The evolution of Anneli Maley from exceptional rebounder to Suzy Batkovic medal winner

During the 2020 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season forward Anneli Maley led the league with 12.1 rebounds per game and ranked 34th in the league for scoring with 7.9 points per game. After signing with the Bendigo Spirit Maley told the Bendigo Advertiser in early May 2021 “The next step for me is being more of a threat offensively. In the NBL1 I’m able to put my offensive game in play, and I think I’m capable of doing that at the next level, but the key for me is doing it more consistently. Putting more scoreboard pressure on the opposition and being confident to take shots is what I’m working on. It would be cool to be known as not just a rebounder. I want to be an offensive threat as well.”1

Maley took this next step with the Bendigo Spirit during the 2021/22 WNBL season, well and truly developing into an offensive threat, averaging a league-leading 19.8 points per game – an astronomical 250% improvement on her previous season’s output. Maley averaged 15.7 rebounds per game in 2021/22 to again lead the WNBL in this category and also led the league for free-throws made and minutes played.

From early in the 2021/22 WNBL season Maley was widely regarded as a candidate for the Suzy Batkovic Medal awarded to the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Batkovic set a record in winning the WNBL’s MVP award six times and following her retirement at the end of the 2018/19 season the WNBL’s MVP Award was renamed the Suzy Batkovic Medal.

On 23 March, 2022 the WNBL announced the nominees for the league’s end of season awards. Maley was one of eight nominees for the Suzy Batkovic Medal alongside Perth Lynx guard Jackie Young, Melbourne Boomers and Australian Opals front-court duo Ezi Magbegor and Cayla George, a pair of Adelaide Lightning and Australian Opals players in Steph Talbot and Alanna Smith along with University of Canberra Capitals duo Brittney Sykes and Kelsey Griffin. Maley was the only one of the eight nominees that missed out on playing WNBL Finals in 2021/22 with three of the finalists having two nominees each and Perth having one nominee.

Maley received a phone call from Bendigo Spirit General Manager Ben Harvey who told her that she had won the 2021/22 Suzy Batkovic Medal. Just after the phone call ended Maley told WNBL Media “I remember watching Steph Talbot going up to receive her MVP last year. She’s one of my idols, and I’ve been playing alongside and against Steph, Jenna (O’Hea), Abby Bishop, Bec Cole, those are all the people I’ve idolised and now this is so cool. That doesn’t feel real!”

“Far out, I could not imagine me this time last year telling myself this was something I was actually going to achieve, I would’ve told you to get lost! This award is so much more than just a name, its everyone who has won it before me, it’s everyone who has accepted this before me and that’s an incredible line of athletes, and this is unreal to me. I feel so honoured and proud of myself. That is like one of my bucket list dream things.”

Maley won the 2021/22 Suzy Batkovic Medal for being the WNBL’s MVP with 78 votes to finish a solitary vote ahead of 2020 Suzy Batkovic Medallist Steph Talbot on 77 votes with Perth Lynx guard Jackie Young third on 66 votes. The top five was completed by Adelaide Lightning forward Alanna Smith in fourth place on 63 votes and University of Canberra Capitals guard Brittney Sykes in fifth position on 62 votes. Maley became the second Bendigo Spirit player in club history to win the WNBL’s MVP Award, joining point guard Kristi Harrower who won the award in 2009/10.

Superb performances by Maley for Bendigo Spirit throughout the 2021/22 WNBL season contributed to her attending her first Australian Opals training camp and first WNBA training camp with reigning champions Chicago Sky in 2022.

Anneli Maley’s basketball career to date from juniors, SEABL, NBL1 and college through to WNBL, 3×3 and attending training camps with the Australian Opals and Chicago Sky is comprehensively covered below.

Early Life, junior career and debut WNBL season with Adelaide Lightning in 2016/17

Anneli Maley was born on 1 September 1998 and has two brothers, Marty who is two years older and a younger brother. Anneli is from a basketball family, dadPaul Maley had an extended career has a professional basketball player and mum Karianne Maley (nee Berry) played state-league basketball.

Anneli’s dad Paul was born in America and played in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) as an import, amassing 270 NBL games from 1990 to 2001 for four NBL teams and was part of North Melbourne’s 1994 NBL Championship winning team. During Paul’s first two NBL seasons in 1990 and 1991 he averaged a double-double. After his playing career ended Paul has held several sports related roles and has worked at Basketball Australia from April 2015. In March 2019 Paul commenced the role of Executive General Manager, Basketball, at Basketball Australia.

