Early in WNBL season number 13 Southside Flyers centre Abby Bishop played her 250th game in the league, reaching the milestone in a Round 2 game on Saturday 11 December 2021 against crosstown rivals, the Melbourne Boomers. During her debut WNBL season with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 2005/06 Bishop won the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year award as a 17 year-old. Bishop was selected in the WNBL All-Star five in 2008/09 and 2014/15 and also won the league’s highest individual honour in the latter season, being named the WNBL’s 2014/15 Most Valuable Player (MVP).
During each of her past 10 completed WNBL seasons from 2007/08 onwards 189 centimetre tall Bishop has averaged at least 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, during this time Bishop has regularly featured among the league leaders for both scoring and rebounding. In Bishop’s MVP Award winning 2014/15 season she led the league for both scoring and rebounding per game, Abby also led the league for rebounds per game in 2008/09. Bishop was part of Canberra Capitals championship winning teams three times in four seasons – 2006/07, 2008/09 and 2009/10.
Bishop represented Australia at two consecutive major championships – the 2010 World Championships in the Czech Republic and was part of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2012 London Olympic Games. At the 2011 FIBA Oceania Championship Bishop ranked second for the Opals in scoring and equal second in rebounding which contributed to her winning the Maher medal as the 2011 Women’s Australian International Player of the Year.
In a mutually agreed decision Abby took custody of her niece Zala in August 2013 from older sister Chloe who was based in Darwin. At the time that Abby was given custody Zala was just two days old and the agreement was that Abby would have custody for at least 12 months, however subsequently Abby was granted full custody of Zala until she turned 18 years old.
Along with playing in the WNBL and for Australia Bishop has competed in overseas leagues in the United States of America and across Europe. Bishop has played three WNBA seasons with Seattle Storm (2010, 2015 and 2016) and in her debut season in 2010 was a member of Seattle’s WNBA Championship winning team.
On Saturday night 11 December, 2021 33 year old Bishop became just the fifth player on a 2021/22 WNBL roster to reach 250 WNBL games, joining University of Canberra Capitals point guard Kelly Wilson (396 games), Southside Flyers captain Jenna O’Hea (288), Melbourne Boomers forward/centre Cayla George (287) and Bendigo Spirit shooting guard Maddie Garrick (255).
Appearing on Episode 130 of Live with Jacqueline Valdez on 17 March 2021 Bishop commented “At the end of the day what motivates me the most is Zala and everybody has their own motivations, she is why I wake up in the morning and do what I do and continue, because I want her to look up to me and see what I am doing and for her to realise that everything is possible and achievable and hard work gets you places.”
Abby Bishop’s 250 game WNBL career is comprehensively covered below, detail is also provided on Bishop playing in the WNBA, Europe and with the Australian Opals as well as being a mum to Zala.
Early life, junior career and debut WNBL season with the Australian Institute of Sport
Bishop was born on 29 November 1988 in Booleroo Centre and grew up on a farm just outside Melrose, a small country town located in the Southern Flinders Ranges, 265 kilometres north of South Australia’s capital, Adelaide. Abby went to primary school in Melrose and the main sport she played during primary school was netball. Bishop reached a high standard in netball, playing for South Australia at under-age level.
Appearing on Episode 130 of Live with Jacqueline Valdez on 17 March 2021 Bishop commented on her introduction to basketball. “I’m a country girl, born and bred on a farm. Where I am from netball and (Australian Rules) football were the really big thing on the weekends and we looked forward to that all the time. I had been playing netball for many years, I was tall and lanky so when I was about 13 I got asked if I wanted to try basketball so I gave that a whirl and pretty much ever since then I never looked back. I had to choose netball or basketball and I chose basketball based on the opportunities in terms of the Olympic Games and playing overseas.” Bishop started playing basketball as a junior with the Agnes basketball club in Port Pirie and later on played for the Port Pirie Panthers.Bishop’s basketball talent was quickly noticed which led to her playing for a representative club, North Adelaide, which required travelling to Adelaide two or three times a week for training and to play games. At 14 years of age Abby was awarded a basketball scholarship with Cabra Dominican College which led to her moving to Adelaide and boarding with a family.
After completing Year 10 at Cabra Dominican College in Adelaide Abby moved to live in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) on a basketball scholarship, allowing her to devote more time to training and playing basketball whilst also completing Year 11 and 12.
In July 2005 Abby played for Australia at the under 19 World Championships in Tunisia and was the youngest member of the team at 16 years of age. Bishop played every game and although she averaged only 10 minutes court-time per game her rebounding was a strength, taking 25 rebounds for the tournament, only seven less than Australia’s third ranked player. Australia finished the tournament in seventh place, having five wins and three losses.
Bishop made her WNBL debut for the AIS at 16 years of age at the start of the 2005/06 season. Other members of the AIS team included Mariana Tolo, Louella Tomlinson, Cayla George (nee Francis), Katie-Rae Ebzery, Amy Lewis, Mia Murray (nee Newley), Emma Langford and Renae Garlepp (nee Camino). Bishop played 12 games for the AIS in 2005/06, averaging 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. The AIS lost all 21 games for the season, finishing with a percentage of 60, however the season with the AIS had been great for Abby’s basketball development, playing against the best basketball players in the country and playing on a side with the cream of Australia’s young talent. Bishop had an outstanding debut WNBL season and won the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year award.
During 2007 Bishop represented Australia at three age levels, playing for the Australian under 19 and under 21 teams at the respective World Championships, before progressing to represent the senior Australian women’s team the Opals. Playing for Australia at the under 21 World Championships in Russia during June and July 2007 Bishop at 18 years of age was Australia’s second youngest player, being five months older than Cayla George. Bishop played all eight games for Australia averaging 10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 23.1 minutes per game. Bishop ranked fourth for Australian in scoring behind Jenna O’Hea (16.5), Renae Camino (15.6) and Kathleen MacLeod (12.3) and second for rebounds behind George.
At the 2007 under 19 World Championships held in the Slovak Republic during July & August 2007 Bishop was Australia’s best player, playing all nine games and averaging 12.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 25.6 minutes per game. Australia won seven of their nine games and finished fifth, losing a tight quarter final to Spain 72-69 after being outscored 25 points to seven in the third quarter. Bishop led Australia at the tournament for scoring and rebounds and was ranked third for assists. Abby’s 10.7 rebounds per game ranked fourth overall at the World Championships.
WNBL career with the Canberra Capitals from 2006/07 to 2009/10
After spending one season with the AIS Bishop left the program early and joined reigning WNBL champions, the Canberra Capitals and played four consecutive WNBL seasons with the club from 2006/07 onwards. Carrie Graf was in her second consecutive season coaching the Canberra Capitals in 2006/07 and sixth season overall coaching the club, having first coached the Capitals in 1999/2000, the season that Canberra won their first WNBL Championship.
Bishop at just 18 years of age exceeded expectations to finish the 2006/07 regular season ranked fifth in the WNBL for rebounds with 8.0 per game and second for offensive rebounds with 3.5 per game, behind Adelaide forward Tracy Gahan (3.7). The Capitals maintained their standing as one of the best clubs in the WNBL, finishing the 2006/07 regular season in second position with 15 wins and six losses. After losing the second semi-final to Sydney 65 to 74 the Capitals bounced back to defeat Sydney in the Grand Final 73 to 59 to make it back-to-back WNBL titles and win the club’s fifth title overall. During 2006/07 Bishop played all 24 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 9.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Bishop’s teammates at Canberra included guard Tully Bevilaqua – ranked second in the league with 2.2 steals per game, centre Tracey Beatty led the league for blocked shots with 2.8 per game and ranked fifth in the WNBL with 5.5 defensive rebounds per game and shooting guard Jess Bibby led Canberra in scoring with 15.5 points per game.
Benefitting from the experience gained representing Australia at three different age levels in 2007 Bishop playing in her third WNBL season in 2007/08 for Canberra set new career highs for points (a 41% increase on her debut season), rebounds (a 23% increase on her 2006/07 season) and steals (a 28% increase on her debut season).
For the second season in a row Bishop didn’t miss a game, playing all 25 games, averaging 14.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. In 2007/08 Bishop ranked fifth in the league for total rebounds per game and fourth for defensive rebounds. The Capitals were defeated in the first semi-final by Dandenong 54-60.
During the 2008/09 WNBL season Bishop further enhanced her game to clearly be Canberra’s best player and one of the best players in the league, at the end of the regular season being ranked fourth in the WNBL for points per game with 17.3 per game and led the league for rebounds (10.7 per game) and offensive rebounds (3.9). Bishop scored a season-high 28 points twice, against Bendigo in Round 11 and against Perth in Round 18.
