Tessa Lavey to play fourth consecutive major championship with the Australian Opals at Tokyo Olympic Games

At the Tokyo Olympic Games Bendigo Spirit captain Tessa Lavey will be one of seven members of the Australian Opals women’s basketball team playing at their second Olympic Games. Point guard Lavey has represented the Opals at the previous three major championships comprised of the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Lavey grew up in country Victoria, spending most of her childhood living in Swan Hill, but later on moved to Hamilton and then Bendigo to be closer to Melbourne and reduce the travel required for basketball commitments.

The youngest of five children Lavey played many sports when she was growing up and represented her state in basketball and cross country running. Lavey also played a little bit of Australian Rules football as a junior and was a passionate supporter of the Richmond Football Club.

At 16 years of age Lavey accepted a basketball scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and played 33 WNBL games with the AIS over three seasons from 2009/10 to 2011/12.  

In three WNBL seasons from 2012/13 to 2014/15 Lavey played as a back-up point guard, playing nine games for the Canberra Capitals in 2012/13 and a total of 41 games in two seasons with the Bendigo Spirit including being part of the 2013/14 WNBL Championship winning team.

In 2013 Lavey was part of the Emerging Opals 2013 World University Games team who were at a training camp alongside the Australian Opals. Due to the Opals being short of numbers some of the Emerging Opals including Lavey had an opportunity to train with the Opals. At the camp Lavey impressed with her quickness and skills which contributed to her being invited to the next Opals training camp and being a surprise selection in the Opals 2014 World Championships team.

Whilst Lavey played as a back-up point guard during her first six WNBL seasons from 2009/10 to 2014/15 she was able to play on teams with other point guards and learn from them, most notably from Kristi Harrower and Kelly Wilson whilst playing with the Bendigo Spirit.

At 22 years of age Lavey moved interstate to gain experience as a starting point guard in the WNBL and joined the Perth Lynx for the 2015/16 WNBL season. As well as being the starting point guard for Perth Lavey was also appointed club captain, ranked in the WNBL’s top 10 for assists and averaged more than 10.0 points per game for the first time. The Perth Lynx made the finals in both of Lavey’s seasons with the club, making the Grand Final in 2015/16 and the semi final in 2016/17.

After Lavey established herself as a WNBL starter whilst at Perth she returned to Victoria to be closer to family and played the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons with the Jayco Dandenong Rangers before joining the Bendigo Spirit.

With the Bendigo Spirit 172 centimetre tall Lavey averaged more than 10 points per game in both the 2019/20 and 2020 seasons, registering a career-best 15.2 points per game in the latter season. Bendigo Spirit captain Tessa Lavey had a career best WNBL season in 2020 to rank third in the WNBL for assists per game, 10th for scoring and led the WNBL in minutes played. On Tuesday 1 December 2020 season point guard Lavey played her 200th WNBL game against the Perth Lynx at Townsville Stadium.

The Australian women’s basketball team won a silver medal at the 2018 World Cup and are ranked second in the current FIBA World rankings behind the United States of America who are the reigning Olympic Games gold medallists and World Cup holders. Lavey is one of only two players along with power forward/centre Cayla George who will be playing their fourth consecutive major championship for the Opals at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Earlier this year Lavey played a second sport at the elite level – representing the Richmond Football Club in Australian Rules Football in the AFLW. Lavey made her AFLW debut at 27 years of age in Round 3 and in her third game played in Richmond’s first AFLW victory, a 47 point win against Geelong at GMHBA Stadium. In 2021 Lavey ranked in the top six at Richmond for inside 50’s per game, handballs and metres gained.

Tessa Lavey’s sporting career in basketball at junior level, in the WNBL and with the Australian Opals along with playing Australian Rules football for Richmond in the AFLW is comprehensively covered below.

Early life and junior basketball career

Tessa Rose Lavey was born on 29 March 1993 in Swan Hill, a city with a population of 10,905 people as per the 2016 census, located in north-west Victoria on the south bank of the Murray River approximately 340 kilometres from Melbourne. Tessa is the youngest of five children to Annette and Geoff with all four older siblings being brothers – Nick, Ben, Tim and Daniel. On the impact growing up with four older brothers had on her Tessa told the Bendigo Advertiser in October 2013 “I think that’s why I have got that little bit extra, having to chase them around and compete with the boys. I was a tomboy. I didn’t play with Barbie dolls, I’d want the boys’ trucks and toys. I was riding motor bikes around and I learnt to drive when I was pretty young, sitting on dad’s knee changing gears in the paddock bomb.”1

Growing up Tessa kicked the footy with her brothers and played several sports during her childhood with her main two sports being basketball and athletics. On some other sports she played and competing against boys Lavey commented to fiba.basketball in May 2015 “I played AFL [Australian Rules Football] and soccer, too. The boys didn’t see me as a girl. I just played and they would tackle me the same as the others.”2

Tessa commenced her junior basketball career in the under-10’s playing for the Swan Hill Flyers. As Lavey moved up the age groups in junior basketball her parents began driving her to higher standard competitions, driving four hours from Swan Hill to Melbourne on a Friday to enable Tessa to play for the Eltham Wildcats in the Victorian Junior Basketball League (VJBL) on a Friday night, train Saturday morning and then drive back another four hours to Swan Hill on Saturday.

Whilst growing up Lavey also spent time living in Hamilton and later on moved to Bendigo in January 2009. A factor in the move was to be closer to Melbourne and reduce the travel required for Tessa’s basketball. During 2009 Lavey was in year 11 at Catholic College Bendigo and played for the General’s in Bendigo Basketball Association’s women’s league summer competition. In 2009 Lavey was a member of the Vic Country team that finished second at the under 18 National Championships.

As a junior Tessa represented Victoria in cross country running and part of the reason she chose basketball over athletics is that she wanted to work together with teammates rather than play an individual sport.

In a Tessa Lavey bio video published by Perth Lynx in November 2015 Lavey commented “I started playing basketball when I was eight years old and when I realised that I was able to sort of go pro was when I got invited to the AIS for a scholarship in Canberra and that’s the moment I sort of realised that I could have a shot at doing something really good here.”

Tessa was part of the Australian Sapphires team that finished seventh at the under 17 World Championships held in France during July 2010.

WNBL career from debut in 2009/10 with the AIS to the 2014/15 season with Bendigo

In late November 2009 Lavey was announced as one of eight players receiving an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) scholarship with the women’s basketball team. Lavey was one of five Victorians to receive a scholarship along with Sara Blicavs, Bec Cole, Maddie Garrick and Carley Ernst (nee Mijovic), other players to receive a scholarship were the ACT’s Alex Bunton and South Australian’s Olivia Thompson and Georgie Minear.