On the influence her parents have had on her, not just on the court but off it as well Anneli told journalist Roy Ward in April 2017 “The great thing with dad is that he has never pushed me to play. My mum played at a high level and I grew up watching dad and he has been a great sounding board and mentor to me. They preach that balance side of things, there always needs to be a balance.”2

Anneli attended Eltham High School and played junior basketball with the Eltham Wildcats. Eltham is approximately 24 kilometres north-east of Melbourne. After playing for the Eltham Wildcats at senior level in an opening round home game during the 2021 NBL1 season Maley told the NBL1 Show in the 20 April 2021 episode “Eltham’s my home club, it’s two minutes down the road, I grew up there, probably spent more time at Eltham Basketball Stadium than I did anywhere else growing up so it was a really cool feeling for me to run out on my home court like that. I train a lot of the kids in the juniors program and I am really involved in the community around there so it was a really cool feeling for me, a full circle moment to be able to play on my home court, there really is no other feeling like it.”

Three weeks after her 15th birthday Maley was a member of the Australian team that won a gold medal at the 2013 FIBA Oceania Under 16 Championship for Women held in Melbourne from September 26 to 28.

Maley moved to the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (BA Coe) in Canberra on a basketball scholarship during 2014. As well as training throughout the week Maley also played for the BA CoE team in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) and represented Australia at under-age tournaments.

At the 2014 FIBA Oceania under 18 Championships held in Fiji from 27 November to 6 December 2014 Maley represented Australia. In the gold medal game against New Zealand Maley scored 12 points and took a game-high 17 rebounds comprised of seven offensive rebounds and 10 defensive rebounds in Australia’s 98-65 victory. At the 2014 FIBA Oceania under 18 Championships Maley played all six games for the gold medal winning Australian team, averaged 10.2 points and ranked first at the tournament with 11 rebounds per game.

At just 16 years of age Maley represented the Australian Gems at the 2015 Under-19 FIBA World Championships held in Chekhov, Russia from 18 to 26 July. Maley was the second youngest member of the team being 11 months older than Ezi Magbegor, several Gems teammates were two years older than Maley including Alanna Smith, Lauren Scherf, Alicia Foling and Kristy Wallace, other teammates included Tahlia Tupaea, and Alexandra Sharp.

The Gems coached by Paul Goriss won their first five games of the tournament to progress to a semi-final where they were defeated by Russia 76-57. With two minutes remaining in the first quarter of the bronze medal game the Gems led Spain 27-9 which set-up a 69-62 victory to win the bronze medal. Maley played all seven games for Australia at the Under-19 World Championships, averaging 4.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 14.5 minutes per game. Maley ranked fifth for the bronze medal winning Gems for rebounds and equal seventh for minutes played.

During the 2014 and 2015 SEABL seasons Maley played a total of 22 games for the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence and averaged 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

After Maley left the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence and returned to Melbourne she was feeling burnt out and took a break from basketball. In her late teenage years Maley was diagnosed with depression and later a panic disorder which was covered extensively in a article published on 16 February 2022 written by Linda Pearce on Maley titled The year away from basketball that saved Anneli Maley’s mental health and career.

In a video published by NBL1 on World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2021, Maley commented “For me I went through a lot of mental health issues when I was in my late teenage years. I didn’t have a lot of idea what was going on at the time and I actually had a really great psychologist that helped me through a lot of things and I am such a big advocate for going out there and talking to the people that are qualified to help us but also having those conversations with other people because I remember feeling like what I was feeling was so taboo and there was no-one else out there that was feeling quite like I was. Once I started to get better and figure out how to ground myself and how to work with that stuff every day, train my brain to find other ways of coping and dealing with stress and anxiety you start to realise that there are a lot of people around you that actually struggle with the same things but it’s just not talked about.”

After an extended break Maley made her basketball return playing for Box Hill Secondary College and had a greater sense of identity outside basketball, including discovering a love of creative arts. When Maley was in year 12 she was part of the Box Hill Secondary College team that won the girls basketball national schools championship.  

Midway through the 2016/17 WNBL season Maley at 18 years of age joined Adelaide Lightning and was part of the core rotation, playing a role off the bench. Adelaide’s head coach was Chris Lucas who had coached Maley previously when he was the head coach of the Australian Sapphires. Maley’s teammates at the Lightning included four-time Australian Olympian Laura Hodges, Colleen Planeta and Alex Ciabattoni.

Adelaide didn’t record their first win of the season until a Melbourne road trip in January during Round 13, defeating the Melbourne Boomers 67-71 at Geelong Arena on 7 January.

The very next day in Adelaide’s second game of their Melbourne road trip against the Jayco Rangers at Dandenong Stadium Maley played a pivotal role in Adelaide gaining the ascendancy and she fell just one rebound short of recording a double-double after starting on the bench. Adelaide Lightning led the Dandenong Rangers 19-15 at quarter-time. Maley was exceptional in the second quarter, scoring 11 points for the term comprised of two three pointers, a lay-up, a two-point jump-shot and a free-throw to help the Lightning extend their lead to 15 points, 45-30 at half-time. Maley finished Adelaide’s 80-73 victory with 16 points – ranked second for the Lightning behind Tayla Roberts with 21 points, made five of 10 field goals at an accuracy of 50%, made two of four three-pointers and took a team-high nine rebounds in 30 minutes and three seconds court-time.

