit head coach Bernie Harrower commented on Garrick “She’s certainly somebody that we want in our squad. My discussions with her when she played for us last time before she left was always about her coming back to play for us. Hopefully, we can get that deal done in the next couple of weeks. We’d be excited about having her on our roster.”9 The Bendigo Spirit signed Garrick for the 2012/13 WNBL season, leading to the result that Bernie Harrower wanted with Garrick returning to the club after two and a half seasons away.

During 2011/12 the Bendigo Spirit relied heavily on six players who had more than 500 minutes court-time, whilst the seventh ranked player had less than 300 minutes court-time. Four of these six players returned in 2012/13, guards Kristi Harrower and Kelly Wilson and front-court duo Gabe Richards and Canadian import Chelsey Aubrey. The two key departures were Tess Madgen joining the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers and Deana Smith joining the West Coast Waves (now Perth Lynx) who ranked first and second respectively for points per game at Bendigo in 2011/12. Bendigo wanted their second import to complete their starting line-up for 2012/13 however received a set-back when the player recruited to fill this role – Kathleen Scheer had to be cut by Bendigo after the WNBL pre-season tournament due to a recurring left knee injury.

Bendigo started the regular season without a second import which moved Garrick, Renae Camino, Hayley Munro, Chantella Perera and Rachel Herrick up the rotation. After receiving a call from Chelsea Aubrey, forward Kelsey Griffin joined Bendigo a third of the way into the season as the Sprit’s second import, Aubrey and Griffin had been college team-mates at Nebraska. Before American import Griffin joined the club Bendigo had already displayed that they were a championship contender, winning six of their first seven games, thriving in pressure situations to win all four games decided by three points or less. Griffin seamlessly fitted into an extremely strong Bendigo starting line-up alongside Richards, Aubrey, Wilson and Harrower. The strength of Bendigo’s starting line-up reduced the opportunities for the bench players including Garrick however her development as a player was assisted by being able to train with and learn from fellow guards Harrower and Wilson.

Bendigo finished on top of the WNBL ladder at the end of the 2012/13 regular season with 21 wins and three losses, two games ahead of Dandenong, with Adelaide in third place with 18 wins and Townsville completing the top four on 13 wins. Bendigo defeated Dandenong by seven points in the semi final and a fortnight later defeated Townsville by 14 points in the Grand Final at Bendigo Stadium to win Bendigo’s first WNBL championship in the club’s sixth season. During the 2012/13 WNBL season Garrick played all 26 games for Bendigo, averaging 3.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.2 assists, and 9.7 minutes per game. Maddie ranked sixth at Bendigo for three-pointers made with six and made a team-high 60% of her three-pointers for the season.

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Above – Maddie wearing number 9 for the Bendigo Spirit during the pre-game introductions for the 2012/13 WNBL Grand Final against Bendigo.

Bendigo won their first home game of the 2013/14 season by six points against Adelaide, 65-59 and went on to win 16 consecutive games before losing to Townsville 70-81 at Bendigo Stadium in Round 15. Bendigo won their remaining five games of the season including a win in Round 16 over Townsville 78-57 at the Townsville RSL on Australia Day. Bendigo won the minor premiership for the second season in a row, having a regular season record of 22 wins and two losses, six games ahead of the second placed Dandenong Rangers and Townsville Fire in third position. The Melbourne Boomers finished in fourth position with 14 wins and 10 losses.