In the Grand Final at AIS Arena on 13 March 2009 the Canberra Capitals recorded a thrilling victory against the Bulleen (now Melbourne) Boomers 61 to 58 to win the WNBL Championship with Bishop taking 14 rebounds. The first seven players in the Capitals rotation – Bishop, Natalie Hurst, Kellie Abrams, Jess Bibby, Mariana Tolo, Michelle Cosier and Chantella Perara, all played over 390 minutes court-time for the season, no other player played more than 120 minutes for the club.
Bishop played all 24 games for the Capitals to make it three seasons in a row without missing a game, averaging 16.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 30.4 minutes per game. Bishop was rewarded for her brilliant season with selection in the 2008/09 WNBL All-Star five, being named in the team alongside Bendigo guard Kristi Harrower, Perth guard Deanna Smith and Townsville frontcourt duo Rohanee Cox and Jennifer Crouse.
After signing with the Canberra Capitals for the 2009/10 WNBL season Bishop told ABC Radio on 15 April 2009 “I had a few offers over in Europe and I wasn’t really sure where I was at and what I wanted to do but I weighed up my options and it is the best thing for me to stay in Canberra for one more season. Carrie Graf is coaching for another four years so it is the best thing for my basketball and I am really looking forward to another season with the Caps.” On the Capitals coach Carrie Graf also being the Australian Opals coach Bishop commented “It doesn’t guarantee anything but it always helps. She tells you what you need to work on for that Australian squad and it is totally different to what you bring to the Caps.”
During the 2009 winter season Bishop played for Rockhampton in the Queensland Basketball League (QBL). Late in the season Bishop injured her shoulder at training, X-Ray and MRI results confirmed that Abby needed surgery on her shoulder which resulted in her missing the first half of the 2009/10 WNBL season.
Bulleen started the 2009/10 season in dominant fashion and Canberra’s front-court wasn’t quite as strong as in previous seasons, hampered by Bishop being on the sidelines recuperating from her shoulder injury. In late November Canberra announced that they had signed superstar Lauren Jackson to play with the Capitals for the rest of the season. Jackson didn’t play her first game until a fortnight later as she was recovering from stress fractures in her back. Bishop and Jackson returned to the Capitals line-up in December however their court-time was carefully managed, which was helped by Canberra having three of the best frontcourt players in the WNBL, being Bishop (189 cm tall), Jackson (195 cm), and Tolo (196 cm) who played all 25 games in 2009/10.
Canberra finished the 2009/10 regular season in third position with 16 wins and six losses, one win behind Sydney in second place and five wins behind minor premiers Bulleen who had one of the most dominant regular seasons in WNBL history, having only one loss for the season and a percentage of 132%. Bulleen had five players that averaged more than nine points and five rebounds per game, Liz Cambage, Jenna O’Hea, Elyse Penaluna, Rachel Jarry and Hanna Zavecz, and also had veteran guards Sharin Milner and Desiree Glaubitz.
Canberra defeated Sydney 61-56 in a low-scoring physical preliminary final to progress to play Bulleen in the Grand Final for the second season in a row. Although Canberra had finished the regular season five wins behind Bulleen, their form improved as the season progressed and the Caps were a far more difficult proposition for rival teams in the second half of the season after Bishop and Jackson recovered from injuries.
Very little separated Bulleen and Canberra throughout the Grand Final at the Cage (now known as Melbourne Sports Centre Parkville) in Melbourne with the lead changing 23 times. Bulleen looked to be in control, leading 68 to 62 with four and a half minutes remaining, however the experience of Canberra proved critical with the Capitals being far more composed from that point on to go on a 13-2 run to win the Grand Final 75-70, winning back-to-back WNBL championships, their fourth title in five seasons and the club’s seventh title overall, with all championships having been won in an 11 season period from 1999/2000 to 2009/2010.
During 2009/10 Bishop played 13 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 12.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 22.8 minutes per game. Abby ranked second at Canberra for rebounds per game behind Jackson (10.1), with Tolo third (7.4) and third at Canberra for points, behind Jackson (23.8) and Bibby (13.5), just ahead of Tolo and Hurst (both 12.2). Although Bishop’s numbers were down on her previous two seasons this was largely due to a reduction in court-time from around 30 minutes per game to 22.8 minutes per game. Despite the reduced court-time Bishop ranked sixth in the WNBL for rebounds per game, her fourth consecutive season ranked in the top six of the league.
WNBL career in 2010/11 with Dandenong and 2011/12 with Adelaide
After four seasons at Canberra Bishop left to join the Dandenong Rangers for the 2010/11 WNBL season. Dandenong finished the regular season in fourth position with 12 wins and 10 losses. The Rangers lost an elimination final against Logan at Dandenong Basketball Stadium 83 to 73. Bishop played 21 games for Dandenong and averaged 15.1 points, 7.05 rebounds and 27.1 minutes per game. Bishop ranked second at Dandenong for points, just behind point guard Kathleen MacLeod (15.4), second for rebounds just behind Tracey Gahan (7.13), and ranked second for steals and blocked shots. Bishop ranked eighth in the WNBL for rebounds per game and sixth in the league for points per game.
Bishop played for her third WNBL club in three seasons, joining the Adelaide Lightning for the 2011/12 season. Adelaide’s 2011/12 roster included three players that had represented Australia at the Olympics previously, Suzy Batkovic (2004 and 2008), Jenni Screen (2008) and Jo Hill (2000). Adelaide finished on top of the ladder with 18 wins and four losses, however were unable to maintain their dominance in the finals, losing the second semi-final to Bulleen 73-70 and were defeated by Dandenong 91-78 in the preliminary final.
During 2011/12 Bishop played all 24 games for Adelaide, averaging 16.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, a then career-high 2.6 assists and 31.7 minutes per game. Bishop ranked second at Adelaide for scoring, rebounds, blocked shots and steals, being behind Suzy Batkovic in each category, and ranked equal fourth for assists. Bishop ranked equal first in the WNBL for offensive rebounds per game with 3.5 along with Boomers centre Liz Cambage, seventh in the WNBL for rebounds per game and sixth in the WNBL for points per game. Adelaide teammate Batkovic won the WNBL’s 2011/12 MVP Award.
WNBL career with the Canberra Capitals from 2013/14 to 2015/16
During 2012/13 Bishop played in Europe with French club Perpignan and was also signed with the club for the 2013/14 season but after having contract issues in her first season with the club, returned to the WNBL in 2013/14 , re-joining the Canberra Capitals in a deal which would result in Bishop playing at least two of the next three seasons with Canberra. Abby commented “Everything happens for a reason and now I’m back here at the Capitals. It feels like I’m coming home … it will be a bit of a reunion.’’1 After playing four consecutive WNBL seasons for Canberra from 2006/07 to 2009/10 Bishop spent three seasons away from the club, playing one season each at three different clubs, Dandenong (2010/11), Adelaide (2011/12) and Perpignan (2012/13).
Canberra Capitals head coach Carrie Graf was ideally placed to comment on what Abby could offer the club, having coached her during four seasons at Canberra before coaching Abby during her time away from the club when she represented the Australian Opals. Graf commented ‘‘I’ve been an Abby Bishop fan for a long time and will continue to be, she’s a huge addition to our program … she’s got unbelievable basketball IQ. She’s incredibly versatile, she’s older, wiser, better, bigger and stronger – when [she] left she was already bloody good and now she’s even better.’’2
In August 2013 Abby took legal care of her two-day old niece Zala for 12 months. If Abby hadn’t applied to have legal care Zala would have gone into foster care in the Northern Territory as Zala’s mum Chloe was unwell and unable to care for her. In January 2014 Abby told the Canberra Times about her decision to apply to have legal care of Zala, commenting “It was an easy decision to take [Zala] and it’s been rewarding. It was a spur of the moment thing, one week I was a normal 25-year-old and the next week I had a baby. There was no pregnancy, so people were a bit surprised. From the moment we left the hospital I felt like she was mine and as time’s gone on it’s been stronger. Obviously my life has changed, but all in a good way. It’s put basketball and life into perspective. I know I didn’t give birth to this little thing, but I still see her as one of my own. Now she’s the Capitals’ mascot, too.”3 Abby was in Darwin for Zala’s birth in August 2013, two days later Abby and Zala flew to Canberra.
Throughout the 2013/14 WNBL season Zala sat in her pram during Canberra Capitals training sessions, Canberra head-coach Carrie Graf a new mother to twins born by IVF was very understanding of Abby’s situation and at times Carrie would step in as baby-sitter at training if Zala was restless, holding Zala whilst giving instructions to the Capitals players. The stress of being a new mum and having sleepless nights was hard for Abby to adapt to at first and then overcome, however instinct was critical, with Abby commenting “They do say you get a mother’s instinct when you’re pregnant. I used to be a nanny. I’ve always loved kids, and the switch just goes on. Even though I didn’t carry Zala for nine months, the switch did go on for me. Plus, Google is great as well. She’s been a really good baby.”4
On road trips during the 2013/14 WNBL season the usual setup for the Canberra Capitals was to have two players share a room, however being a single mum Abby took Zala on the road trips with her and paid for a hotel room for herself and Zala so that her team-mates wouldn’t be disrupted. At the start of the 2013/14 season Zala was just two months old, the Canberra Capitals were accommodating to Abby and Zala’s situation and child-care was provided to Zala as part of Abby’s contract with the Capitals.