Adelaide finished last on the 2016/17 WNBL ladder with three wins and 21 losses for the season. Maley played 12 WNBL games for Adelaide Lightning and averaged 3.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game. Maley finished in the top five of the WNBL’s 2016/17 Rookie of the Year Award, Melbourne Boomers guard Monique Conti polled 25 of a possible 48 votes to win the award.  

In mid-April 2017 Maley reflected on the 2016/17 WNBL season with Adelaide Lightning, telling journalist Roy Ward “I had such a good time in Adelaide and Chris sparked my love of the game again. The playing group was so positive, no one yelled at each other and Laura Hodges was such a great mentor.”3

During the first half of the 2017 SEABL season Maley played for the Dandenong Rangers. On Friday 19 May in a road game against the Hobart Chargers at the Derwent Entertainment Centre Maley scored 14 points, made all four three-point attempts, took a team-high 14 rebounds and made three assists. Maley recorded five double-doubles from 13 SEABL games for the Dandenong Rangers in 2017 and averaged 9.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.

Maley represented the Australian Gems at the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Italy from 22 to 30 July. Maley took at least nine rebounds in all seven games including 13 rebounds twice, in the opening group game against Japan and in the 65-67 quarter final loss to Russia. In the classification games for fifth to eight place Australia defeated China 70-64 and lost to France 45-47 to finish the tournament in sixth place.

At the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup Maley averaged 3.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 26.1 minutes court-time per game. Anneli led the Gems for rebounds, ranked fourth overall at the tournament in this category and ranked second for Australia in minutes played behind Jazmin Shelley.

College basketball in the United States of America

After the 2016/17 WNBL season concluded Maley was weighing up whether to re-sign with the Adelaide Lightning or play College basketball in the United States of America. After signing to play college basketball for the Oregon Ducks in the USA Maley commented “I didn’t want to let Adelaide down and it was so hard to say no to that but I knew once I got to college that if it doesn’t work I can always come back. If I stayed in the WNBL then I would be closing the door on college.”4

Kelly Graves was the Oregon Duck’s Head Coach. One of Maley’s teammates at Oregon was fellow Australian Morgan Yaeger who has played in the WNBL with Adelaide Lightning and Sydney Uni Flames. Three of Maley’s Oregon Ducks teammates went on to be selected in the first eight picks overall at the 2020 WNBA Draft – Sabrina Ionescu (pick 1), Satou Sabbaly (pick 2) and Ruthy Hebard (pick 8).  

Against Southern Utah on 9 December 2017 Maley scored an equal season-high nine points, made two of three three-pointers, took a season-high eight rebounds and made two assists in 15 minutes court-time.

Oregon had a record of 33 wins and five losses to win the Pac-12 Regular season title and created history by winning the Pac-12 Women’s Tournament for the first time in school history to earn a berth in the NCAA Women’s tournament. The Oregon Ducks won their first three rounds at the NCAA tournament and were defeated by Notre Dame in the elite eight. During the 2017/18 college season Maley played 37 games for the Oregon Ducks off the bench and averaged 2.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 9.9 minutes per game.

After the 2017/18 college season Maley transferred from Oregon to Texas Christian University (TCU). In a 96-47 victory against Mississippi Valley at home on 11 November 2018 Maley scored five points for Texas Christian University and took a game-high eight rebounds in 16 minutes court-time.

Maley played 10 games for TCU including three as a starter in 2018/19 before returning to Australia during the Christmas break. Playing for Texas Christian University during the 2018/19 college season  Maley averaged 2.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 14.6 minutes court-time per game.

In episode 28 of the Shooting the Breeze podcast published in November 2020 Maley commented “For me the college basketball was interesting, it is a very different type of basketball, it’s a bit more individual I feel and again that depends on the conferences and the team that you do play in and play for but the experiences that I had I felt it was less of a team flow game and more of like one on one, which isn’t a bad thing it’s just not really my type of basketball. Then comparing it to the WNBL I do feel like it is more of a team game in Australia in the WNBL and NBL1. I don’t know how to really explain it other than it feels like much more of a group victory (in Australia) if that makes sense and groups are celebrated versus individuals.”

2019 NBL1 season with the Diamond Valley Eagles

In 2019 a new league, NBL1 commenced and was the premier winter basketball league in Southern Australia, taking over from the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) which had been disbanded.