Bendigo continued their dominance over Dandenong to win their semi final 71-62 at Bendigo Stadium and qualify for their second Grand Final in a row. Townsville won a thrilling preliminary final against Dandenong 74-71. With the Grand Final being hosted by Bendigo against a visiting Townsville Fire that had won the season split between the two clubs 2-1 the expectations were that it would be a closer Grand Final than the previous season. This was exactly how it played out with Bendigo leading by only two points at three-quarter time. Bendigo scored the opening nine points of the final quarter to set up an 11 point victory over Townsville to win back to back WNBL championships. Bendigo forward Kelsey Griffin won the Grand Final MVP for the second year in a row. In 2013/14 Garrick played 24 of a possible 26 games for Bendigo, averaging 4.0 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.4 assists, and 8.4 minutes per game. Maddie ranked fifth at Bendigo for three-pointers made with 13 and made a team-high 45% of her three-pointers for the season which again led the club for accuracy for players that made at least five shots behind the arc for the season. Maddie scored a season-high 14 points in Round 18 against the Melbourne Boomers.

Of the 12 players that had at least 100 minutes court-time for the Bendigo Spirit during the 2013/14 season 10 returned for the 2014/15 season, with the two departures being Elyse Penaluna and Chantella Perera. Three-time Australian Olympian Belinda Snell joined Bendigo in 2014/15, Garrick’s AIS team-mate Tayla Roberts was also recruited but played minimal court-time. In Bendigo’s opening game of the season against Townsville Maddie played her 100th WNBL game at 22 years of age. It was the second season in a row that commenced with a road trip to Townsville, Bendigo were defeated by three points 70-67. Bendigo remained near the top of the WNBL ladder throughout the 2014/15 season but weren’t as dominant as they had been in the previous two season, recording 15 wins and seven losses to finished second, two games behind minor premiers Townsville and three games ahead of Dandenong in third place with the Sydney Uni Flames completing the top four on 11 wins.

In the semi final at Townsville the home side defeated Bendigo comfortably, 82-63. Bendigo defeated Sydney in a preliminary final at Bendigo by eight points to set up their third grand final in a row against Townsville. Bendigo led the Grand Final by two points at quarter-time however a dominant 26-16 second quarter gained Townsville the ascendancy and they won the club’s first ever WNBL championship 75-65. During the 2014/15 WNBL season Garrick played 23 of a possible 25 games for Bendigo, averaging 4.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, and 11.1 minutes per game. Garrick ranked sixth at Bendigo for points per game, equal sixth for steals and equal second for three-pointers made with 15. Garrick’s three point accuracy of 37% ranked second at the club for players that made at least five three-pointers just behind Belinda Snell’s 38%. 

During April 2015 Garrick signed a two year contract with the Melbourne Boomers in the WNBL, a key reason for the move was the increased playing opportunities. Whilst Maddie had been a role player at WNBL level to that stage of her career, in her three seasons at SEABL level from 2012 to 2014 her game had developed rapidly which culminated in her winning the 2014 SEABL MVP award, playing for the Frankston Blues.

In Maddie’s first two SEABL seasons in 2012 and 2013 she played for the Bendigo Lady Braves and won the SEABL youth player of the year in 2013 after playing 29 games and averaging 13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, an increase of at least 40% on her 2012 production in all three categories.

Garrick joined the Frankston Blues for the 2014 season and only scored in single digits twice, and scored at least 20 points 11 times. Garrick was rewarded for her incredible season with the SEABL MVP award. When accepting the 2014 SEABL MVP Award Garrick said “A goal for myself is to make a name for myself in the WNBL, become a starting player there, but obviously the main goal for a lot of players here, especially the women is to make an Australian side.”

In March 2015 the Frankston Blues announced that Garrick had re-signed with the club for the 2015 SEABL season. Frankston Blues head coach Steve Matthews commented “Maddie is elite in all areas and with her work ethic I expect Maddie to again take another step forward in season 2015 which is exciting for our group and for our supporters who have embraced Maddie since she joined the club in 2014. Being awarded SEABL MVP was great recognition for Maddie who had an outstanding season and could probably be considered unlucky not being included in the Opals training squad”10