In 2013/14 Bishop played all 24 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging a then WNBL career-high 18.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 34.3 minutes per game. Bishop led Canberra for scoring, rebounds and steals, was ranked second for assists behind Natalie Hurst, and ranked fourth for blocks. Bishop finished the 2013/14 regular season ranked third in the WNBL for total points scored with 444, behind Suzy Batkovic and Jenna O’Hea and was ranked second for total rebounds behind Batkovic. Canberra had 10 wins and 14 losses to finish seventh out of nine teams, the third season in a row that the club had missed the finals. Bishop polled 90 votes in the WNBL 2013/14 MVP Award to finish in fourth position behind Suzy Batkovic (Townsville Fire) who won her third consevcutive award with 136 votes, Jenna O’Hea (Dandenong Rangers) with 129 votes and Laura Hodges (Adelaide Lightning) 116 votes. Bishop won Canberra’s 2013/14 MVP Award and also received the club’s Kellie Abrams defensive player of the year award.
In an interview with ABC-TV in November 2014 Abby provided more detail on her decision to care for niece Zala, saying “My sister (Chloe) fell a little bit ill and the Department of Children’s Services had to get involved and were going to take her (Zala) and put her into foster care, I have always loved kids and family is everything for me. I grew up in a broken family and I just wanted Zala to have a great life and I know foster carers do such a wonderful job and they need a pat on the back, but I wanted Zala to stay in the family and I had no real reason not to take her. Obviously I am a professional basketball player but I knew that I could do it still and find a way even though I had little Zala on my side. At the end of the day life changed very, very quickly for me and I am lucky to have wonderful friends around me and to be a part of the University of Canberra Capitals because she is a part of the team, everybody loves her on the team. Grafy is great with allowing her to come on the road and totally understanding my situation.”
Abby went on to say “So I had her (Zala) for a year, that was the deal with my sister when we first went to court to see if she could get better and see what happened in a year. We have just recently been back to court and all agreed on Zala staying with me until she is 18, so I have got parental responsibility for her. I was very worried about it, a lot of people had said to me I had nothing to worry about just because of everything that had kind of happened, but obviously it is in the back of my head and I had to prepare myself to give Zala back if that’s what the court ruled. I did prepare for that but fortunately all went well and I am really, really happy about that and just pleased that my sister saw that Zala was better off with me at the moment, and she still has contact with my sister Chloe which is a great thing and a very important thing, but I am very happy Zala is with me.”
Bishop was appointed the University of Canberra Capitals captain for the 2014/15 WNBL season, being voted for by her team-mates after the previous captain Jess Bibby decided to stand down from the captaincy after four years in the role. At 26 years of age Bishop led a Canberra team that included several veterans, Bibby, Carly Wilson, Lauren Jackson and Kristen Veal. On being voted in as captain of the Canberra Capitals Bishop said “I do see myself as a leader and I want to lead by my actions. I definitely think I’m ready. If I wasn’t, I would put the team first and say no. There’s a great vibe within the group, everyone is hungry for success this year.”5 On Bishop’s elevation to the captaincy Canberra head coach Graf commented “If there was a list of 10 things a captain needs, Abby ticks all of them. It’s her time. She’s mature beyond her years … motherhood has changed her but she’s always been mature, she was a leader of women at 19 years old.”6
After Abby took over parental responsibility for her two day old niece Zala in August 2013 many people including Abby’s own mum had doubts on how successful Abby would be at combining her new role as an overnight single mum with her role as a WNBL player with Canberra. Abby proved the doubters wrong by being an excellent mum to Zala and having one of her best WNBL seasons in 2013/14, ranking in the top three of the league for both points and rebounds. In an interview with the WNBL’s Official Game Program Spotlight for the Round 4 2014/15 edition Abby spoke about the differences in caring for Zala during the 2014/15 season compared to the 2013/14 season “It’s way harder with her now, she is not a little baby who can sleep in your arms anymore. Now she wants to do everything the other girls are doing but the Capitals are phenomenal in helping me out. But it’s just another adjustment I have to make – it is what it is and I wouldn’t change it.”7
In 2014/15 Bishop took her basketball to a new stratosphere, becoming the most dominant player in the WNBL. Most players would be ecstatic if they could score more than 27 points in three games during a season, or possibly even over the course of their entire career. With phenomenal play Bishop achieved this feat in the month of November 2014 alone, scoring 28 points against Dandenong in Round 3 on November 1 in just 25 minutes 13 seconds court-time, 29 points against Sydney in their Round 4 game on November 5 and 31 points against Adelaide in Round 7 on 29 November. In four games during November Bishop took more than 11 rebounds, including an equal season best 18 rebounds against the West Coast Waves on November 9.
Bishop won the WNBL’s Player of the Week Award twice in November, Rounds 4 and 7. In Round 4 against Sydney Bishop also took 14 rebounds and had four assists in the 16 point loss. In Canberra’s second Round 4 game Bishop scored 17 points and took an equal season-high 18 rebounds in the Capitals 10 point win against the West Coast Waves. During six games in November 2015 Bishop was sublime, averaging 22.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game to be a convincing winner of the WNBL’s player of the month award for November 2015. Bishop had eight double-doubles in nine games to the end of November to emerge as the early front-runner for the WNBL’s 2014/15 MVP Award.
In Lauren Jackson’s comeback game for Canberra against Adelaide Lightning on 19 December Bishop scored 33 points, took eight rebounds and shot the ball exceptionally to make 12 of her 17 field goals and eight of her nine free throws. In just under 15 minutes court-time Jackson scored 13 points and took five rebounds. Canberra defeated Adelaide by three points, 73-70 in their Round 10 encounter. The following night in Perth Canberra defeated the West Coast Waves 83-70 with Bishop playing a brilliant all-round game with 18 points, making two of her three three-pointers, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals, the closest she would get to a triple double during her incredible 2014/15 WNBL season. The two superb performances resulted in Abby being named the WNBL’s Player of the Week for Round 10.
In a Round 14 Friday night game against Bendigo Bishop led the way in the Canberra Capitals upset win 73-70 after trailing by 14 points in the final quarter. Abby finished the encounter with a game-high 25 points and took 10 rebounds, taking four rebounds and scoring nine points in the final quarter, including a pair of free throws with nine seconds left. The following night against the Melbourne Boomers Bishop scored a WNBL career-high 36 points, making 12 of her 19 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63.2% and was a perfect 11 from 11 with her free throws. Bishop also finished the game with 14 rebounds and three assists after stamping her authority on the contest early, scoring 10 of her team’s first 13 points to play a key role in the Capitals getting an early 13-6 lead. Bishop scored just under half of the Capitals points, and no team-mates reached 10 points in the 74 to 66 win on the road at the State Basketball Centre. Bishop received the Round 14 WNBL Player of the Week Award, her fourth POTW award for the season.
Canberra finished the regular season with 11 wins and 11 losses, to finish in fifth position, missing out on a play-off spot to the Sydney Flames who also had 11 wins and 11 losses but due to losing the head to head match-up the Caps lost the tie-breaker to the Flames.
Abby was remarkably consistent during the 2014/15 WNBL season, scoring more than 16 points in 18 of her 22 games, including 28 or more points in eight games to easily lead the WNBL in scoring during the regular season, averaging 23 points per game, 2.8 points per game more than the league’s second ranked player, Dandenong Rangers forward Penny Taylor. Bishop also led the league in rebounds, averaging 10.6 per game, narrowly ahead of Townsville Fire front-court duo Suzy Batkovic (10.5) and Cayla Francis (10.4), ranked equal fourth in the WNBL for steals with 28 and equal 14th for assists per game. In 2014/15 Abby Bishop played all 22 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 23.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 34.9 minutes per game. As well as leading Canberra for points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots Abby ranked third for assists behind Steph Talbot (3.2) and Kristen Veal (3.0).
Whilst Jackson was part of Canberra’s 2014/15 roster, injury restricted her to just six games, averaging 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 21.5 minutes per game. Bishop and Jackson combined brilliantly in their six games together with Canberra recording five wins and the only loss being at home by five points to the Dandenong Rangers 89 to 84.