After two seasons playing College Basketball in the United States of America Maley returned to Australia and was the Diamond Valley Eagles captain during the 2019 NBL1 season. In a road game against the Eltham Wildcats on 15 June the scores were tied at 87 points apiece late in the final quarter. After a time-out Diamond Valley executed their play, passing to Maley deep in the key who with nine seconds left made the basket from close range to put Diamond Valley in front by two points with what ended up being the match winning field goal. Maley finished Diamond Valley’s victory with 27 points, 16 rebounds and made six assists.  

For the Diamond Valley Eagles Maley averaged 19.6 points, 15.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game  and was recognised for her outstanding season by being named the NBL1 women’s 2019 Youth Player of the Year.

During Episode 28 of Shooting The Breeze podcast published in November 2020 Maley commented on her 2019 NBL1 season with the Diamond Valley Eagles, saying “In that season I was lucky enough to be able to experiment with moves and combinations and really test myself as a basketball player and that played a lot into my self-confidence and self-belief which I think is one of the biggest things as athletes, that we need to believe in ourselves. That season set me up to be the basketball player that I am and to highlight areas where I still need to grow. It was one of the biggest stepping stones that I had taken.”

2019/20 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers

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. Maley signed with the Southside Flyers for the 2019/20 WNBL season and had previously played at Dandenong Stadium for the Dandenong Rangers  during the first half of the 2017 SEABL season.

Cheryl Chambers was appointed the Southside Flyers head coach. The Southside Flyers played their inaugural WNBL game against the Townsville Fire at Dandenong Stadium on 12 October, the Flyers regular starting line-up throughout the 2019/20 season was Bec Cole and Leilani Mitchell in the backcourt whilst Sara Blicavs, Jenna O’Hea and Mercedes Russell started in the front-court.

In a Southside Flyers 81-62 victory against Townsville Fire at Dandenong Stadium on 13 December Maley started on the bench and recorded a double-double in just 16 minutes and eight seconds court-time. Maley made five of six two-point field goal attempts at an accuracy of 83% to score 10 points and took a game-high 10 rebounds comprised of three offensive and seven defensive rebounds.

Against Sydney Uni Flames in a Flyers 78-61 victory at Dandenong Stadium in their final game of the 2019/20 regular season on 1 February 2020 Maley scored 11 points and took six rebounds – ranked equal second for the game behind teammate Sara Blicavs with eight.

The Southside Flyers recorded 17 wins and four losses during the 2019/20 regular season to finish on top of the WNBL ladder. Southside Flyers won a close semi final series against Adelaide two games to nil, winning both games by three points. Very little separated the Flyers and the University of Canberra Capitals during the Grand Final series, the Flyers held the lead in both games of the Grand Final series at a stage in the last four minutes, however in the dying stages the Capitals were more composed and shot the ball more efficiently to win Game 1 82-80 at Dandenong Stadium and Game 2 71-68 at the AIS Arena on 4 March to win the 2019/20 WNBL Championship.

During the 2019/20 season Maley played 25 games for the Southside Flyers off the bench, averaging 2.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 10.0 minutes per game. Whilst Maley played limited court-time she was able to train alongside and learn from Australian Opals players O’Hea, Blicavs and Mitchell, Australian 3×3 player Cole and WNBA player Russell.

3×3 basketball

In addition to playing the traditional five on five form of basketball Maley has also regularly competed in 3×3 tournaments which has helped her work on weaknesses and develop a more rounded basketball game.

At the 2015 FIBA 3×3 Oceania Championships Maley was a member of the Australian team along with Alexandra Sharp, Chantel Horvat and Elizabeth Tonks. Australian won three of their four Pool A games, with the only loss being to New Zealand 6-9. Australia defeated Cook Islands 19-7 to progress to the final where they again played New Zealand. In a close fought contest Australia prevailed against New Zealand 14-13 to win the tournament.

From 2019 onwards Maley has competed in several NBL 3×3 Pro Hustle events and has had success playing on teams with her partner, Marena Whittle. On 12 November 2021 Maley told “I’d much rather be on Marena’s team than against her because we have won two Hustles together, so hopefully we can go out and win a third.”5

Maley and Whittle have both attended several training camps as a member of Australia’s 3×3 basketball squad and were both members of the 12 player 3×3 Australian women’s squad in 2021. Maley and Whittle both missed out on selection in Australia’s team for the FIBA 3X3 Olympic Qualifier Tournament held in Austria from 26-30 May 2021 with Bec Cole, Maddie Garrick, Alice Kunek and Keely Froling being selected in the team. Australia finished sixth at the tournament and missed out on qualifying for the Olympics, having been required to finish in the top three to earn an Olympic Games berth.    

Australia have qualified for the 3×3 basketball tournament at the 2022 Commonwealth Games with the 3×3 tournament to include eight countries and be held in Birmingham from 29 July to 2 August. 