The next month Garrick was one of 18 players invited to attend an Australian Opals camp in April 2015 before a European tour. Garrick was thrilled to be training with the Opals and saw it as a great opportunity to learn from and train along-side the best basketball players in the country, however she had no expectations on being selected in the 12 player squad for the tour. On being selected in the team for the Opals European tour Garrick commented “It’s still a bit surreal. I went to a world championships with the under-19 Gems team a few years ago, which was amazing, but to say I’m an Opal now and putting on the real jersey, it hasn’t sunk in and it’s a wonderful opportunity. It’s kind of crazy – I’ve just been taking it step by step then all this has happened in the one time.”11 

Due to commitments with the Australian Opals Garrick was restricted to nine games for the Frankston Blues in the SEABL during 2015, however she made the most of these appearances to score at least 16 points in every game including five games with at least 24 points. In each of her last four games Garrick displayed fantastic endurance to play the full 40 minutes, twice in this period she scored a season-high 30 points. In 2015 Garrick averaged 22.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists to set SEABL career-highs in all three categories.

Maddie represented Australia at the 2015 World University games alongside fellow Melbourne Boomer and Deakin University student Alice Kunek. Deakin University commenced sponsoring the Melbourne Boomers in 2015/16. In an interview with Deakin Life Maddie’s response to the question ‘What advice would you give your younger self?’ was Do something today that your future self will thank you for. In other words, work hard now and reap the rewards later.”12

Before the Australian Opals 2015 Oceania Championships series against New Zealand they played a three-game warm-up series against Japan in July and August. Maddie played for the Opals in this warm-up series against Japan, including game 2 on her SEABL team the Frankston Blues home court, Frankston Basketball Stadium.

The Melbourne Boomers had a new look team in 2015/16 as only four of the 10 players that played at least 140 minutes court-time in 2014/15 returned to the club the following season – guards Tess Madgen and Rebecca Cole, and forwards Olivia Thompson and Shanae Greaves. Several of the players that left the Boomers joined rival WNBL clubs, Rebecca Allen – the newly formed SEQ Stars, Natalie Burton – Perth Lynx, Amelia Todhunter – Dandenong Rangers, and Kelly Bowen – Adelaide Lightning. Two former Boomers who had played in the clubs 2010/11 WNBL championship returned to the club, forward Alice Kunek after two seasons with cross-town rival Dandenong Rangers and centre Elyse Penaluna after missing 2014/15 with injury and having been a team-mate of Maddie’s at the Bendigo Spirit in 2013/14. Cole and Thompson had been team-mates of Garrick’s during all three seasons at the AIS. Throughout her promising career point guard Cole has missed considerable basketball due to serious knee injuries, and as AIS captain in 2011/12 she played only two games for the season before injuring her knee and requiring a knee reconstruction. Cole had a break-out year for Melbourne in 2014/15 averaging 11.8 points and 2.9 assists per game, however due to another knee injury she started the 2015/16 WNBL season on the sidelines. Cole was eventually ruled out for the entire 2015/16 season but made her WNBL return with the Boomers in 2016/17. American import, guard Brittany Smart joined Melbourne in 2015/16 after playing alongside Kunek with Sandringham in the 2015 SEABL season.

Early in the 2015/16 season Garrick took on a far more prominent role than she was used to, starting for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers, whilst the WNBL is higher standard of competition than the SEABL Maddie’s confidence was no doubt helped by her outstanding performances at SEABL level. Maddie settled into her new role brilliantly and in Round 4 was named in WNBL team of the week with Melbourne winning two games for the round, a victory on the road followed by a win on their home court the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South. Against Canberra at the AIS Arena in a Round 4 Saturday night game Garrick scored 17 points, took eight rebounds and made two steals, playing just under 31 minutes court-time in the 28 point win. In front of a massive crowd at the State Basketball Centre on Melbourne Cup Eve the Melbourne Boomers had an upset nine point victory against reigning WNBL Champions Townsville. Garrick played a key role in the victory, shooting the ball superbly to score 14 points, making six of her 10 field goal attempts, including two of her three pointers, Garrick also made five assists – ranked second for the game behind team-mate Madgen with six.