AIS Director Professor Peter Fricker commented to Australia.basketball “The Institute’s basketball program aims to equip players with the mental, physical and tactical skills needed to perform at league, national and international levels. We are extremely proud of our record and tradition of producing talented basketball players who have gone on to excel at the elite level of the game.”3 AIS women’s basketball coach Phil Brown commented “Tessa Lavey will bring leadership, quickness and energy at the point guard position.”4

 At 16 years of age Lavey made her WNBL debut for the AIS on 19 December 2009 in a home game against the Jayco Rangers. The AIS team for the 2009/10 WNBL season included the eight players that received scholarships in November 2009 along with returning scholarship holders Nicole Seekamp, Nadeen Payne, Tayla Roberts and Jillian Haughton.

Lavey played a total of 33 games for the AIS in three seasons from 2009/10 to 2011/12. On her time at the Australian Institute of Sport Lavey told the Back Pocket Banter podcast “We had some of the best coaches in the world with us and then we had the sports science side of things too with physio, massage. I think it just taught us early on how to be professional within our sport because we were living out of home, we had to look after ourselves, we weren’t relying on our parents to sort of be like, are you injured or do you feel sick or anything like that, we really had to take some responsibility for ourselves and I think that really set me up for my career.”

After completing her AIS scholarship Lavey remained in Canberra and played nine games for the Canberra Capitals during the 2012/13 WNBL season. The Capitals were coached by Carrie Graf who was the Australian Opals head coach. At the Capitals Lavey was able to learn from two experienced guards, point guard Nicole Hunt and shooting guard Jess Bibby.  

Lavey returned to country Victoria to play for the Bendigo Spirit in the 2013/14 WNBL season. The Bendigo Spirit joined the WNBL in 2007/08 with Bernie Harrower as their head coach and won the club’s first WNBL championship in 2012/13. On joining the Spirit Lavey told the Bendigo Advertiser in October 2013 “I got an offer from Bendigo, which was great. I took some time to think about what I really wanted to do and in the end it came down to coming back home to family, and getting the opportunity to work with Kristi Harrower. She’s one of the best point guards in the world and I think I’ve got a lot to learn from her. Then there’s Kelly Wilson, who is up and coming with the Opals, so I can learn off her as well. I definitely want to help the Spirit get back-to-back championships and develop my game as much as I can while I am here.”5

Bendigo Spirit’s starting line-up in 2013/14 was four-time Olympian Harrower and Wilson in the back-court along with Kelsey Griffin, Chelsea Aubrey and Gabe Richards in the front-court. Younger players on Bendigo’s bench included Lavey, Sara Blicavs and Maddie Garrick. Bendigo were dominant throughout the 2013/14 WNBL regular season, recording 22 wins and just two losses to win the minor premiership, five games ahead of the second placed Jayco Rangers. Bendigo defeated the Rangers 71-62 in the major semi final and won the Grand Final at Bendigo Stadium against the Townsville Fire 94-83 to win back-to-back WNBL championships.

On playing in a WNBL championship with the Bendigo Spirit in 2013/14 Lavey told the Back Pocket Banter podcast “That was amazing, you know as a kid I don’t think I appreciated it back then, because it was just another day, we won a championship, this seems pretty easy. It was incredible, I played with Kristi Harrower, Kelly Wilson, Gabe Richards and Kelsey Griffin, all those amazing names, I really appreciate it now, looking back because they are not easy to win and there is a lot of hard work that goes in behind the scenes, I was really fortunate to be a part of that group.”

Three-time Australian Opals Olympian Belinda Snell joined the Bendigo Spirit for the 2014/15 season and all of their starters from the 2013/14 season returned in 2014/15, however Kristi Harrower had a reduced playing role with her primary role being that of assistant coach. An injury to Kelly Wilson contributed to Harrower playing on in 2014/15, however in early January 2015 Kristi announced that she was 16 weeks pregnant and was retiring from basketball immediately.

On learning from Harrower Lavey told the Basket Case podcast in October 2018 “It was incredible, just to train against her as well. She controlled that team and to be able to watch that as a youngster and really try and learn how to do that was really incredible, she is definitely an incredible player and an incredible leader, I was pretty lucky, pretty fortunate for that.”

Bendigo recorded 15 wins and seven losses during the 2014/15 regular season to finish second, two games behind the Townsville Fire. Bendigo and Townsville met in the WNBL Grand Final for the third consecutive season however this time the Grand Final was played at Townsville Stadium and the Fire were the victors, defeating Bendigo 75-65. In two seasons with the Bendigo Spirit as a back-up point guard Lavey played 41 games and averaged 1.8 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game but more importantly was able to develop her skills as a point guard from playing with and training alongside Harrower and Wilson.  

Australian Opals career

Lavey was part of the Emerging Opals team that represented Australia at the 2013 World University Games held in Kazan, Russia during July. After the Emerging Opals trailed the United States by 17 points early in the last quarter of their semi-final Australia made a massive comeback but fell just short of recording an upset victory, losing to USA 78-79. In the playoff for third place the Emerging Opals defeated Chinese Taipei 99-58 to win the bronze medal.

On Episode 3, Series 5 of the Basket Case podcast in October 2018 host Carol Wical asked “What has been your representative journey?” Lavey responded “It was kind of an odd start to the journey. I was with the World Uni Games team (in 2013) up in Canberra and we were training alongside the Opals at that time and they were a little bit short on numbers and they decided that they would get some of us girls to train with them and then all of a sudden (Australian Opals head coach) Brendon Joyce was inviting me to the next (Opals) camp so I was very fortunate and in the right place I guess and was training well so that really helped and I haven’t looked back since. I have been to two World Champs, Rio (Olympics) and Commonwealth Games and it has just been an amazing journey with the Opals coaching staff, the girls, the people that I get to meet on this trip is just something that I will always remember and I will have friends all over the world which is pretty crazy and very exciting. I am just thankful to be a part of the Opals program and what they create as a legacy.”

For the past 25 years the Australian Opals have won a medal at the vast majority of major championships comprised of Olympic Games and FIBA World Cups (known as the World Championships until 2014). At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States of America, the Australian Opals won a medal at a major championship for the first time, winning the bronze medal. From 1996 to 2012 the Opals won a medal at all five Olympic Games and three of the four World Championships held during this period with the only exception being the 2010 World Championships where they finished fifth. At the 2006 World Championships held in Brazil the Opals won the gold medal, Penny Taylor was named the tournament MVP and was one of two Australians along with Lauren Jackson that averaged at least 18 points per game to rank in the top three players at the tournament in this category.  