During an interview on the 20 April, 2021 NBL1 Show episode co-host Peter Hooley asked Maley “You do a lot of 3×3 stuff, part of the National squad for Australia in 3×3. What is the carry-over from a 3×3 game, training and preparation for that and then you go and play in a normal NBL1 game, anything that carries over or do you treat them both completely different?” Maley responded “I think that since I have started 3×3 my five on five game has excelled. I think that it really gives you the tools to be able to work on those one on one break-down stuff. It like levelled up my offensive game like nothing else, I think that when you are training for 3×3 obviously there is like no fouls it is very physical and fast-paced and you can’t hide your weaknesses. It is a fast-paced game so when you get it you have to be able to shoot, you have to be able drive, you have to be able to pass. In the 3×3 trainings and the games that we play against each other and stuff, I think that it has equipped me with the skills to carry over to five on five. The more 3×3 I do the more comfortable I feel with my one on one game in a five on five situation as well as the fitness that you get from a 3×3 game and the ability to finish through physicality, there’s just so many benefits that I carry over from one to the other.”

In the 2020 WNBL season with the Sydney Uni Flames Maley led the league in rebounding

On 24 June 2020 the Sydney Uni Flames announced that they had signed Maley for the 2020/21 WNBL season. Sydney Uni Flames head coach Katrina Hibbert commented to WNBL Media on MaleyShe’s known for her athleticism, energy, effort, and rebounding abilities – just to name a few. I’m looking forward to welcoming her into our program this season as she is a natural leader through her approach to basketball on and off the court. It’s going to be wonderful to see her continue her development and continue to blossom under a style of play that will compliment her versatility.”6

Due to the impact of COVID-19 the 2020 WNBL season had a very different structure to previous 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 at three locations, Townsville, Cairns and Mackay. The regular season was condensed to five rounds commencing 11 November and each team played 13 regular season games.

Regarding the shorter intense 2020 WNBL season Maley told Shooting the Breeze “I kind of love the concept, think about it, so much basketball, we don’t have to train, everything that we love about basketball is the games and we get to have that every (other) day almost. Selfishly other people’s bodies may not think the same but I love the concept.”

In Sydney’s opening game of the 2020 WNBL season on 12 November against the Melbourne Boomers at Townsville Maley started in Sydney’s front court along with Nat Burton and Lauren Scherf whilst Sydney co-captain’s Lauren Mansfield and Alison Schwagmeyer–Belger started in the back-court. Maley took at least 10 rebounds in a game for the first time of the 2020 season in Sydney’s third game against the Southside Flyers on 15 November at Townsville Stadium, taking a game-high 12 rebounds which included a phenomenal nine offensive rebounds – the second ranked players in this category took three offensive rebounds for the game.    

Having played off the bench previously throughout her WNBL career Maley relished the opportunity to be a starting forward for Sydney in 2020 and gained continuity and confidence as the season progressed to amazingly develop into the WNBL’s most dominant rebounder. From the 15 November game against Southside onwards 185 centimetre tall Maley took at least eight rebounds in every game for the rest of the season and took more than 13 rebounds in a game six times.

During a Round 3 game on Monday 23 November Maley scored five points, took a game-high 20 rebounds comprised of five offensive and 15 defensive, and made four assists in Sydney’s 74-67 victory against Perth at Cairns Pop-Up Arena. Maley’s tally of 20 rebounds set the season-high by a player in a single-game during the 2020 WNBL season. Maley took 15 rebounds in Sydney’s third Round 3 game against Townsville Fire on 29 November at Cairns Pop-Up Arena. For her excellent performances during Round 3 Maley was recognised and selected in the WNBL’s Round 3 Team of the Week.

Against eventual 2020 champions the Southside Flyers Maley recorded a massive double-double in Sydney’s penultimate game of the season at Townsville Stadium on 10 December. Maley scored 19 points – ranked second for Sydney behind Mansfield with 21 points, made seven of 14 field goals at an accuracy of 50%, made two of four three-pointers and took a game-high 17 rebounds in a 77 -81 loss.     

In each of Sydney’s three Round 5 games Maley took at least 14 rebounds and she earnt selection in the WNBL’s Round 5 Team of the Week, her second TOTW selection for the season to be the only Sydney Uni Flames player to be selected multiple times, other Flames to be selected in a TOTW were Scherf in Round 2 and Mansfield in Round 5.

During the 2020 WBL season Maley played all 13 games for Sydney and averaged 7.9 points, 12.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 29.6 minutes per game. During the 2020 WNBL regular season Maley ranked in the league’s top 10 for free throws made with 30 and ranked equal second at Sydney for steals per game with Mansfield, behind Schwagmeyer–Belger.