 

Garrick was named in the WNBL team of the week for the second time in the season in Round 10 with Melbourne again winning two games in for the round, a victory on the road followed by a win on their home court. In a five point Melbourne Boomers victory on the road against her former side Bendigo Spirit in Round 10 Garrick put on a sublime perimeter shooting exhibition, making seven of her 10 three pointers, highlighting just how dominant Garrick was from beyond the arc, only one other player in the game made more than two three-pointers, former team-mate and mentor Belinda Snell with four. Maddie scored a team-high 22 points, took seven rebounds and also excelled with her anticipation and quick hands to make four steals, the same number that her nine Boomers team-mates made for the game combined. The following day at the State Basketball Centre Maddie was again pivotal in the Melbourne Boomers getting another narrow victory by three points against Canberra, scoring 16 points, taking eight rebounds and making two assists.

Below – Maddie taking a free-throw Round 10, 2015/16 vs Canberra

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During 2016 the Melbourne Boomers were rarely able to get their best side out on the court and when they did achieve this frequently one or two players were restricted due to an injury with starters Tess Madgen and Elyse Penaluna hampered by an ankle injury and knee injury respectively.

 

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Above – Melbourne Boomers players huddle on the court with Garrick in the middle during January 25 Australia Day eve game against the Dandenong Rangers, four Boomers members who were injured and took no part in the game are sitting down to the right with tracksuit tops on – Madgen, Cole, Penaluna and Smart.

On the road against Adelaide on 29 January Garrick had a nasty fall early in the second quarter injuring her chin and wrist. Garrick played out the game, playing 33 minutes and 22 seconds court-time and came close to getting a double-double, registering 10 points and eight rebounds. After the game Melbourne head-coach Guy Molloy commented “Just when you think you couldn’t possibly cop another injury, along comes a foul that unfortunately saw Maddie land hard, injuring both her chin and wrist. Justin (General Manager) took her off to hospital after the game and later that night we all learned she had been patched up with some stitches given the depth of the wound.”13 Maddie didn’t miss any games for the Boomers but had to play with tape over her chin and left wrist for several games.

Below – Maddie defending Leilani Mitchell against Adelaide in Round 17 with chin and left wrist taped, two rounds after suffering the injuries

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In an interview with Megan Hustwaite for Leader Community News in February 2016 Garrick commented on her increased role at the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in 2015/16 “I’d never wish injuries upon anyone but it’s happened to work in my favour, being thrown in the deep end is the best way to learn. Throughout the season I’ve been through bad patches, but it’s all a learning curve and it’s been an incredible experience. I feel I’ve kind of grown through adversity and just playing. My time at Bendigo was incredible and I certainly grew and learned a lot but it came to a point in my career where I needed to get more game exposure. With the personnel we had, and such a good team, it was hard to fit into an expanded role. It was something I needed to think about, being 23 I needed to get game experience.”14

Melbourne finished the 2015/16 season in eighth place after recording eight wins and 16 losses, however their percentage of 94.1% highlighted how competitive they were, the Boomers were six games ahead of the University of Canberra Capitals who finished last in the nine team WNBL, and two games behind the seventh placed Adelaide Lightning. The Boomers lost several close games during the season after being in winning positions and were overrun in a couple of other games due to being undermanned due to injuries. Madgen and Penaluna each missed six games for the season whilst Smart missed seven games due to injury and 2014/15 starter Cole spent the entire season on the sidelines due to a knee injury. Kunek led the Boomers for minutes played with 802 followed by Garrick – 745, however they were the only two Boomers to play over 560 minutes for the season. Due to Cole missing the season and injuries to Madgen and Smart there were some games in which Maddie played as a primary ball handler for Melbourne which was not in Molloy’s planning pre-season.