Lavey attended some Australian Opals camps in 2013 as well as a camp in March 2014 which was the first in a series of camps held in the lead-up to the 2014 World Championships. On attending the Opals camps Lavey commented in a SEABL video in April 2014 “It is great, it is a big step compared to WNBL, it is another level up from that but it is good to see where you are at and where you need to improve. The older girls are very helpful in getting you through camps and stuff and they know that you are new and nervous. It is just really great to see what you gotta end up being like and hopefully you get there one day.” At the end of the video Lavey commented on her goals, saying “Obviously to make the Opals at some stage and just end up being the best I can be.”

During a six game European tour in August 2014 Lavey represented the Australian Opals as one of three point guards in the squad along with experienced duo Leilani Mitchell and Natalie Hurst. Another experienced point guard Erin Phillips and Australian Opals captain Penny Taylor were unavailable for the Opals European tour due to their WNBA commitments with the Phoenix Mercury.

On 10 September 2014 Lavey was selected in the Australian Opals 12 player team for the 2014 World Championships as one of three point guards along with Erin Phillips and Leilani Mitchell. Opals head coach Brendan Joyce defended Lavey’s selection ahead of more experienced point guards such as Nat Hurst, commenting to The Sydney Morning Herald “Her [Lavey’s] quickness and explosiveness is superior to all three of those players [Mitchell, Phillips and Hurst]. That’s a big statement, I know, but we’ve had plenty of camps and plenty of tour games to see it. We need someone with that sort of quickness in our team, in that position. She brings a point of difference to the other girls. The second point is we have to blood a young point guard for the future because of the age of our existing point guards, and she’s the best young guard in the country.”6

At the time of being selected in the Opals 2014 World Championships team Lavey was 21 years old and had been a back-up point guard during her 59 game WNBL career across five seasons from 2009/10 to 2013/14. On Lavey having not played as a starting point guard in the WNBL Joyce commented to The Sydney Morning Herald “I don’t think she should be a bench player in the WNBL. She’s a bench player in the team [Bendigo] that’s won it the last two years behind Kristi Harrower, who has been our greatest ever point guard.”7

Opals head-coach Joyce named a new look Australian line-up for the 2014 World Championships held in Turkey from September 28 to October 6. Only three players that represented the Jayco Opals at the 2012 Olympic games also represented Australia at the 2014 World Championships – guard/forward Rachel Jarry, shooting guard Belinda Snell and forward Laura Hodges. Other players in the Australian team were guard/forwards Penny Taylor and Rebecca Allen, forward Natalie Burton, forward/centre Cayla George and centres Mariana Tolo and Liz Cambage.

In an Opals warm-up game against the USA just over a week before the start of the World Championships Australian centre Liz Cambage ruptured her Achilles tendon which forced her to miss the 2014 World Championships. Bendigo Spirit centre Gabe Richards joined the Opals in Turkey as a late replacement for Cambage.

At the 2014 World Championships Australia played an up-tempo game style in Brendan Joyce’s first major championship as the Opals head coach. In the Opals second group game against Korea Lavey scored eight points, took three rebounds and made three assists. At the tournament the Opals had five wins and one loss by 12 points to the United States of America in a semi final. Australia defeated host nation Turkey 74-44 in the play-off for third to win the bronze medal.

On representing the Opals at the 2014 World Championships in Turkey Lavey commented to fiba.basketball in May 2015 “The calibre of players that was there was incredible and to think I played alongside them is eerie. I loved every minute of it. It’s something you dream of, getting a medal at a World Championship. It’s a different style to the way previous Opals teams played. It’s a really fast-paced game and it’s good for the young ones. Brendan is giving us the opportunities. I believe he likes that style and has seen other teams play fast. The game is getting a lot faster. We train really fast and while you get turnovers, you learn to play fast and you grasp onto the concept.”8

At the 2015 FIBA Women’s Oceania Championships Lavey took on more responsibility in the two game series against New Zealand due to Australian point guards Mitchell and Phillips being unavailable due to WNBA commitments and a knee injury respectively. In the two games against New Zealand Lavey averaged 8.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.5 steals and 33.1 minutes court-time per game. In the Oceania Championships Lavey led the Opals for minutes played, assists, rebounds, three-pointers made and steals, and ranked equal third for scoring.

On being selected in the Australian Opals team for the 2016 Rio Olympics Lavey commented to Roy Ward in June 2016 for an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald “I definitely didn’t see this coming – if anyone had told me four years ago that I would be going to this Olympics I wouldn’t have believed them. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunities Choc [Joyce] has given me and he liked what he saw. I worked on the things he wanted me to work on and now I get to go to Rio.  I’m very grateful for the doors that have opened for me and I’m going to take everything I have into the Olympics.”9

The Opals were strongly tested in the group stage at the 2016 Rio Olympics and although they won all five games, in three of these games they trailed by a double-figure margin before fighting back to win. In the Opals 74-66 defeat of Belarus in their fourth group game Lavey had a game-high six assists.

The Opals quarter final against Serbia was close throughout the entire game with the Opals leading by one point at three quarter-time 52-51. The Opals trailed by two points with 10 seconds to go and were unable to score on that final possession, being defeated by two points 71-73, and in the process were knocked out of the Olympic Games at the quarter final stage. At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Lavey played all six games for the Opals, averaging 2.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists – ranked fourth for the Opals, 0.5 steals and 11.8 minutes per game.

On 18 April 2017 it was announced that Sandy Brondello had been appointed as the Australian Opals head coach and that she would perform that role whilst continuing to be the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA, however she stopped being an assistant coach to husband Olaf Lange at Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg. Brondello had an illustrious basketball career as a shooting guard, playing in the WNBL, WNBA, Europe and represented the Australian Opals in 302 games including at four Olympic Games and four World Championships. Brondello won the WNBL’s MVP award in 1995 and was a member of the first five Opals teams that won medals at major championships from the 1996 Olympic Games to the 2004 Olympic Games. In 2005 Brondello commenced a coaching career as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Silver Stars. Brondello was inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and has been the head coach of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA since 2014, winning a WNBA Championship in her first season coaching the club, two Australians Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips played on the Phoenix 2014 WNBA Championship winning team.

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Queensland, Australia from April 4 to 15 Lavey was part of the Australian Opals team that won the gold medal. The Opals won all five games at the tournament by more than 40 points, winning three pool games in Townsville before travelling to the Gold Coast for the medal games. In the Opals 118-55 defeat of England in their final pool game Lavey scored five points, from two field goal attempts – one two-pointer and one-three-pointer and made a game-high seven assists.

On the Gold Coast the Opals defeated New Zealand 109-50 in a semi final and had a 99-55 victory against England in the Gold Medal game. In the semi final victory against New Zealand Lavey scored 10 points, made both three-point attempts, had a field goal accuracy of 60%, took three rebounds, made three assists and three steals – ranked equal second for the game.  