In 2014/15 Bishop set new career-highs for points and assists and had her second best WNBL season for rebounds per game, behind 2008/09 (10.9 rebounds per game). Bishop attempted 390 field goals during the 2014/15 season and was able to improve her accuracy whilst also increasing the range of her shot, having a field goal accuracy of 46.7%, her highest since her debut season in 2005/06 (51.5%), Abby also made a career-high 26 three-pointers, seven more than her previous best in 2013/14. Bishop received the WNBL’s Player of the Week Award a league-best four times in 2014/15, Rounds 4, 7, 10 and 14.
Bishop was a run-away winner of the 2014/15 WNBL Most Valuable Player Award, polling 135 votes to finish well ahead of Townsville frontcourt duo Cayla Francis and Suzy Batkovic on 107 and 105 votes respectively. At the 2014/15 Canberra Capitals Presentation night head-coach Carrie Graf commented about Abby’s 2014/15 season “I thought she was outstanding in every aspect and really asserted herself as a captain. It was definitely the best of her career. She’s grown as a player and as a person, her game has evolved … she just gritted her teeth, did the hard work and made a statement on who she is as a basketballer in this country.”8 Bishop was unable to attend the 2014/15 WNBL award’s lunch due to playing in Hungary for Miskolc. On receiving the WNBL MVP Award for 2014/15 Abby commented by video “It’s a huge honour. When you look at the list of names of previous winners, I’m really privileged to be up there with all of them.” Bishop became the second Canberra Capitals player to win the WNBL’s MVP award, joining four-time winner Lauren Jackson who received the award in 1998/99, 1999/2000 (joint with Trish Fallon), 2002/03 and 2003/04. Jackson won her first MVP Award playing for the AIS and her last three MVP’s playing for Canberra Capitals.
Bishop had signed a contract with Hungarian club UNIQUA-Sopran for the 2015/16 season, however due to a hamstring injury suffered for Seattle Storm in the WNBA Bishop was released by UNIQUA-Sopran in late September 2015, the week before she was going to fly to Hungary to join the club.
Bishop had signed a contract with Hungarian club UNIQUA-Sopran for the 2015/16 season, howver due to a hamstring injury suffered playing for Seattle Storm in the WNBA Bishop was released by UNIQUA-Sopran in late September 2015, the week before she was going to fly to Hungary to join the club.
In the first seven games of the 2015/16 season up to 6 November Bishop’s workload was carefully managed and she played over 25 minutes in a game only once. As the season progressed and her hamstring improved Bishop was able to play more minutes and improve her match conditioning.
On 5 December 2015 against Sydney at Tuggeranong Southern Cross Stadium in Canberra, Bishop played her 200th WNBL game becoming the 13th player on a 2015/16 WNBL roster to reach this milestone, joining Capitals team-mates Jess Bibby and Carly Wilson. Speaking to Our Sporting Life SA on the eve of her 200th WNBL game Bishop commented “The championships I have won with the Canberra Capitals have been the most memorable. The friendships I have formed through the sport during my 200 games have also been a significant part for me. The next thing on my list is to go to another Olympics. So I’ll be doing everything I can to try and crack that team.”10
In Round 10 against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 13 December Bishop played all 40 minutes, scored 31 points, made 13 of her 23 field goal attempts including three of six three-pointers to score 31 points, she also took five rebounds and restricted Melbourne Boomers centre Elyse Penaluna to four points, 10 below her season average. The Capitals had a close loss to the Boomers, 75-78. Speaking to Roy Ward for the Round 10 WNBL review Bishop commented about her own form “My fitness is starting to come back and my touch today was a little bit better and it’s what the team needs, we need a mix of inside and outside scoring. I’m slowly getting back to where I used to be and it’s going to be a long process. I felt pretty good today but it wasn’t enough.”11
In 16 of the last 17 games of the 2015/16 season from 14 November onwards Bishop played over 30 minutes. Bishop had seven double-doubles during this period including the last four games of the season. Canberra had a horror run during 2015/16, Lauren Jackson was unable to play a game due to a knee injury, there were delays in point-guard Renee Montgomery joining the club and guard/forward Hanna Zavecz retired due to a rib injury. Canberra Capitals finished last out of nine teams in 2015/16 with two wins and 22 loses. In 2015/16 Bishop played all 24 games for the Canberra Capitals, averaging 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
Representing the Australian Opals
After playing for Australia in World Championships at both under 19 and under 21 age level in 2007 Bishop represented the senior Australians women’s basketball team, the Opals later in the year, playing in the three game Oceania series against New Zealand (2 games) and Fiji (1 game) in September. Despite the massive step up in standard Abby adjusted well, averaging 5.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game to be ranked fourth for Australia for rebounds. Bishop was one of two 18 year-olds along with Mariana Tolo to represent the senior Australian team in the 2007 Oceania Championship. Australia won all three games, defeating Fiji by 104 points and New Zealand by 32 points and 41 points in the countries two games to qualify Australia for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Canberra Capitals head coach Carrie Graf was appointed the Australian Opals head coach in December 2008. Graf was an assistant coach when Australia won their first Olympic medal in 1996 and also had experience in the WNBA as both an assistant coach and a head coach.
In September and October 2010 Bishop represented the Australian Jayco Opals in the 2010 World Championships hosted by the Czech Republic. At 21 years of age Bishop was the third youngest member of the Australian squad with only fellow front court players Tolo (also 21) and Cambage (19 years old) being younger. Other members of the Opals squad were guards Tully Bevilaqua, Kristi Harrower, Sam Richards, Belinda Snell and Erin Phillips, guard/forwards Penny Taylor and Jenna O’Hea and forward/centres Lauren Jackson and Hollie Grima.
Bishop played eight of Australia’s nine games, not getting any court-time against France and playing less than five minutes twice, against Belarus and the Czech Republic, she played between 10 and 19 minutes in each of the six other games. Bishop’s best match for the tournament was against the eventual 2010 World Champions, the United States of America, scoring eight points on three of four field goal attempts, took four rebounds, all offensive, and two steals in 17 minutes court-time.
Australia won their three matches in group A and two of their three matches in the eight-final round, losing to USA 75 to 83. In a quarter final, hosts, the Czech Republic outscored Australia 27 to 17 in the final quarter to defeat the Opals by 11 points, 79 to 68. Poor field goal shooting proved costly for Australia, making only 20 of their 70 field goal attempts for an accuracy of 28.6%, significantly lower than the Czech Republic’s 37.5%. Australia defeated Russia 78 to 73 and France 74 to 62 to finish the 2010 World Championships in fifth position. Bishop played eight of Australia’s nine games and averaged 2.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 11.9 minutes per game.
In a warm-up series for the 2011 FIBA Oceania Championship Bishop played in the three game friendly series against China, held in Queensland. At the 2011 three-game FIBA Oceania Championship against New Zealand during September in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney Bishop was very consistent, being one of Australia’s top three scorers in every game. Bishop played all three games, averaging 16.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 24 minutes per game. Bishop ranked second for Australia in scoring behind Batkovic (17.7), equal second for rebounds with Elyse Penaluna, behind Batkovic (8.0) and second for assists behind Hanna Zavecz (4.7). In all three games Bishop scored at least 14 points, had at least seven rebounds and shot the ball at more than 45% from the field. Australia swept the series, getting more dominant as the series went on, defeating New Zealand by 13, 19 and 23 points.
The series win qualified Australia for the 2012 Olympics in London. It was the fifth consecutive Olympic Games and seventh overall that Australia had qualified for. Australia failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona but had played in every other Olympic Games from 1984 onwards and had won a medal at the previous four Olympics, winning the bronze medal in 1996 followed by the silver medal at three consecutive Olympics, 2000, 2004 and 2008.
In September 2011 Bishop represented Australia at the 2011 World University Games, leading Australia for points per game during the tournament and being a key player for the Australian team which won a bronze medal.
In March 2012 at the iiNet MVP Awards Bishop won the Maher medal as the 2011 Women’s Australian International Player of the Year. Previous winners of the Maher medal include Robyn Maher who the medal is named after, Michele Timms, Michelle Brogan, Suzy Batkovic and Lauren Jackson.
Bishop achieved her number one goal for 2012 by being selected in the Australian Opals team for the 2012 Olympics, at 23 years of age she was the third youngest member of the team with only guard/forward Rachel Jarry and centre Liz Cambage, both 20 years old being younger. Other members of the Opals squad were guards Kristi Harrower, Sam Richards, Belinda Snell and Kathleen MacLeod, guard/forwards Jenna O’Hea and Jennifer Screen and power forward/centres Lauren Jackson, Suzy Batkovic and Laura Hodges.
In Australia’s first game of the Olympics, a 16 point win against Great Britain Bishop scored eight points, making three of her five field goal attempts and both free throws, she also had three assists, two steals, two rebounds and a blocked shot in 20 minutes game-time.