During 2015/16 Garrick played all 24 games for Melbourne, averaging 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 31.0 minutes per game to easily set new personal bests in all four categories. Garrick led Melbourne for total points and total steals, ranked third for rebounds behind Elyse Penaluna and Alice Kunek and third for assists behind Tess Madgen and Kunek. The Melbourne Boomers were the only club in the WNBL that had four players make at least 30 three-pointers for the season, led by Garrick with 57, and followed by Kunek- 45, Madgen – 35 and Brittany Smart – 30. Maddie won the Boomers 2015/16 MVP Award which is an outstanding achievement for any player, let alone one in their first season as a starter.

Melbourne Boomers head coach Guy Molloy was full of praise for the way Maddie fitted in at the Boomers and her work ethic during her first season with the club, commenting “She’s a natural athlete, really quick reflexes, fast and explosive and I think she just fitted into the niche of where I’m trying to aim the program – which is to take youthful players on their way up and try and provide opportunity and the work to help move them along the path. I could tell she was a real gym rat and I just wanted that type of personality on my team – passionate and obsessive about their game. Maddie has an unquenched desire to improve, with the average player you’re always encouraging them to do a little extra but with Madds it’s ‘you could probably do with a day off today’ – she’s the other way.”15

In an interview on WNBL.com.au as the league’s Round 14 player profile Garrick commented that she wouldn’t be playing in the SEABL during 2016, saying “Although I would love to play SEABL, I will be taking the season off to properly recover. I think it will be important to rest properly and to be able to get into the gym and weight room to work on my game as well as fitness. In the meantime, I will be doing my internship at Core Advantage as well as trying to finish my course (exercise and sports science) at Deakin University.”16

In March 2016 Garrick was named in a preliminary 27 player Australian Opals squad in the lead up to the first training camp for the Olympic Games preparations, however Maddie was one of the first three players cut along with Belinda Snell and Kelly Wilson when the squad was reduced to 24 players just over a week before camp 1 from 29 March to 3 April. At the time of making the cuts Australian Opals head coach Brendan Joyce commented “These are not easy decisions for the coaching staff to make but it’s important to make the decision early and let the girls know. Snelly will be invited to one of the camps in the next few months to help celebrate her career and commitment to the Jayco Opals with the entire team. For Maddie, we definitely see her as a player of the future.”17

In May 2016 it was announced that the ownership of the Melbourne Boomers was being transferred to a new group including Tony Hallam, the Chairman of Etihad Stadium. Australia’s greatest ever basketball player Lauren Jackson joined the club in an off-court executive role as Commercial Operations Manager. Maddie was one of the players along with Rebecca Cole representing the club at the announcement in their Melbourne Boomers singlets, alongside key Boomers staff members Guy Molloy, Justin Nelson and Lauren Jackson. From being star-struck as a teenager walking past Lauren Jackson at the AIS Maddie would now be interacting with one of her idols in Jackson who was a three-time WNBA MVP winner, played in three WNBA championships with the Seattle Storm, won four medals with the Australian Opals at Olympic Games and played 172 WNBL games with the AIS and Canberra Capitals, averaging a phenomenal 22.2 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Jackson’s ability to draw on experiences playing in basketball leagues and dealing with front offices in leagues all over the world will prove invaluable now working in the Melbourne Boomers front office and providing a conduit between the playing group and the off-court team.   

At the change of ownership announcement Hallam said “Our goal is to turn the Melbourne Boomers around within three years and, after that, we plan to invest any profits back into the team. Simply put, we’re doing this because the Boomers are worth saving. For thousands of girls who aspire to play at the elite level in Melbourne, the importance of the survival of the Melbourne Boomers is self-evident – they need access to a national competition. However, it’s not just about the elite. It’s about providing an opportunity to see and interact with wonderful, strong, healthy role models. It’s about the opportunity to feel the connectedness that comes with supporting a home team. It’s about giving families the opportunity to have a night out that everyone can share and enjoy. With the news the Boomers are here to stay and with Lauren joining us in a key role, we want to see the Melbourne community jump on board as members and support us – both basketball and women’s sport.”18