On representing the Opals and winning a Gold Medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games Lavey commented to Rangers TV “I think having the Commonwealth Games at home, in your home country is something that I am never, ever going to forget because it is rare that it happens. So for me to be involved in the team and be successful on home soil and be able to share that with my family was something that I will cherish forever so I was very happy.”

The original 12 player Opals squad for the 2018 World Cup held in Spain from 22-30 September didn’t include Lavey, however after fellow point guard Lauren Mansfield was ruled out of the tournament with a foot injury Lavey received a late call-up. Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello commented “We are all so disappointed for Lauren but we know Tessa will be ready to fight and do whatever is asked of her. Tessa’s athleticism, leadership and point guard ability will be a great asset for us. Her familiarity with the system and teammates will also enable a smooth transition as we move into the World Cup.

In the Australian Opals Retrospective 2018 documentary Lavey commented on Brondello “She’s awesome, she is someone that really instils that confidence within her players and trusts her players and their advice during games and stuff like that.”

Five players from the Opals 2016 Olympic Games team – Lavey, Katie Ebzery, Steph Talbot, Cayla George and Liz Cambage represented their country at the 2018 World Cup. Two players that represented the Opals at major championships previously returned to the team in Jenna O’Hea and Bec Allen whilst five players played at their first major championship in the traditional five on five format of the game – Ezi Magbegor, Tess Madgen, Sami Whitcomb, Alex Bunton and Alanna Smith.

Australia won their three Group B games at the 2018 World Cup to finish first in their group, defeating Nigeria 86-68, Argentina 84-43, and Turkey 90-64. Against Argentina Lavey had four assists – ranked equal second for the game behind Opals teammate Whitcomb with five assists.

In a quarter final Australia defeated China 83-42 to progress to a semi-final against the host nation – Spain. In just 10 minutes court-time against China Lavey made four assists – ranked second for the game behind Opals teammate Talbot with five.

At three quarter-time of their semi final Australia trailed host nation Spain 50-58 in front of a very passionate Spanish crowd. The Opals fought back to level the scores at 64 points apiece with three minutes remaining in the game and controlled the last few minutes to win the game 72-66 after dominating the final quarter 22-8. On the semi final victory against Spain Lavey told The Originals podcast “We had to play Spain in front of a packed stadium of Spanish fans and that almost feels like there are six players out there on the court at a time. It was really, really crazy and the group that we had there, the camaraderie, ability to block them out and win that game was huge.”

It was the first time that Australia had progressed to a gold medal game at a major championship since they played the United States of America in the final at the 2008 Olympic Games, 10 years later USA were again the Opals opponents. In the 2018 World Cup Final Australia trailed USA 27-35 at half-time. USA dominated the third quarter 26-11 and won the game by 17 points, 73 to 56 resulting in USA winning the gold medal and the Australian Opals winning the silver medal.

During the Australian Opals Retrospective 2018 documentary Lavey reflected on Australia winning the silver medal at the 2018 World Cup, commenting “It’s incredible, I still don’t think I realise what a big deal this is. I looked back at some of the other Opals teams that won silver before the World’s and I was like gold medal match, the atmosphere would just be amazing and now to experience that is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

On 26 March 2020 it was announced that Sydney would host the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup for five on five basketball from 23 September to 3 October with 12 teams competing in the tournament. It will be the second time that Australia has hosted a FIBA Women’s World Cup with Sydney also having been the host city in 1994 where Australia narrowly missed out on winning its first ever World Cup medal, finishing fourth after being defeated by China 65-66 in a semi final and lost the bronze medal game to the United States of America 95-100. The Opals broke through to win a bronze medal at the 1998 World Cup and have won a medal at five out of six World Cups from 1998 to 2018 including a gold medal at Rio in 2006.

On the Back Pocket Banter Podcast in October 2020 Lavey was asked “When you go overseas, do you get much time to relax and see the sights or is it a really jam-packed schedule with those tournaments?” Lavey replied “Normally we head over a little bit earlier just to get acclimatised to the time change (and conditions) all that sort of stuff. The coaching staff that I have had with both coaches have been really good and they’re like, ‘we are sending you over here to do a job but we are not going to make you sort of sit around in the hotel and not do anything.’ I have been fortunate, we get out and about all the time, they really encourage us to go and engross ourselves I guess in the culture of the different countries, so that has been really good, I have been really fortunate to do that.”

Tessa commented “The amount that I have travelled all over the world you don’t realise how lucky we are here in Australia. The first thing I want to do when I retire is caravan around Australia, that would be nice.”

Due to the coronavirus the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games were postponed by 52 weeks and will commence in less than a fortnight on 23 July 2021. The 12 player Australian Opals team for the Tokyo Olympic Games was announced by the Australian Olympic Committee in Sydney on 26 May 2021. The Opals have a very settled team with 10 members of the silver medal winning team from the 2018 World Cup in Spain being selected in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games team. The two inclusions in the Tokyo Olympic Games team that didn’t play for Australia at the 2018 World Cup are Leilani Mitchell and Mariana Tolo who missed the 2018 World Cup due to a lower limb injury and knee injury respectively. Alex Bunton and Sami Whitcomb are the two players from the 2018 World Cup that weren’t selected in the Tokyo Olympic Games team. Bunton was forced to retire at 25 years of age in July 2019 due to knee injuries. Whitcomb was part of the Opals 23 player squad for the 2021 Olympics and is currently exceling in the WNBA for New York Liberty.  

Lavey is one of six Opals that will be representing Australia at their second consecutive Olympic Games along with Katie Ebzery, Cayla George, Leilani Mitchell, Steph Talbot and Mariana Tolo. Opals captain Jenna O’Hea will also be playing her second Olympic Games, having represented the Opals in 2012. Four players will be making their Olympic Games debut in Tokyo – Ezi Magbegor, Alanna Smith, Bec Allen and Tess Madgen, the quartet were all part of the Opals silver medal winning team at the 2018 World Cup. Centre Liz Cambage is the only Opal who will be playing at her third Olympic Games in Tokyo, having been part of the bronze medal winning team at London in 2012 and represented the Opals at Rio in 2016. At the 2016 Olympic Games and 2018 World Championships Cambage averaged more than 23.0 points per game and more than 10.0 rebounds per game to be ranked first overall at both tournaments for scoring per game and ranked second overall for rebounds. At 28 years of age Lavey will be one of two Opals playing in their fourth consecutive major championship at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics along with Cayla George.