During the 2020 hub season Maley flourished in a starting role with the Sydney Uni Flames to average 7.9 points, a league-leading 12.1 rebounds and 29.6 minutes court-time per game whilst also impressing with her defense. At 185 centimetres tall Maley consistently battles for rebounds against bigger bodies, however with the ability to read the flight of the ball superbly, together with great body positioning and timing Maley averaged 8.4 defensive rebounds and 3.7 offensive rebounds per game in 2020 to lead the WNBL in both categories. Highlighting how dominant Maley’s rebounding was her 12.1 rebounds per game during the 2020 regular season was 31.5% more than the second ranked player in the league – Melbourne Boomers forward/centre Cayla George with 9.2 rebounds per game. During the 2020 WNBL regular season Maley ranked in the league’s top 10 for free throws made with 30 and ranked equal second at Sydney for steals per game.  

2021 NBL1 season with the Eltham Wildcats

NBL1 expanded for the 2020 season with the original NBL1 league rebranded as NBL1 South. NBL1 North and NBL1 Central conferences were established. In 2022 each of the five mainland states in Australia has an NBL1 conference, comprised of Victoria – NBL1 South, Queensland – NBL1 North, South Australia – NBL1 Central, Western Australia – NBL1 West and New South Wales – NBL1 East.  

When the Eltham Wildcats announced that they had recruited Maley for the 2020 NBL1 South season Eltham Wildcats Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Greg Jeffers commented “As one of the club’s best ever junior players, but also a player who has proven herself at this level to be amongst the best, it was natural that trying to get Anneli home to Eltham was a main target of our off-season. She lives here, was a student at Eltham High, her family are involved with us and she built the base of her game here, but more importantly, the next group of young Wildcat girls that want to follow in her footsteps can support her.”7

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of indoor sports stadiums in Victoria the 2020 NBL1 South season was cancelled. Diamond Valley Eagles women’s Head Coach Grant Spencer commented to “From the moment 2020 was cancelled, she just kept asking how she could help the kids get through it, but also had eyes to the 2021 season. We’ve had a lot of kids training with us and Anneli knows they look to her, they follow her lead and her conduct and temperament around them is exactly what we’ve wanted, as have all of the key NBL1 players.”8

On playing for the Eltham Wildcats at home in the opening round of the 2021 NBL1 season Maley commented during the NBL1 Show episode on 20 April, 2021 “Eltham’s my home club it’s two minutes down the road, I grew up there, probably spent more time at Eltham Basketball Stadium than I did anywhere else growing up so it was a really cool feeling for me to run out on my home court like that. I train a lot of the kids in the juniors program and I am really involved in the community around there so it was a really cool feeling for me, a full circle moment to be able to play on my home court, there really is no other feeling like it.”

Due to COVID-19 and restrictions in place only half of the 2021 NBL1 South season was completed. On 1 September 2021 Coles Express NBL1 General Manager Dean Anglin commented: “We are disappointed to announce the cancellation of the 2021 NBL1 South season. With a combined 154 men’s and women’s games still to be played, there will be no champion and no individual awards for the 2021 NBL1 South season.”9

During the 2021 NBL1 South season Maley played 12 games for the Eltham Wildcats and averaged 17.3 points and a league-leading 23.4 rebounds per game – a 156% improvement on her lofty mark of 15.0 rebounds per game in the 2019 NBL1 season.

Emerging Opals and Australian Opals

In July 2019 Maley was a member of the Emerging Opals team at the World University Games held in Italy. The Emerging Opals were undefeated throughout their six games at the tournament, defeating the Unites States of America in the final 80-72 to win the gold medal.

On 18 January 2022 Maley was selected in an Australian Opals 16 player squad for a training camp to be held in Sydney from 31 January to 4 February. After being named in the squad Maley told “I really love the Opals culture and what they stand for, my idol growing up was Penny Taylor I really loved the way that she played and went about it. For now, I’m focused on each week playing with Bendigo Spirit, getting a spot at the camp is fantastic. Anyone who knows me will tell you I will put in 100%, probably more actually. There are some exceptional players in this squad I’m really happy to be here and thank my coach Tracy York at Bendigo Spirit who has been a big part in improving my game.”10

Maley attended the Australian Opals training camp in Sydney but missed out on selection in the 12 player team for the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Serbia from Thursday 10 February to Sunday 13 February (host city time).

On missing out on the Opals 12 player team for the World Cup Qualifying Tournament Maley commented on television station ABC in a post-game interview on February 5 after Bendigo’s victory against Adelaide “I wouldn’t even say that it was a disappointment, I felt privileged that I was able to go to one of those, it was my first one ever, I felt like a sponge and I soaked it all up, either way the fact that I was able to be there and learn off the other players and learn of Sandy and Chez it felt like an awesome experience. I feel like I kind of picked up from that Opals camp as if I was still going, haven’t really had a break yet. I wish the best luck to the girls that went to Serbia, they’re a brilliant team and everyone can say that we are excited to watch them smash it over there.”