In June 2016 Maddie signed with the Deakin Melbourne Boomers for the 2016/17 WNBL season, commenting “The new ownership group has been working extremely hard to ensure the continual progress of the club. Having such a professional and methodical consortium is exciting in itself, as well as being a vital part in our future success, particularly for the season coming. I’m looking forward to playing in front of our amazing and supportive fans, and sponsors, and hope that we can expand our family with new supporters coming along to see us play. And off the court with our newest staff member Lauren Jackson joining Justin in the front office, it will be very exciting. I cannot wait to put on Boomers jersey again and represent all of the Melbourne basketball community in the WNBL.”19

Before the commencement of the 2016/17 WNBL season the Melbourne Boomers re-signed Deakin University as the club’s major partner for a further two years and the club had already surpassed the membership levels they had for the 2015/16 season.

Of the nine Melbourne Boomers that played more than 200 minutes during the 2015-16 season only four are playing for the club during the 2016/17 season, Garrick, Kunek, Thompson and Smart. Boomers captain Tess Madgen departed to play in the Polish League, whilst forward Shanae Greaves joined Sydney Uni Flames, Kristen Veal retired and Kate Oliver isn’t playing in the WNBL this season. Elyse Penaluna had completed the pre-season with the Boomers and was set to be the club’s co-captain with Kunek, however just days before the 2016/17 season started Penaluna announced that she would miss the entire season due to further complications with her knee injury. Melbourne’s recruits for the 2016/17 season were American import Chante Black who provides some much needed height at 195 centimetres tall, forwards Jess Bygate and Tegan Cunningham recruited from Adelaide and Dandenong respectively. After playing for Adelaide in 2015/16 Kelly Bowen returns for the Boomers, joining her 2014/15 Melbourne teammate, guard Rebecca Cole who has recovered from her knee injury. Melbourne also recruited 16 year-old point guard Monique Conti who was a member of the Australian Sapphires team that won gold at the 2016 under 17 World Championships held in Spain during June and July, Conti excelled at the World Championships to be one of three Sapphires selected in the All-Star five.

After Garrick signed with the club for the 2016/17 season Guy Molloy said “We signed Maddie a year ago as a young player ready to make her mark on the league. In a season of adversity for the team, Maddie was a shining light and ultimately named our MVP. Clearly she is an outstanding shooter and one-on-one player, but we are also ready to see other parts of her game flourish as she learns to impact games in multiple ways.”20

Maddie has played all five games for the Melbourne Boomers to the half-way point of Round 4 2016/17 and is averaging 12.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 30.8 minutes per game. Garrick ranks equal second at Melbourne for points with Smart, behind Kunek, equal first for steals with Kunek, fourth for rebounds, equal fifth for rebounds and leads the club with 10 three-pointers made.

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Melbourne’s best win of the season so far has been the four point comeback victory against Bendigo in Maddie’s 150th WNBL game. The Boomers have also defeated Adelaide twice, once at home, and once on the road, whilst the two losses have been at home to Perth by three points and on the road to Canberra by nine points in their Round 4 Friday night game. The Melbourne Boomers next game is a massive clash at home with cross-town rivals the Dandenong Rangers at the State Basketball Centre to conclude Round 4 in a Melbourne Cup Eve game on Monday, 31st October starting at 7.30 pm. The Melbourne Boomers broke the club record for highest attendance at a home game when 2,481 people watched the Australia Day Eve game between Melbourne and Dandenong in Round 14 of the 2015/16 season. Melbourne Boomers General Manager Justin Nelson commented “The Boomers are proud to be leading the way in developing and showcasing blockbuster games in the WNBL. Our two holiday eve games attracted record crowds last season and we want that trend to continue. The Melbourne Cup Eve showdown against Dandenong looms as a great family night out, it’s a clash all of the WNBL will be tuned into.”21 Even though Melbourne and Dandenong both lost their Round 4 Friday night matches both clubs have a record of three wins and two losses. The Boomers are hoping to again break their attendance record on Monday night, with the reward for the winning team being  a record of four wins and two losses and equal top spot on the ladder with Bendigo whilst the loser will have a record of three wins and three losses.