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In the past 15 months articles have been published on Milestones and Misses comprehensively covering the careers of four of Lavey’s Australian Opals teammates at the Tokyo Olympics:

Cayla George

Steph Talbot

Leilani Mitchell and

Ezi Magbegor

The Australian Opals category of Milestones and Misses includes these four articles as well as articles on past Opals and some other players who were in the Opals extended 23 player squad for the Tokyo Olympics. A link is below:

https://milestonesandmisses.com/category/australian-opals/

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In the most recent FIBA Women’s World rankings released on 1 March 2021 Australia were ranked second in the world with 714.5 points, behind the United States of America with 832.9 points. The top five is completed by Spain – 690.5, Canada – 649.3, and France – 639.4.

For the Tokyo Olympic Games the Australian Opals have been drawn in Pool C along with Belgium (6th in the world), China (9) and Puerto Rico (23). All basketball games at the Tokyo Olympics will be played in the Saitama Super Arena which has a capacity of 36,500 spectators.

Australia’s Group C games will be played on the following dates and times:

Tuesday 27 July                 Australia vs Belgium                      6.20pm AEST

Friday 30 July                    China vs Australia                          10.00 pm AEST

Monday 2 August             Australia vs Puerto Rico                10.00 pm AEST

The Women’s quarter finals will be played on Wednesday 4 August and the semi finals will be played on Friday 6 August. The teams that lose the semi finals will play in the bronze medal game on Saturday 7 August and the winners of the semi finals will play in the gold medal game on Sunday 8 August.

The Australian Opals are currently in a training camp in Las Vegas and in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympic Games and will play an exhibition game against the United States of America national team later this week at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas on Friday 16 July USA time, Saturday morning 17 July, 4.30 am Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Familiarity amongst teams at the Tokyo Olympics will be even more important than usual due to the impact of COVID-19 and the very limited opportunity for countries to play international matches in the 15 months before the Olympics. In June 2021 Lavey told theroar.com.au “Because of all the restrictions, a really tight-knit group is going to be crucial at these Olympic Games, and that is something that the Opals are really good at. We actually really enjoy being around each other, and even though it can be difficult at times, we have great support from our leadership group, our coach Sandy and also from Basketball Australia. The biggest test in Tokyo will be for teams not to implode. Ours won’t because we have been around each other for such a long time, we are super focused and we are genuine friends, which makes it easier.”11

WNBL career from 2015/16 to 2020

In April 2015 National Basketball League (NBL) club the Perth Wildcats announced that they had acquired WNBL club the West Coast Waves and as part of the acquisition the Waves would be re-branded as the Perth Lynx and would wear a red uniform like the Wildcats. The club had been known as the Perth Breakers from 1988 to 2000/01 before changing their name to the Perth Lynx from 2001/02 to 2009/10 and then to the West Coast Waves for 2010/11 to 2014/15 with the club winning one WNBL championship in 1992.

Regarding the move to Western Australia to play for the Perth Lynx Lavey told The Originals podcast in March 2021 “It was about opportunity for me, I really wanted to make it in the WNBL and I really wanted to lead a team and showcase my skill and I had to chase that all the way across to Perth, which I do not regret at all. Perth was one of my favourite times, we made finals both years there and we were just underdogs which I absolutely love, I relish in that because I love sticking it to the favourites.”

On being named Perth Lynx captain for the 2015/16 season Lavey commented “For me to be named Lynx captain was a huge honour, I certainly didn’t come in thinking that maybe I could be a leader or the captain, but it is awesome to know the girls look at me like this and hopefully I can show them that they have appointed the right person and I am just looking forward to really leading the girls this year.”

At the start of the 2015/16 season Perth’s starting line-up was Lavey, American imports Sami Whitcomb (now a naturalised Australian) and Betnijah Laney, along with Australian power forwards/centres Natalie Burton and Louella Tomlinson. In Round 9 Lavey was selected in the WNBL Team of the Week for the first time in her career.

In Perth’s first game of a Round 13 double-header Tomlinson injured her ankle and Carley Ernst was promoted to the starting line-up. When Tomlinson returned from injury late in the season she was played off the bench with Perth coach Andy Stewart continuing to have Lavey, Whitcomb, Laney, Ernst and Burton as the starting line-up. The Perth Lynx started the season well and maintained their form to record 16 wins and eight losses to finish second at the end of the regular season, one win behind the Townsville Fire and one win ahead of Dandenong and the SEQ Stars in third and fourth place respectively.

In the major semi-final Perth travelled to Townsville and upset the defending WNBL champions 91-72 to advance to the Grand Final. In the semi final victory Lavey scored 15 points, made three of seven three-pointers at an accuracy of 42%, took seven rebounds and made an equal team-high four assists. Perth shot the ball superbly from behind the three-point line with three players, Ernst, Whitcomb and Lavey shooting a combined 13 of 27 from behind the arc.

2015/16 was the first season that the WNBL Grand Final was a best of three game series rather than a stand-alone game. Due to their major semi-final victory Perth had home court advantage and hosted game 1 (and game 3 if required) at the Bendat Basketball Centre whilst Townsville hosted game 2.

Perth led both game 1 and game 2 of the Grand Final at three quarter-time, however Townsville’s experience of playing in the previous three grand finals came to the fore and Perth were were overrun in the last quarter of both games, being defeated 57-70 in game 1 at the Bendat Basketball Centre and 70-80 in Game 2 at Townsville Stadium.

During the 2015/16 WNBL season Lavey averaged 10.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game to rank in the WNBL’s top 10 for assists and set new career high’s for scoring and assists. Perth Lynx head coach Andy Stewart commented on Lavey’s performance during the 2015/16 season, saying “Tessa was always just waiting for the opportunity to get good minutes on the floor. Here, we’re struggling to get her off (the court). With all that on-court experience, she’s just going to get better and better.”12

Lavey continued as Perth Lynx captain and starting point guard in 2016/17 and led her club to the finals again with Perth finishing third at the end of the regular season with 15 wins and nine losses, the same record as the Jayco Rangers. The Rangers won the tie-breaker due to winning the season series between the two clubs 3-1 which earnt them home-court advantage for the semi final series between the two clubs.

Perth’s starting line-up for the semi final series against the Rangers was Lavey, Whitcomb, Antonia Farnworth, Ernst and Burton. The home side won all three games with the Rangers defeating Perth 81-63 in game 3 at Dandenong Stadium to end Perth’s season. Lavey played all 23 of Perth’s games in 2016/17, averaging 6.9 points, 4.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.