Before the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Serbia Milestones and Misses published an article with player profiles of all 12 members of the Australian Opals team. A link to this article as well the Australian Opals category of Milestones and Misses is below:

At the World Cup Qualifying Tournament the Opals recorded two victories and one loss, defeating Brazil 65-52 in their first game and Korea 79-61 in their third and final game. After leading Serbia 56-53 at three quarter-time in their second game Serbia outscored the Opals 15-25 in the last quarter and the Opals were defeated 71-78. 

Sydney will 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.

The Draw for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup was held in Sydney on 3 March, 2022 with Opals two-time Olympic medallist Michele Timms drawing the nations. Australia were drawn in Group B for the 2022 World Cup along with France, Serbia, Japan, Nigeria and Canada. At the World Cup there will be two groups of six teams with the top four teams in each group progressing to the quarter finals.

During a panel discussion after the World Cup draw several experts were asked if there was anyone outside the Opals team for the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament that they would like to see represent the Opals at the World Cup in Sydney. Timms commented “I would take Anneli Maley. She’s a possession animal, and there’s no reason why she wouldn’t be a possession animal internationally. That can be infectious – (she’s got a) dynamic quality that I like in a team. I’d just love to see Anneli in the green and gold.”

On 14 April 2022 Maley was selected in an Australian Opals extended 21 player squad for a three-game series against Japan to be played in New South Wales in late May. Japan won the silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and with a smaller line-up, speed and three-point shooting ability have a very good record against the Opals during tournament play in the past five years. In all three FIBA Women’s Asia Cups that the Opals have competed in Japan have won the gold medal. Australia won the silver medal in 2017 and the bronze medal in 2019 and 2021. The first two games of the Australia vs Japan series will be played at Quaycentre in Sydney on 27 and 29 May and game 3 will be played at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on 31 May.

Playing for Bendigo Spirit in 2021/22 Maley wins the WNBL’s MVP Award

After Maley signed with WNBL club Bendigo Spirit the club’s head coach Tracy York told WNBL Media in early May 2021 “We are extremely excited to sign Anneli to a two-year deal. She is a relentless rebounder and fearless competitor, and we think she fits well with the team we are building and want to put on the floor.”11

During the 2020 WNBL season Bendigo Spirit were the only club that didn’t have multiple players average more than 5.0 rebounds per game and with the only player in this category, with Carly Ernst (7.5 rebounds per game) expected to miss the 2021/22 season after the birth of her son Kylan in September 2021 (note that Ernst joined the Melbourne Boomers in January 2022 and played the rest of the 2021/22 WNBL season) recruiting an exceptional rebounder was high on Bendigo’s off-season wish-list. The recruitment of Maley significantly bolstered Bendigo’s rebounding, however in the off-season Maley also worked on her outside shooting and wanted to have a greater impact on offense in 2021/22.

Bendigo lost all 13 games during the 2020 WNBL hub season in North Queensland. Bendigo had a new look starting line-up with point guard Tessa Lavey being the only member of the Spirit’s starting five in both 2020 and 2021/22. Maley was one of four starters for rival WNBL clubs in the 2020 season that were recruited by Bendigo for the 2021/22 season. Other players in this category were point guard Leilani Mitchell (Southside Flyers), centre Megan McKay (Townsville Fire) and shooting guard Maddie Garrick who returned to the Bendigo Spirit after six seasons playing for the Deakin Melbourne Boomers including being a Boomers co-captain in 2019/20 and 2020. In the 2020 WNBL season Mitchell led the league for assists per game, Garrick ranked in the top 10 for three-pointers made and McKay led the league for field goal accuracy among players that made at least 10 field goals for the season.

Lavey was one of five players from Bendigo Spirit’s 2020 roster that suited up for the club again in 2021/22 along with Demi Skinner, Mary Goulding, Piper Dunlop and Cassidy McLean. Skinner and Dunlop ranked third and fourth respectively for scoring at Bendigo in 2020. Maley was one of two players from Sydney’s 2020 team to join Bendigo along with fellow forward Carly Boag.  

In their opening game of the 2021/22 WNBL season Bendigo Spirit’s starting line-up was Lavey, Michell, Garrick, Maley and McKay against the Southside Flyers at Dandenong Stadium on 4 December 2021. Against the Flyers Maley scored an equal team-high 15 points along with Lavey and took a game-high 14 rebounds in an 83-94 loss. Maley in her 51st WNBL game led or equal led her team’s scoring in a WNBL game for the first time of her career. Against the Flyers Maley made seven of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 46% and also made five assists – ranked second for Bendigo behind Mitchell with seven.