In Australia’s second game against France they trailed by three points with 3.3 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. After France missed a free-throw Bishop grabbed the rebound, passed to Belinda Snell who took one dribble and amazingly made a banked three-pointer from beyond half-court to tie the game at 65 apiece and send the game into an extra period. France won the game 74-70 after one period of overtime, however Australia rebounded to win their next three games to advance to the quarter finals.
In the quarter-final 15 point win against China Bishop made an impact in her 10 minutes court-time, scoring nine points, made four of seven field goal attempts and her only free-throw attempt, and also took three rebounds. Australia lost their semi-final to the United States of America by 13 points, the fifth consecutive Olympic Games that the United States had beaten Australia, having also won a semi-final in 1996 before defeating the Opals in three consecutive Olympic gold medal games in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
The Australian Jayco Opals defeated Russia by nine points, 83-74 in the bronze medal game resulting in the Opals extending their medal winning sequence to five Olympic games. Bishop played seven of the Opals eight games at the 2012 Olympics in London, not playing any court-time in the semi-final against the United States of America. At the London Olympic Games Bishop averaged 3.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 12.6 minutes per game, shooting 47.6% from the field, ranked third for Australia behind fellow front-court players Cambage (59.5%) and Jackson (49.5%), and made all five of her free throws.
When appearing on episode 130 of Live with Jacqueline Valdez on 17 March 2021 Bishop spoke about the experience of representing the Australian Opals at the 2012 London Olympics and said “It was amazing, it was a dream come true. It was the London Olympics, we had a lot of preparation in the lead-up, like camps in Italy and we did tours of China and many, many things. I still remember we were at a camp in Italy and that was when the team got selected and we weren’t allowed to tell anyone for like three days after we got told we were on the team. I told my mum obviously, but I couldn’t tell anyone else. The whole Olympic experience, living in the village and being surrounded by all these amazing athletes and just the Opening Ceremony and getting all your uniform. Little things to some people but when you are in that moment and you get your Australian bag with your uniform it gives you goosebumps.”
Throughout her basketball career one of Abby’s proudest achievements has been representing the Australian Opals and whilst she wanted to represent her country at the 2014 World Championships held in Turkey during September & October she was unsure how she would combine her most important role as a single mum to niece Zala Kate Bishop, with representing Australia and what Basketball Australia’s parenting policy would be. In April 2014 Basketball Australia high performance manager Chuck Harmison commented on the parenting policy “A child is allowed to attend games or camps, but we want to keep the sanctity of a high performance environment and make sure kids don’t disrupt training, games or team accommodation. Kids can come along, but those that need looking after need a caregiver and the athlete would have to fund that. We’re on a limited budget and if we start opening it up to covering cost of caregivers, we’ll run out of money pretty quickly.”12 The same policy was applied by Basketball Australia to the Opals and the men’s national team the Boomers, as well as wheelchair team’s the Gliders and the Rollers.
In response to Basketball Australia’s parenting policy Bishop said “The lack of support has led to the decision I won’t be able to play for the Opals this year. I understand BA are trying to do the right thing, but I think it’s crazy a European team and a WNBL team can be more understanding and accommodating about this than the national team.” Abby went on to say “It’s disappointing I won’t be with the Opals this year, but Zala comes first for me. It’s a shame it couldn’t be worked out. It’s hard for any mother when there is international travel involved and I didn’t want to affect the team. I hope to be back in the Opals in the future, but Zala is my priority.”13 As one of the terms of the parental policy if Bishop had played at the 2014 World Championships, Zala would have been required to stay at a different hotel to the Australian team. On Television program Good Morning America in June 2015 Abby commented “It wasn’t all about me anymore, life changed very quickly for me and Zala definitely put everything into perspective for me. I couldn’t just take her away and leave her in a hotel with someone I didn’t really know.”
There was an outpouring of support for Bishop on social media after she withdrew from the Opals for 2014, with many people offering Bishop financial support to assist her in caring for Zala in the hope that this would enable Abby to represent Australia at the 2014 World Championships from 25 September to 7 October. Abby refused all of these offers, stating that it was her responsibility to care for Zala.
On 8 December 2015 Bishop was named in the Australian Opals 12 player team for the test event in mid-January 2016 at Carioca Arena in the Barra Olympic Park, the venue for the 2016 Women’s Basketball Olympics finals in Rio, Brazil.
Between the 2014 World Championships and late-2015 Basketball Australia reviewed their parenting policy and Bishop’s manager had been in frequent discussions with Basketball Australia officials, aiming to reach a compromise.
After being named in the Opals squad for the test event in Rio Abby commented in December 2015 “I’m excited to be back in the program and feel privileged to be suiting up after more than a year. Zala won’t come with me to Brazil … I do feel proud, and proud because that’s the person I am. I do stand up for myself, I would have been disappointed in myself if I didn’t. I took in Zala and it’s my responsibility to look after her. She will always come first. I’m just happy and respectful of Basketball Australia for re-evaluating and helping. I never wanted too much or everything paid for, just a bit of help. I might have helped someone else to stand up or get their sport to help with their child.”14
On 29 January 2016 an article written by Bishop was published by SBS in relation to the Rio test event earlier that month, in the article titled Abby Bishop: Already on the road to Rio Bishop wrote “Well after 2 years, it was amazing being back a part of the Opals program. To be able to go to Rio, for a pre Olympic test event was something special. For me, adjusting back to that level of play was always going to be a big factor. Regardless of the scores and opposition, the pace and the way the Opals play in general is many steps up from the WNBL.”15
The women’s basketball 2016 Rio test event involved four nations competing, Brazil, Australia, Argentina and Venezuela. The Australian Opals won the test event, winning all three games comprised of one game against each other nation in a round-robin format. After easily accounting for Argentina 87-37 and Venezuela 104-24 the Opals were tested in their final game, defeating Brazil 77-67.
In early 2016 Bishop was in the Australian Opals squad for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and was well placed to contend for a place in the final 12 player team. However, the degree of difficulty to make the Opals 2016 Olympic Games team quickly increased. In mid-March 2016 Bishop had a swollen left arm which doctors later determined was due to blood clots which were caused by medication for her hamstring injury. Bishop commented “They were superficial blood clots to start with and when they moved further they developed into [deep vein thrombosis] and it had travelled up to my neck. I know it’s dangerous and all that, but I don’t feel lucky to be here. I just feel lucky to have been able to catch it early. And the funny thing is that my hamstring is feeling better.”16
To treat the blood clots Bishop was required to go on blood thinning medication and commented “It does put me behind the eight ball for selection and I totally understand that, and absolutely they told me how serious it is [if I train]. You don’t muck around with this stuff. That’s what the doctors explained to me – if I get one hit to the head while I’m on this [blood-thinning] medication I could potentially die. It’s those sorts of things that might not happen, but I guess they could. It makes you think about everything and follow the rules because this is serious.”17
After recovering from the blood clots Bishop made her basketball return with Seattle Storm during the 2016 WNBA season and attended several Opals camps later in 2016 in the lead up to the Rio Olympics. On 29 June 2016 when the Australian Opals squad was reduced from 17 to players to 15 players Bishop and current Southside Flyers teammate Sara Blicavs were the two players cut.
On 18 April 2017 it was announced that Sandy Brondello had been appointed as the Australian Opals head coach. 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. Brondello was inducted into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and was the head coach of Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA from 2014 to 2021, 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.
On 24 May 2017 Bishop was named in a 21 player Australian Opals squad for a training camp held in Phoenix, USA from 25 June to 3 July in the lead-up to the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup. At the end of the camp Bishop was named in the 12 player squad for the 2017 Asia Cup.
In early July 2017 after being named in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup team Bishop commented”I did fall out of love with the international game for a bit. But it’s nice to have it back and actually enjoying it. I really enjoyed the camp we just had with Sandy, so for me it’s about just taking it one step at a time. I didn’t do much (with the Opals) over that four year period between the London and Rio Olympics. It’s just nice to be back after so long and I feel like I fit in. It just feels normal and I’m leaving the past in the past. I am one of the older girls in this new group so I’m excited by that and Sandy has just said do what you do to be a leader. So that’s my goal.”18
During an Australian Opals training camp in July 2017 leading up to the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup Bishop rolled her ankle. Corrective surgery was required on Bishop’s ankle which resulted in her being ruled out of the tournament.
At the 2019 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup held in Bengaluru, India from 22 to 29 September Bishop was able to suit up again for the Australian Opals at an international tournament. It was the second time that Australia had participated in the Asia Cup tournament, having lost the 2017 final to Japan 73-74.