Lavey signed to play with the Jayco Dandenong Rangers for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, commenting to wnbl.basketball in May 2017 “Obviously the move back closer to home is a strong pull for me, being able to see them (family) more often than I did in Perth is a big bonus. Sara Blicavs, Carley Ernst and myself also spent three and a half years together at the AIS and I love the opportunity I’ve got to play with those girls once again at WNBL level.”13

Lavey started the Round 7 2017/18 game against Bendigo at Traralgon Sports Stadium in blistering fashion, scoring 12 points and having two assists in the first quarter. During the opening term Lavey made all five of her field goal attempts including two three-pointers. The Rangers defeated Bendigo by 10 points, Lavey finished the game with 19 points and was named in the WNBL Round 7 Team of the Week.

The Jayco Rangers finished seventh in 2017/18 with seven wins and 14 losses and improved to finish fifth in 2018/19 with nine wins and 12 losses. In two seasons with the Rangers Lavey played a total of 38 games and averaged 6.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. In 2017/18 Lavey won the Rangers Coaches Award.

During Lavey’s first two seasons with the Bendigo Spirit in 2013/14 and 2014/15 her minutes were limited due to playing behind experienced point guards Kristi Harrower and Kelly Wilson. In the next four WNBL seasons from 2015/16 to 2018/19 Lavey well and truly established herself as a WNBL starter. In 2019/20 Lavey returned for a second stint with the Bendigo Spirit and was appointed club co-captain along with Kelly Wilson.

On signing Lavey Bendigo Spirit head coach Tracy York commented “Tessa is the type of person you want to be a part of any organisation you’re affiliated with. She is a role model for our youth, an extension of the coach on the floor, as well as the first player to be picking her teammates up. Lavey is an incredible recruitment for the Bendigo Spirit.”14

During the 2019/20 WNBL season Lavey was one of nine Bendigo Spirit players that averaged more then 6.0 points and 17.0 minutes per game along with Carly Ernst, Shlya Heal, Abigail Wehrung, Demi Skinner, Kelly Wilson, Mary Goulding, Rebecca Tobin, Gabe Richards and Marte Grays.

The Bendigo Spirit finished seventh on the ladder with five wins and 16 losses. Lavey was one of three players on Bendigo’s team that have primarily played as a point guard throughout their career along with Wilson and Heal. The Spirit shared ball-handling responsibilities which enabled Lavey to focus more on her scoring and she set a new career-high for points per game.

In Round 16, 2019/20 Lavey was selected in the WNBL’s Team of the Week. Lavey played all 21 of Bendigo’s games in 2019/20 and averaged 10.3 points, 4.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. Lavey ranked second at the Spirit for assists per game and minutes played behind Wilson and fourth for points per game.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 the 2020 WNBL season had a very different structure to recent seasons and imports weren’t eligible to play in the league. All eight WNBL clubs were located in North Queensland for the duration of the 2020 WNBL season which was played in three locations, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay. The regular season was condensed to five rounds commencing 11 November with each team scheduled to play 14 regular season games, however this later got reduced to 13 games for each team due to COVID-19 issues during the season.

Of the nine players that averaged more than 6.0 points and 17.0 minutes per game during the 2019/20 season for Bendigo Lavey was one of only four to return in 2020 along with Ernst, Skinner and Goulding.

On being Bendigo’s captain during the 2020 season Lavey commented to wnbl.basketball “I really quite enjoy the challenges of being a leader within the WNBL and am pretty proud of myself, especially this season, with what’s happened during the year with COVID-19. I couldn’t have done it without the family and the support of the Bendigo Spirit. I feel really proud to be captain of such a great club in the Bendigo Spirit, a rich history and I’m very lucky that the girls look to me as a leader.”15

In eight of Bendigo’s 13 games in 2020 Lavey had at least five assists including three games with more than nine assists. Against Townsville in Round 2 at Townsville Stadium Lavey scored 19 points, had a season-high 12 assists, and seven rebounds – ranked second for the Spirit behind Ernst with eight.

Lavey scored at least 15 points in a game eight times in 2020 including a season-high 33 points against the Adelaide Lightning in Round 3 on Wednesday 25 November at Townsville Stadium, making 11 of 22 field goal attempts and four of six three-pointers. 

On Tuesday 1 December Bendigo Spirit captain Lavey played her 200th WNBL game against the Perth Lynx at Townsville Stadium. For a ‘Life in the hub’ article published on wnbl.basketball Lavey commented to Megan Hustwaite on reaching the milestone “I’m shocked. As a kid coming into the league you just have a crack and see what happens, then you look around and all of a sudden there’s 200 games and a whole lot of other stuff in between. I feel very lucky to have played in the WNBL, such a great league, for so long. I look to the future and hopefully can rack up a few more games.”16

Against the Melbourne Boomers in Bendigo’s last game of the season on 11 December Lavey fell just short of achieving a triple-double, scoring 16 points, took nine rebounds and made 10 assists.  

During the 2020 WNBL season Lavey played all 13 games for the Bendigo Spirit and averaged 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.0 steals and 35.0 Minutes per game. In 2020 Lavey ranked 3rd in the WNBL assists per game, 10th for scoring and led the WNBL in minutes played. Tessa led Bendigo for assists per game and minutes played and ranked second for rebounds and steals.

Bendigo Spirit were undermanned during the 2020 season and finished last without a win in the 13 game season. Bendigo had a heavy reliance on Lavey and Ernst, with the duo each averaging more than 14.5 points and 29.9 minutes per game to be joint winners of Bendigo’s 2020 MVP Award. No other Spirit player averaged more than 7.0 points and 22 minutes per game. 

Upcoming 2021/22 WNBL season with the Bendigo Spirit

On 23 April 2021 Bendigo Spirit announced that Lavey had signed with the club for the 2021/22 season. Bendigo head coach York commented to wnbl.basketball “Tessa led from the front last season, helping our team of young girls take massive steps in the second-best competition in the world. It’s no surprise we want her here again next year. She is an outstanding leader, person, and athlete and we are excited to have Tessa back with the Spirit for the 2021/22 season.”17

York commented on Lavey playing two sports at the elite level – basketball and Australian Rules Football “The Spirit supports Tessa in being a dual athlete and will work with her agent and the Richmond Football Club so Tessa can play at the highest level of both codes. The Spirit exists to give local girls such as Tessa a pathway so they don’t have to leave home to achieve their sporting goals.”18

Lavey is one of five Bendigo Spirit players from the 2020 roster that have already signed with the club for the 2021/22 season along with Mary Goulding, Demi Skinner, Cassidy McLean and Piper Dunlop. Bendigo have significantly improved their roster for the 2021/22 season with the recruitment of a quartet of players from rival WNBL clubs – point guard Leilani Mitchell, shooting guard Maddie Garrick, and forwards Anneli Malay and Megan McKay.