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During her 29 games for the Melbourne Boomers in 2015/16 and 2016/17 Garrick has averaged 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 31.0 minutes per game. Whilst Maddie has established herself as a starter and added her name to the honour role as a Melbourne Boomers MVP award winner it has been a long journey to reach this level. It was fitting that 24 year old Maddie Garrick reached the milestone of 150 WNBL games in the City vs Country game at the State Basketball Centre between the Melbourne Boomers and the Bendigo Spirit on Sunday October 23 as the City and Country have both played critical roles in Maddie’s development as a basketball player, both as a junior and as a WNBL player. The four point Melbourne Boomers victory and Maddie’s key role in the pivotal fourth quarter made the milestone even sweeter. As a junior Maddie represented Vic Country and also played for the Bulleen Boomers, whilst at WNBL level the Bendigo Spirit and Melbourne Boomers have also played critical roles in Maddie developing to achieve two of her major ambitions of becoming a WNBL starter and Australian Opals representative.

 

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

 

1 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/maddie-garrick-looks-to-european-tour-after-making-australian-opals-squad-20150513-gh10td.html

2 http://wnbl.com.au/melbourne_news/maddie-garrick-set-for-150th/

3 http://www.basketball.net.au/profile-maddie-garrick-2/

4 http://www.basketball.net.au/profile-maddie-garrick-2/

5 Shepparton News, Garrick now a free Spirit by Ashleigh Williamson, page 30, 1 October 2009

6 Shepparton News, Garrick now a free Spirit by Ashleigh Williamson, page 30, 1 October 2009

7 Shepparton News, Heady times for Maddie by Teo Pellizzeri, page 32, 2 December 2009

8 http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/138778/garrick-at-home-on-bendigo-basketball-courts/

9 http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/138607/spirit-out-to-shine-shepparton-star/

10 http://www.bluesbasketball.net.au/index.php?id=456&tx_ttnews%5Byear%5D=2015&tx_ttnews%5Bmonth%5D=03&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=260&cHash=41c8b666060e3de138c4e77dd2c208ec

11 http://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/maddie-garrick-looks-to-european-tour-after-making-australian-opals-squad-20150513-gh10td.html

12 https://blogs.deakin.edu.au/deakinlife/2015/10/29/in-their-words-meet-maddie-garrick-and-alice-kunek/

13 http://wnbl.com.au/melbourne_news/horror-injury-run-thwarts-boomers/

14 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/east/sport/maddie-garrick-grabs-increased-opportunities-with-both-hands-in-debut-wnbl-season-with-melbourne-boomers/news-story/b0ed7a6404fc30bcf38792745471219b

15 http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/east/sport/maddie-garrick-grabs-increased-opportunities-with-both-hands-in-debut-wnbl-season-with-melbourne-boomers/news-story/b0ed7a6404fc30bcf38792745471219b

16 http://wnbl.com.au/round-14-player-profile-maddie-garrick/

17 http://www.basketball.net.au/basketball-australia-names-jayco-opals-camp-squad/

18 http://wnbl.com.au/lauren-jackson-plays-key-role-in-new-melbourne-boomers/

19 http://wnbl.com.au/maddie-garrick-back-for-melbourne-boomers/

20 http://wnbl.com.au/maddie-garrick-back-for-melbourne-boomers/

21 http://pickandroll.com.au/wnbls-surprise-packet-ready-marquee-showdown/

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Above – Maddie with a happy Melbourne Boomers fan on-court after her 150th WNBL game

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