Bishop told The Pick and Roll “For me to be back and selected for the squad is very special. As athletes, playing for Australia is your aim. To be honest, at the end of the day we would be favourites, but that doesn’t mean that we take any team lightly. We will go into every game ready and prepared and respecting every team we go up against. There will obviously be a lot of different challenges against those teams. For example, the Philippines will be a much smaller side which means they will be a lot faster, but we are a very versatile side ready to play the best basketball we can.”19
In Australia’s opening Group B game against the Philippines Bishop made all four field goal attempts and all three free-throws, scored 11 points, took four rebounds, make two assists, three steals and blocked one shot in 14 minutes and 22 seconds court-time. In the Opals second Group B game against New Zealand Bishop made five of eight field goal attempts at an accuracy of 62.5%, scored 10 points, took four rebounds, made two assists and blocked one shot.
After a loss to China 69-70 in the group stage Australia faced Japan in a semi-final and were defeated 64-76. There was a sizeable gap from Japan, China and Australia to the remaining five teams at the tournament. Australia gained the ascendancy early in the bronze medal game against Korea to lead 24-9 at quarter time and went on to have a 98-62 victory and win the bronze medal. At the 2019 FIBA Asia Cup Bishop played all six games and averaged 5.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 14.4 minutes court-time per game whilst shooting at 56.5% from the field.
Appearing on Brekky with Jordan Curtis on 15 November 2021 Bishop reflected on withdrawing from the Australia Opal squad for the 2014 World Cup, saying “That was actually one of the proudest things that I have done in my career was to make that stand. I chose to pull out purely because the lack of support I had. There were all these things where it wasn’t doable, so I said no, this is not right, so I made a stand. A lot of news outlets got on board and it was big news in Australia because Basketball Australia didn’t have a parental policy. A couple of years later there is now a parental policy and all these women who are having kids and coming back to play are looked after and that was my goal. Yeah, I knew in the time it wasn’t going to help me, it was going to hinder me by stepping out but it was going to help the future women and I am super proud of that. Deep down that is one of my proudest things because now these women get what they deserve and they can continue their sport with their children. That’s my personality, I stand up for what I believe in whether it hurts me or not, I am very vocal in that sense and if it is going to help the future I am definitely going to do it.”
Bishop was named in the Australian Opals extended squad for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games but was cut when the squad was reduced to 19 players on 2 March 2020 and hasn’t been selected in an Opals squad since.
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 6 December 2021 Bishop wasn’t included in the Australian Opals 24 player squad for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney. As the host of the World Cup Australia automatically qualify, however they will participate in qualifying tournaments. Australia will play in a four team qualifying tournament held in Serbia from 10 to 13 February, 2022 against Korea, Serbia and Brazil.
After Australia’s 2022 World Cup squad was announced Opals coach Brondello told ESPN “It’s the best players we have. That’s not to say players won’t be added at a later date, there’s a few players that come to mind. It’s going to be very competitive. With no Liz Cambage in the team, she’s been great for the Opals in the past, but we know she’ll no longer be there so it’s an opportunity for others. We have to reset the way we want to play, and I think it’s exciting.”20
Following the announcement of the Opals 2022 World Cup squad Bishop was considered unlucky to miss out and is a prime candidate to come under consideration to be added to the squad at a later date. Playing with the Southside Flyers during the 2021/22 WNBL season Bishop will be able to play with and against the majority of the squad. 21 of the 24 Opals squad members are playing in the 2021/22 WNBL season with the exceptions being New York Liberty duo Bec Allen and Sami Whitcomb along with Mariana Tolo who is playing for Basket Landes in France.
Playing three WNBA seasons with the Seattle Storm from 2010 to 2016
After attending a training camp with WNBA club the Seattle Storm Bishop got the final spot on Seattle’s 11 player roster for the 2010 WNBA season and commented on making the team “It’s huge, considering most people are still at college at my age. But just to be making it – no matter if I was 25 or 21 – it’s something I’ve had on my goal list for a few years now. I’ve always wanted to achieve this. I know my role isn’t going to be playing, but as the 10th, 11th player I’m still excited to be part of this great group. When my time comes, I’ll be ready.”21 Making Bishop’s transition to the WNBA easier, Canberra and Australian Opals team-mate Lauren Jackson was a star at Seattle having spent her entire WNBA career at the club, playing in Seattle’s first WNBA championship in 2004 and had won the WNBA Most Valuable Player Award twice, 2003 and 2007.
After Bishop made Seattle’s roster for the 2010 season Jackson commented on Seattle coach Brian Agler giving Bishop an opportunity at training camp and Bishop making the cut “He took a gamble on her and I think it paid off. She’s obviously very talented and one of the Australians that is better-suited for this league.”22
Bishop made her WNBA debut on 22 May 2010 at 21 years of age. Due to Seattle having so much talent and depth Bishop played limited game-time, however she was given more opportunities late in the season as Seattle Storm head coach Brian Agler looked to freshen up his starters for the playoffs. During the regular season Bishop played 16 games, averaging 2.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 6.8 minutes per game. Bishop’s best game of the season was against Connecticut on August 13, scoring 14 points and taking five rebounds.
Seattle finished the 2010 regular season with the best record in the league, 28 wins and six losses, 13 games ahead of the second ranked team in the Western Conference, Phoenix Mercury and seven games ahead of the top ranked teams in the Eastern Conference, Washington Mystics and New York Liberty. Bishop didn’t play in any of the playoff games for Seattle after suffering a concussion at training. Seattle were undefeated in the playoffs, defeating Los Angeles 2-0 in the Western Conference semi-finals, Phoenix 2-0 in the Western Conference finals and Atlanta 3-0 in the WNBA Finals to win the WNBA championship, the second in the club’s history, having previously won the title in 2004. Power forward Jackson won the WNBA regular season MVP Award as well as the WNBA Finals MVP Award and was named in the All-WNBA first team for the fifth time, Seattle point guard Sue Bird was named in the All-WNBA second team.
As a guest on Brekky with Jordan Curtis on 15 November 2021 Bishop reflected on her debut WNBA season with the Seattle Storm in 2010, commenting “It was a huge thing (to play in the WNBA). I went undrafted so I wasn’t a drafted athlete and I went there when I was quite young so that first year that I was over there in 2010 I was a rookie obviously but I didn’t play so much. It was kind of one of those situations where I would play when we were either winning by a lot or losing by a lot but I wasn’t the only one, there was a couple of us, there was another Australian girl (Alison Lacey) also. Just to be surrounded by amazing athletes like the girls that were on that team and to learn from them. To have that first season in the league being shown the ropes was awesome and obviously we won the championship which is even better and to say that I have won it with some of those names is a huge, huge deal, people go their whole lives without winning a championship, let alone first year in the WNBA and walking away with one of those big rings. In the WNBA when you win the captain of the team designs the ring that you get, so it is worth a lot of money, lots of diamonds, it’s got your own name in it and year and is really cool, so yeah, pretty lucky.”
Five years after making her WNBA debut in 2010 with Seattle Storm and being the 10th or 11th player on the roster for most of the season Bishop returned to play for Seattle in the 2015 WNBA season and took on a far more prominent role, starting in just over half of her games. Bishop joined fellow Australian Jenna O’Hea on the team, O’Hea and Bishop knew each other very well having been team-mates on various Australian teams from under-age level through to the senior team, the Opals and both represented Australia at the 2010 World Championships and 2012 Olympics. 2015 was O’Hea’s second season with Seattle and fifth season in the WNBA, having played for the Los Angeles Sparks from 2011 to 2013.
Bishop scored a WNBA career-high 18 points in a 60-54 win on the road against the LA Sparks on 14 June, making seven of 12 field goal attempts and four three pointers from nine attempts. Late in the season Bishop injured her hamstring which resulted in her missing the last eight games of the season. Seattle missed the play-offs, finishing fifth out of six teams in the Western Conference with a record of 10 wins and 24 losses. In 2015 Bishop played 26 games for Seattle, starting 14 times and averaged 5.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 19.6 minutes per game.
On her 2015 season with Seattle Bishop told storm.wnba.com “It’s really nice to be back and I enjoyed my season here. Obviously, it¹s the best league in the world so for me getting back into it and coming back over here, it was no surprise the competition is tough. I adjusted to my role pretty well. I think I have a lot to learn and can bring a lot more to the table. But for my first season back and the opportunity given to me by Jenny [Boucek], I still helped the team and did my part but I know I can do so much more.”23
Bishop returned for her second consecutive WNBA season with Seattle in 2016. On raising Zala whilst being a professional basketball player Bishop told WNBA.com “I think I’ve been really fortunate that every team that I’ve played for has really taken Zala in as part of the family, part of the team. The Seattle Storm have been amazing with welcoming her, as well. All the girls really enjoy having her around, whether it’s shootaround on a gameday or after a game. She comes in the locker room and gives the girls hi-fives and those kind of things. She’s a part of it, and she loves (the mascot) Doppler.”24
In mid-June 2016 Bishop left Seattle to attend Australian Opals training camps and attempt to gain selection in the Opals 2016 Olympic Games team in a move that had been agreed with Seattle Storm before the season commenced. Bishop returned later in the season and played a total of 13 games for Seattle in 2016, averaging 0.9 points, 0.6 rebounds and 5.2 minutes per game.