Two of Bendigo’s recruits led the WNBL in one of the three major statistical categories during the 2020 season with Mitchell leading the league in assists playing for the Southside Flyers and Maley ranked first for rebounds playing for the Sydney Uni Flames. McKay was part of the Townsville Fires starting line-up and Garrick is a member of Australia’s 3×3 team and was the Melbourne Boomers co-captain in 2019/20 and 2020.

Australian Opals teammates Lavey and four-time All-WNBL First team member Mitchell will share point guard duties in 2021/22. Mitchell played in a WNBL championship with the Southside Flyers in 2020 and won the Grand Final MVP Award.

Below are links to articles on Leilani Mitchell and Maddie Garrick that have been published on Milestones and Misses and comprehensively cover their respective careers:

Leilani Mitchell leads the WNBL in assists for the third season and wins her second Rachel Sporn Medal

https://milestonesandmisses.com/2020/06/29/maddie-garricks-journey-from-role-player-to-starter-and-boomers-co-captain/

NBL1

During winter 2019 Lavey played in the inaugural NBL1 season with the Bendigo Lady Braves which was a great lead-in to the 2019/20 WNBL season as Lavey, Gabe Richards, Becca Tobin and Kelly Wilson were all playing for the Lady Braves in NBL1 and then played for the Spirit in the WNBL.

The Bendigo Lady Braves had a dominant 2019 regular season, finishing on top of the ladder with 19 wins and one loss. A preliminary final loss to the Geelong Supercats ended the Bendigo Lady Braves season. Lavey played 20 games for the Bendigo Lady Braves during the 2019 NBL1 season and averaged 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Due to COVID-19 an NBL1 season was not played in Victoria during 2020. When NBL1 resumed in 2021 the Victorian based league had been rebranded as NBL1 South and was one of four NBL1 conferences along with NBL1 North in Queensland, NBL1 Central in South Australia and NBL1 West in Western Australia.

To make it easier to combine playing basketball with playing football for Richmond in the AFLW Lavey joined the Frankston Blues for the 2021 NBL1 South season. Frankston Blues head coach Belinda Snell and Lavey were WNBL teammates for one season with the Bendigo Spirit in 2014/15 and were also Opals teammates at several tournaments including the 2014 World Championships and 2018 Commonwealth Games. Lavey’s team-mates at Frankston include Darcee Garbin, Taylah Giliam, Ella Batish and Saraid Taylor.

Before leaving Australia for Opals commitments Lavey had played 10 games in NBL1 South for the Frankston Blues in 2021 and was averaging 15.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. Lavey had at least five assists in every game including a season-high of 13 assists against the Dandenong Rangers on 15 May. After Round 12 the Frankston Blues are on top of the NBL1 South ladder with 11 wins and three losses, however the ladder is based on the number of wins and Frankston’s winning ratio of 78.6% is inferior to the second placed Knox Raiders with 10 wins and one loss for a ratio of 90.9% and the third placed Bendigo Braves with 10 wins and two losses for a ratio of 83.3%.

The NBL1 South regular season concludes on Sunday 15 August, Frankston Blues play their last game the previous night against the Mt Gambier Pioneers at The Ice House.   

AFLW with Richmond

At the 2020 AFLW draft on 6 October Richmond selected Lavey with pick 43 overall. In the lead-up to the draft Lavey had built relationships with staff at Richmond and had done skills work with Richmond Assistant Coach Nathan Chapman. Richmond’s 2020 best and fairest Monique Conti is also a point guard in the WNBL with the Southside Flyers which enabled Lavey and Conti to do some Aussie Rules skills work together during the 2020 WNBL season.

On her journey to play AFLW for Richmond Lavey told The Originals podcast in March 2021 “When AFLW first came about I was always very intrigued and interested to see how it would go. My friends would often ask me like ‘Are you going to play AFL now?’ cos they know that I just love the Tiges and I love playing footy and I was like, no, no only ever if Richmond had a women’s team, obviously a couple of years later here comes the Richmond women’s team so then I had to start really thinking seriously about it and I was always going to give myself that chance, I don’t want to grow up and grow old and have this thought of ‘What if, what if I did play, why not me’ and then COVID came around I guess you could say and Tokyo got postponed. The idea was always to play this season (2021) but then Tokyo got postponed so Tokyo is my number one priority and I guess that pushed footy back. WNBL COVID season actually happened before Christmas so my agent rang me straight away and he was like ‘You know we can make this work this year if you really want to” and so it all happened extremely quickly. Within 24 hours he’d said “Do you want to have a go at this?” and I said ‘Yep, let’s go for it, let’s have a crack, why not right now’ and then also during COVID my brother passed away so that was something that really hit home and I guess really think about my life. Where I wanted to go, who I wanted to be and Tim was a massive Tigers supporter as well so as soon as Bruce asked me that question I automatically thought of Tim and thought of my family and was like yep, this is the moment, this is it right now and I am so happy that it has happened because I have grown so much from this experience already and I can’t wait to just keep improving and playing for the Richmond Tigers which is really cool.”

Due to WNBL commitments with the Bendigo Spirit Lavey was only able to join the rest of Richmond’s AFLW squad for pre-season training in January. In a Port Melbourne VFLW intraclub match in early February Lavey impressed with her speed and hard-running to create play and kicked two goals. 

Lavey made her AFLW debut at 27 years of age in Round 3 against Collingwood at the Swinburne Centre on 14 February, however due to a COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne crowds weren’t allowed to attend the game. In her AFLW debut Lavey had six kicks and nine handballs in Richmond’s 17 point loss. Family and friends were able to attend games and watch Lavey later in the season.

Richmond lost all six games in their debut 2020 AFLW season and also lost their first four games in 2021, however the Tigers had improved significantly in their first season and a half in the AFLW, in Round 4, 2021 Carlton defeated the Tigers by five points. Lavey was part of Richmond’s first ever AFLW win when the Tigers defeated Geelong by 47 points in a Round 5 Friday night game at GMHBA Stadium.

During the 2021 AFL season Lavey was encouraged to utilise her speed and spent time playing on the wing, Lavey played six consecutive games with the Tigers from Round 3 to Round 8 including three victories with the Tigers recording a 15 point win against the Gold Coast in Round 7 and defeating West Coast by eight points in Round 8.

In the 2021 AFLW season Lavey averaged 5.2 kicks, 5.8 handballs, 1.3 marks and 1.7 tackles per game. Lavey ranked second at Richmond for inside 50’s per game, fifth for handballs, sixth for metres gained and score involvements and ninth for disposals per game.

On Series 2, Episode 7 of the Richmond Football Club podcast series The Originals  March 2020 host Sam Lane asked “What’s the hardest thing about joining an AFLW team that you don’t know, even if you are a professional Olympic athlete, what’s hard?” Lavey replied “The hardest thing for me taking this risk was not knowing if I could play football. I haven’t played since I was really young and women’s football is really, really hard, they’re talented athletes. For me it was a risk again that I was willing to take and I am just happy that it turns out that I can run around a little bit which is handy.”