After playing seven consecutive WNBL seasons from 2005/06 to 2011/12 Bishop signed a two-season contract with French club Perpignan for the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons. Perpignan made it to the finals in 2012/13 but lost their series to Lattes-Montpellier 2-0. During the 2012/13 regular season Bishop played 23 games for Perpignan, averaging 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 29.2 minutes per game. Bishop led the club for points per game and ranked second for rebounds. Several players including Bishop had contract and player payment issues with Perpignan in 2012/13 and Abby did not return to the club for the 2013/14 season.
After the 2013/14 WNBL season concluded Bishop had a two-month contract in Hungary with PEAC Pecs and played an important role in the club winning the Hungarian Cup. PEAC Pecs won the final by four points against Uniqua Sopran who had won the previous three titles. Bishop played as a forward for PEAC Pecs and excelled in the championship game, scoring 19 points and winning the Grand Final MVP, Abby was also named in the All-Tournament team. Bishop played six regular season games and 10 playoff games for PEAC Pecs in 2014 and during her 16 games in total averaged 11.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 25.9 minutes per game.
On 19 February 2015 Abby announced that she had signed a two-month contract with Miskolc, a club in north-east Hungary, close to the Slovakian border. Abby commented “The Caps have been amazing all season with Zala and it’s made it easier for me to be able to do what I can on the court. But with the Hungarian contract they’ve been really great too, so I’ve got a nanny coming with me from Australia and they’ve given me a two bedroom apartment and those kinds of things so I won’t have to worry about her being at training.”25
During 2015 Miskolc had their most successful season in close to two decades, making their first Grand Final in 19 years, playing UNIQA-Sopran who had lost only one regular season game. Miskolc pushed UNIQA-Sopran all the way but lost the Grand Final series 3-1, winning game 2 by four points but lost games 1, 3 and 4 by three, eight and two points respectively. Bishop joined Miskolc late in the season and played a total of 11 games for the season, two regular season games and nine playoff games and started in seven of the playoff games. In her 11 games for Miskolc during 2014/15 Abby averaged 13.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 28.8 minutes per game.
Bishop had signed a contract with Hungarian club UNIQA-Sopran for the 2015/16 season, however due to her hamstring injury Bishop was released by UNIQA-Sopran in late September 2015 the week before she was going to fly to Hungary to join the club.
In 2016/17 Bishop played for French club Tarbes Gespe Bigorre. Bishop excelled in 19 games for Tarbes, averaging 19.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 38.4 minutes court-time per game. Against Saint-Amand on 28 March 2017 Bishop scored 40 points, shot the ball proficiently to make 12 of 20 two point attempts, three of five three-pointers and all seven free-throws. Bishop also took nine rebounds, and played all 40 minutes in a dominant performance.
On Episode 130 of Live with Jacqueline Valdez Bishop on 17 March 2021 Bishop commented on favourite places to play overseas “My favourite place to play (overseas) was in France, we were in the south of France and I had an amazing coach, amazing teammates, so that was probably my favourite season playing abroad just because the situation was perfect, it is hard to get a perfect situation but it really was. My most memorable sporting moment playing and travelling would have been the Olympics, so those two for sure.”
During the 2019/20 season Bishop played for Spar Citylift Girona in Spain, her teammates included Laia Palau and Brittney Sykes who made her WNBL debut with the University of Capitals earlier this month and was named the WNBL’s Player of the Week for Round 1, 2021/22.
During the 2019/20 season nine players at Spar Citylift Girona averaged between 20 and 32 minutes court-time per game. Bishop played five games, averaging 9.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 24.0 minutes per game.
Whilst Bishop was playing for Spar Citylift Girona COVID-19 cases were escalating rapidly all over the world including Spain. On 17 March 2021 Bishop told Live with Jacqueline Valdez “I was playing in Spain last year and our season got cut short because of COVID so we had to immediately go home and then this season has looked very different because we have no crowds which is very different when you are playing sport but it is what it is and you agree to it because you want to continue to play.”
Bishop played for Virtus Bologna in Serie A1, Italy during the 2020/21 season. Bologna made the semi finals but were defeated two games to nil by Venezia. Bishop averaged 15.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for Virtus Bologna in 2021/21.
Appearing on Brekky with Jordan Curtis on 15 November 2021 Bishop spoke of the support she has received from European clubs in looking after Zala, saying “Everybody always wants to help because you know what, it is not that hard to actually turn it around and make it a feel good story in terms of lets help this girl, rather than we are not doing this and we are not doing that. These teams that I have played for actually go above and beyond to help me and to make sure that Zala’s looked after so that then I can compete at the highest level and my best. Zala is eight now, she has been doing it her life, she has been to school in Russia, France, Hungary, Spain, I mean not many kids get to do that at such a young age. She misses out on some other things by not being stable but she also gains so much by being immersed in these different cultures and learning these new languages and being surrounded by these amazing athletes who I get to call my teammates. She has got friends all around the world which is super cool to see and she keeps in touch with them every now and again, she is pretty lucky.”
WNBL career from 2017/18 onwards
After playing for Tarbes in France during the 2016/17 season Bishop returned to the WNBL and played for Adelaide Lightning in 2017/18. On returning to the WNBL and playing for Adelaide Bishop told wnbl.basketball in early April 2017 “I am really grateful for the opportunity come back to my home state to play. I grew up in country SA and played a lot of basketball in Adelaide so this is close to my heart as I often look back and think about how it all started. I love the WNBL, and I have been a part of it for many years so to be coming back at such a great time with the new FOX TV deal and also so many great players coming back into the league, I am genuinely really excited for the upcoming season.”26
Adelaide Lightning had 11 wins and 10 losses in 2017/18 to finish fifth, one game behind the fourth placed Melbourne Boomers. Bishop played 21 games for Adelaide Lightning in 2017/18, averaging 15.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and a career-high 3.0 rebounds per game. Bishop ranked seventh in the league for scoring, sixth for rebounding and 10th for blocked shots. In the WNBL’s 2017/18 MVP Award Bishop finished equal seventh with 55 votes.
On 31 October 2018 The Australian Basketballers’ Association (ABA) and the Chemist Warehouse Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) announced the establishment of the WNBL’s first Parental and Pregnancy Care Policy. An excerpt from the statement is below:
“The Policy follows the introduction of the Minimum Player Conditions Agreement, reached between the ABA, the Chemist Warehouse Women’s National Basketball League and Basketball Australia in November 2017, and ensures players receive industry-standard conditions.
As a result of the Policy’s introduction, female basketballers in the national league will have access to the full provision of a qualified carer or player elected support personnel for all away trips.
The Policy also provides additional care and financial support for mothers with children up to four years old for away trips, with additional support costs provided in addition to a players’ other salary and entitlements.”27
Since the introduction of the WNBL’s Parental and Pregnancy Care Policy several mum’s have played in the league whilst having children under four years of age. Mum’s that had young children and played during the 2020 WNBL season include Steph Blicavs (nee Cumming) for Southside Flyers and Ashleigh Karaitiana for the Melbourne Boomers. The WNBL’s games record holder Kelly Wilson missed the 2020 season and after having son Teddy in February 2021 has returned with the University of Canberra Capitals for the 2021/22 season and will become the first player in league history to play 400 games. Wilson’s Capitals teammate Alex Bunton has a 20 month old daughter Opal and is also making a comeback to the WNBL this season after being forced to retire in mid-2019 due to knee injuries.
During the 2019/20 WNBL season Bishop played for the Townsville Fire but had to miss the opening game of the season due to concussion. Bishop played in Townsville’s second game of the season and played 14 consecutive games for the club.
With six games remaining in the season Townsville released Bishop from her contract. In the post-game press conference after Townsville’s victory against the University of Canberra Capitals at home Fire head coach Shannon Seebohm commented “Sort of been going through this decision-making process for quite some time and I wanted to move forward now with the group that we have got and see what the current players we have are able to do with a little more opportunity.”
In 2019/20 Bishop played 14 games for Townsville Fire and led the team in scoring (15.9 points per game), rebounds (7.6) and steals (2.1) and ranked third for assists (3.3). Bishop made 25 of her 66 three-pointers at an accuracy of 37.9%. It was the fifth consecutive WNBL season that Bishop had made at least 17 three-pointers and her second highest season tally, one short of the 26 three-pointers made in 2014/15. For players that played at least five games during the 2019/20 regular season Bishop ranked third in the league for steals per game, equal seventh for scoring, equal 11th for rebounds and 16th for assists per game.