On the development of her game as the 2021 AFLW season progressed Lavey said “I was always an athlete that had to be involved in the play for me to learn really quickly and the club really put me in a position where I could be successful. Out on the field I am always learning a lot and the biggest thing for me was just understanding the positioning and knowing when to impact and when not to impact, I think that was huge for me and trying to just open the game up as much as possible. That was the biggest learning curve and I know that I am just going to be continuously learning because I don’t know the game well enough yet. I am constantly watching the games back each week to see what I can do better and the coaching staff have been really awesome with that and they are always just telling me to back myself.”   

On playing AFLW for Richmond Lavey told The Originals podcast series in March 2020 “Growing up as a kid in Country Victoria I never thought this was possible for me, I never thought AFL was ever going to be possible to play for Richmond Tigers. It was just not in my mind and so for me actually to be living in this moment right now at this club, it was huge for me and something that I can, I guess it is very similar to being at Rio and Commonwealth Games. You know I thought those things were out of reach for me as well, to actually have lived those moments is pretty, pretty cool, AFL that first win is something that I hold special for the rest of my life for sure.”

In the Originals Podcast Series 2, Episode 7, host Sam Lane asked “What will the ultimate AFLW highlight look like for you, what will success be?” Lavey responded “Success for me would be how much impact I can have on the other players in this team. I want everyone to reach their potential and I want the club to be successful, you know that is the ultimate goal, I just want the team to be successful, the club to be really successful and I want to be a part of that. I think I can contribute to that and impart maybe some knowledge on to the others which would be really nice.”

On her late brother Tim, Tessa commented on The Originals podcast “He was my biggest supporter and he believed I could do anything. He would be really proud of me and what I have achieved so far. Just showing that a country kid, you know if you put your mind to it you can do anything that you want and always chase your dreams. I think that is a huge thing that I would tell my 12 year old self is just go after it and have some fun with it as well, I think that is super important.”

On 8 July 2021 the Richmond Football Club announced that Lavey had signed with the club for the maximum two years until the end of the 2023 season.

Epilogue

Outstanding performances at junior level earnt Tessa Lavey a basketball scholarship with the AIS and three seasons playing in the WNBL for the AIS from 2009/10 to 2011/12 and learning what it took to be a professional athlete laid the foundation for a successful sporting career. 

Lavey played as a back-up point guard behind Nicole Hunt at the Canberra Capitals in 2012/13 and behind Kristi Harrower and Kelly Wilson at the Bendigo Spirit in 2013/14 and 2014/15. Whilst Lavey played limited court-time during these three seasons she was able to play in a WNBL Championship with Bendigo in 2013/14, learn from her team-mates and develop her skills.

for the 2015/16 season Lavey moved from Victoria to Western Australia to play for the Perth Lynx and have an opportunity to be a starting point guard in the WNBL. Lavey made the most of this opportunity to not only be Perth’s starting point guard, but also club co-captain and led her team to the Grand Final. 

In the past six seasons from 2015/16 to 2020 Lavey has been a starter and in four of these seasons she has been a club captain comprised of the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons at Perth as well as the 2019/20 and 2020 seasons with the Bendigo Spirit.

During the 2020 season playing for Bendigo Lavey reached the significant milestone of 200 WNBL games and impressed with her speed, leadership and passing ability to set career-highs for scoring, rebounds and assists and was a joint winner of Bendigo’s MVP Award along with Carley Ernst.

Whilst playing for the Australian Opals was a major goal of Lavey’s she achieved this ahead of schedule when she was selected in the Australian Opals team for the 2014 World Championships. Lavey has won two medals at major championships with the Opals – bronze at the 2014 World Championship and silver at the 2018 World Cup. Later this month at Tokyo Lavey will become a two-time Olympian, having played for the Opals at Rio in 2016. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games Lavey was part of the Opals Gold medal winning team.

Earlier this year Lavey was able to achieve another dream and represent the Richmond Football Club in the AFLW. Despite having limited experience playing football Lavey ranked in the top six at Richmond for inside 50’s, metres gained and handballs.  

On being a dual-sport athlete Lavey told The Originals podcast in March 2021 “At the moment I’m able to do both and I love doing both. I’m in a very fortunate position to be able to do this but I know at some stage there could be that hard conversation. But yeah, I’ll be ready for it. Whatever comes of it I think anyone will support me in that as long as I follow what Tessa wants, I think that is all you can really focus on, what is going to add to your happiness, I think that is super important. ‘Future Tessa’ has a lot to think of, it’s not a ‘Now Tessa’ problem!”

After receiving a basketball scholarship with the AIS in 2009 Tessa Lavey realised that she might be able to have a career as a professional athlete and has gone on to have some achievements beyond her wildest dreams such as being on the verge of playing her fourth consecutive major championship with the Australian Opals and playing AFLW for the Richmond Football club. 

By Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777

References

1 https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/1862129/game-on-for-guard/

http://www.fiba.basketball/news/lavey-opals-and-the-speed-factor

https://australia.basketball/blog/2009/11/30/eight-new-ais-womens-scholarships-announced/

https://australia.basketball/blog/2009/11/30/eight-new-ais-womens-scholarships-announced/

https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/1862129/game-on-for-guard/

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/opals-coach-brendan-joyce-defends-selection-of-tessa-lavey-over-nat-hurst-for-turkey-20140913-10fows.html

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/basketball/opals-coach-brendan-joyce-defends-selection-of-tessa-lavey-over-nat-hurst-for-turkey-20140913-10fows.html

http://www.fiba.basketball/news/lavey-opals-and-the-speed-factor

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rio-games-opals-guard-tessa-lavey-enjoys-accelerated-path-to-the-olympics-20160724-gqcqnn.html

10  https://www.sbs.com.au/news/lavey-called-into-opals-world-cup-squad

11  Tessa Lavey on the importance of female role models (theroar.com.au)

12  http://www.fiba.basketball/olympicswomen/2016/news/lavey-blossoms

13  https://wnbl.basketball/blog/news/tessa-lavey-signs-jayco-rangers/

14  https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/bendigo-spirit-announce-young-opals-return-to-bendigo/

15  https://wnbl.basketball/blog/news/lavey-to-play-200th-wnbl-game/

16  https://wnbl.basketball/blog/news/lavey-to-play-200th-wnbl-game/

17  https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/spirit-announces-first-star-signing/

18  https://wnbl.basketball/bendigo/news/spirit-announces-first-star-signing/

Milestones and Misses

Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey, such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey the sportspeople have had during their career.

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