After Bishop signed with the Southside Flyers for the 2021/22 WNBL season Flyers head coach Cheryl Chambers told WNBL Media on 20 October 2021 “We are delighted Abby has joined the team for the upcoming season. She brings wonderful basketball IQ, is a real power player with international experience that will benefit everyone in the team. She has a real presence on the court, knows the league, knows what is required and I am really looking forward to having her on our team.”28
It is Bishop’s second season with the WNBL’s Dandenong based club, having played for the Dandenong Rangers in 2010/11 when Cheryl Chambers was an assistant coach. Chambers was also an assistant coach of the Australian Gems when Bishop was on the team and was Bishop’s head coach at the Kilsyth Lady Cobras during the 2011 South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) season.
In July 2019 the Dandenong Rangers WNBL license was transferred from the Dandenong Basketball Association to Gerry Ryan who in 1975 founded Jayco who were the naming rights sponsor of the Dandenong Rangers WNBL team from 1997 to 2019. The Southside Flyers play their home games at Dandenong Stadium and respect the history of the Dandenong Rangers.
On the decision to play in the WNBL and sign with the Southside Flyers Bishop told the Pick and Roll in late October 2021 “I actually wasn’t planning on coming back, but Cheryl called me out of the blue and just told me they were looking for a post player and she’d love to have me. I had to think about it for a little bit, but once I thought about it, I just knew that it was a great situation and obviously with what’s going on in the world it’s a great time to be playing at home. With how strong the league is, it’s super exciting for me to be back, especially being part of such a wonderful team and organisation.”29
Bishop played the 2021 NBL1 North season with Ipswich Force and then moved from Queensland to Melbourne to commence pre-season training with Southside Flyers.
Southside Flyers won the 2020 WNBL championship and five of the eight players who averaged more than 15 minutes court-time per game for the team last season have returned in 2021/22. The Southside players in this category are Jenna O’Hea, Sara Blicavs, Bec Cole, Aimie Rocci [nee Clydesdale] and Rachel Jarry who have more than 1,000 games WNBL experience between them. The Flyers have four players on the team that have represented the Australian Opals at the Olympics, Bishop, O’Hea and Jarry were all on the London 2012 team, Jarry played for Australia at the Rio 2016 Olympics whilst O’Hea and Blicavs were both members of the 2020 Tokyo team. Flyers Assistant Coach Belinda Snell represented Australia at three Olympic Games – 2004, 2008 and 2012.
In addition to having played for Australia with several of her Southside Flyers teammates previously Bishop has also played in the WNBA for Seattle with Jenna O’Hea and was teammates in the WNBL with Aimie Rocci at Adelaide Lightning in 2017/18.
In 2019/20 and 2020 two All-WNBL teams were named, a first team and a second team which meant that 10 players earnt selection in each season. Four Flyers – Maddy Rocci, Cole, Blicavs and O’Hea were selected in an All-WNBL team in the past two seasons whilst Bishop won league’s highest individual honour, the Most Valuable Player Award in 2014/15.
In the pre-season Bishop commented to The Pick and Roll on the role she is required to play at the Flyers, saying “Cheryl has pretty much told me that she needs me to rebound every game. Obviously this is a very good team with a lot of depth, everyone can score, so there’s no real pressure – it’s not like I’ve got to come here and do anything I’m not good at, I’ve just got to be myself. That’s the beauty of this team; every game someone different is probably going to step up and it relieves a little bit of that pressure off each person, which then allows you to just play your game.”30
Against Bendigo Spirit on 4 December at Dandenong Stadium in the opening game of the WNBL season the Southside Flyers starting line-up was Maddy Rocci and Bec Cole in the back-court along with O’Hea, Blicavs and Bishop in the front-court. In her first game for the Southside Flyers Bishop scored 20 points, took 11 rebounds, made four assists and blocked four shots in a 94-83 victory.
On 6 December 2021 five Southside Flyers were named in the 24 player squad for the 2022 World Cup to be held in Sydney in late September and early October – O’Hea, Blicavs, Cole, Maddy Rocci and Kristy Wallace. Southside Flyers head coach Chambers is an Assistant coach for the Flyers. Whilst Bishop wasn’t included in the initial Opals squad, the squad is fluid and players can be added to it in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Since playing her 200th WNBL game with the University of Canberra Capitals in 2015/16 Bishop has played every second WNBL season and played game number 250 on 11 December 2021 for the Southside Flyers six years and six days after her 200th game. In Bishop’s 250th game she registered a double-double in a road game against the Melbourne Boomers. Bishop’s milestone of 250 WNBL games will be recognised by the Southside Flyers before their Round 3 home game at Dandenong Stadium on Saturday 18 December against the Melbourne Boomers.
On reaching 250 WNBL games Bishop told wnbl.basketball “I honestly can’t believe it because I’ve been around for so long but also last time I played in the WNBL I knew I was a few games away from my 250th. To actually be able to achieve it is amazing and I’m super, super grateful. I’ve seen the good, the bad and everything in between and I’ve seen the league grow. I was a young kid out of the AIS playing for Canberra who was a super successful club and still are, but I’ve seen the WNBL grow and evolve and now the quality of the league, in my opinion, is stronger than ever. I’m lucky to have experienced different coaches, clubs and professionalism and I think It’s all part of the story and it all makes you the person you are today because of the experiences you’ve had.”31
After excelling at both netball and basketball in her early teenage years Bishop decided to focus on basketball, with a major reason being the greater opportunities to play basketball internationally, both at the Olympics and in overseas leagues.
Throughout her basketball career Bishop has utilised these opportunities effectively to have a decorated career in the WNBL, represent Australia and play in overseas leagues in the United States of America, Hungary, Spain, Italy, and France. Playing in several leagues that each have their own individual style has helped mould Bishop into the player she has become.
At 189 centimetres tall Bishop has played as a power forward or centre throughout her WNBL career and has been able to adapt her role depending on if she is the primary target in the post or has been playing alongside another strong post player such as Lauren Jackson or Suzy Batkovic.
Bishop won the Betty Watson Rookie of the Year Award playing for the AIS in 2005/06 and has consistently been in the league leaders for scoring and rebounding throughout her career. The following season Bishop joined the Capitals and went on to play a total of seven seasons and 156 games for the club over two stints. During the first stint from 2006/07 to 2009/10 Bishop played in three WNBL championships (2006/07, 2008/09 and 2009/10) and was selected in the 2008/09 WNBL All-Star five. During the middle of stint number two with the Capitals from 2013/14 and 2015/16 Bishop was the most dominant player in the league to be a convincing winner of the league’s 2014/15 MVP Award and earn her second WNBL All-Star five selection.
In the first 250 games of Bishop’s WNBL career she has averaged 15.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Bishop ranks eighth on the WNBL’s All-time list for career rebounds (2,177) and 14th for career points (3,863). In game number 250 Bishop passed Gabe Richards (2,175) on the all-time rebounding list and is well placed to overtake several more players this season. Lucille Bailie is in fourth position with 2,305 rebounds, 127 ahead of Bishop which is within striking distance during the 2021/22 WNBL season. For rebounds per game Bishop’s average of 8.7 per game is just behind the 10th ranked player in this category – Regina Day with 8.8. Three times Bishop has averaged a double-double for a completed season – 2008/09, 2013/14 and 2014/15, all with the University of Canberra Capitals.
At international level Bishop represented the Australian Opals at two major championships including being a member of the Opals bronze medal winning team at the 2012 London Olympics. In between representing Australia at the 2010 World Championships and at London in 2012 Bishop won the Maher medal as the 2011 Women’s Australian International Player of the Year.
Bishop spent three seasons playing in the WNBA with Seattle and in her debut season was a member of Seattle’s championship winning side alongside fellow Australian Lauren Jackson in 2010.
Reflecting on her career to date Bishop told Live with Jacqueline Valdez on 17 March 2021“It is amazing, I remember when I was a little kid and I always dreamed of going to an Olympic Games, honestly I didn’t know what I was going there for, I just loved sport. I wasn’t playing basketball when I was little. That was always a dream of mine so to achieve that, honestly I look back sometimes and think is this even real life. What I have been able to achieve and do, especially with a little kid by my side, I don’t have a partner, she doesn’t have a dad so it is just me and her. It has been tough which I think makes it even sweeter, what I have been able to achieve. It is like anything in life, you write goals and you tick em off and you feel so fulfilled when you tick those goals off your list, whether it is dancing or at your work place. A bit of purpose and something to work towards which is important.”
By Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777
7 Basketball Australia, Spotlight, Official Game Program, 5-9 November, 2014, page 4
Milestones and Misses
Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the 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 sportspeople have had during their career.
A link to Milestones and Misses homepage is below:
The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. During 2020 and 2021 articles have been published on the following sportspeople:
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