Against the Melbourne Boomers at Bendigo Stadium in the Spirit’s second game of the season on 8 December, the scores were tied at 32 apiece with seven minutes and thirty seconds remaining in the third quarter. Maley scored 10 points in the remainder of the third quarter to spark an 18-12 Bendigo run which set up a six point lead at three quarter time. Bendigo went on to record an upset 63-58 victory to record the Spirit’s first WNBL win since their final game of the 2019/20 regular season against Townsville Fire on 1 February, 2020 at Townsville Stadium. Maley finished the victory against the Boomers with a game-high 18 points, made five of nine field goal attempts at an accuracy of 55.6%, made all eight free-throw attempts, took a team-high 13 rebounds and had an equal game-high two blocked shots.

On 16 December Bendigo Spirit announced that they had recruited guard Alex Wilson who averaged 4.4 assists per game during the 2020 WNBL season to rank sixth in the league and also ranked fourth in the league for minutes played. Wilson made her first appearance for the Spirit in their third game of the season on 19 December in a home game against the Melbourne Boomers.

During three WNBL seasons before 2021/22 Maley made a total of 11 three-pointers with a season best of four three-pointers twice, in 2016/17 for Adelaide Lightning and 2020 for the Sydney Uni Flames. In Bendigo Spirit’s fourth game of the 2021/22 season on 22 December Maley put on a shooting exhibition against the University of Canberra Capitals to score a career-high 38 points, made 14 of 20 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 70% and was even more effective from long-range, making five of six three-pointers at an astronomical accuracy of 83.3% to surpass her previous career-high of four three’s made in a season in a single incredible game. Against the Capitals in Round 4 at the National Convention Centre Maley took a game-high 20 rebounds comprised of nine offensive and 11 defensive. For her incredible Round 4 game against the Capitals Maley was named the WNBL’s Player of the Week, Maley’s 38 points against the Capitals was the most scored by a player in a WNBL game during the 2021/22 season.

Due to COVID cases among Bendigo Spirit and rival WNBL clubs it was just under a month until Bendigo played their next game on 21 January against Townsville Fire at Bendigo Stadium. In the week before Bendigo’s home game against Townsville Mitchell announced that due to being pregnant she would be unable to play for Bendigo for the remainder of the season.

For the second game in a row Maley set what would end up being a season-high amongst all WNBL players in a major statistical category in the home game against Townsville, taking 24 rebounds comprised of an equal game-high six offensive rebounds and a game-high 18 defensive rebounds. In a dominant performance Maley also scored a game-high 18 points, made three assists, had two steals and one blocked shot.

From 31 January to 4 February Maley attended her first ever Australian Opals training camp in Sydney. The day after the Opals training camp finished Maley was influential in Bendigo Spirit defeating Adelaide Lightning 74-62 in a road game at the Lights Community and Sports Centre. Maley scored 26 points, took 21 rebounds and had five steals to set game-highs in all three categories.

In the post-game interview on Fox Sports after Bendigo’s victory against Adelaide Rachael Sporn commented to Maley “I know you have always been known as an elite rebounder but now you have that license to be creative offensively and you are thriving on that.” Maley responded “Yeah, today my outside shots weren’t dropping but I think what helps with that is I always contest my own misses even and I am getting o-boards and a way to get myself into rhythm is o-board put-backs. I think when you play freely and you play without being in your head that is always the best way to play basketball and that is how I feel at the moment.”

Maley said “Ever since I can remember playing even as a little kid I just wanted the ball and I don’t know where that really came from, dad was a shooter, he wasn’t really a defensive player, he’ll tell you otherwise. I have always just wanted to have extra possessions for the team because I think basketball is a game of possession and the team that takes more shots and makes more shots wins. The drive for me has always been for the people around me, it’s fun to play that way, It is kind of a meditative state when you go out there and you are playing basketball and you are not thinking about anything else then the game you are playing, over time that has been instilled in me more and more as an adult to kind of be in the moment, there is no better way to be in the moment then to just go hard at every possession and be the best you can at what you are doing.”

Bendigo Spirit head coach Tracy York commented on Maley “She’s unbelievable, that’s a player that you never have to coach effort as you could see, she is just a machine, doesn’t stop, keeps fighting the whole time. There is always something in her tank and she has been at Opals camp all week so even better, she is the benchmark for our group to go let’s go get some rebounds as well.” 

The victory against Adelaide on 5 February ended a six game losing streak for Bendigo and was their second win of the season. Maley was recognised for her superb performance by being named the WNBL’s Player of the Week for Round 10.

In Bendigo’s first Round 12 game at home against Adelaide Maley scored a game-high 21 points, took a game-high 12 rebounds, made four assists and took an equal team-high two steals in a 77-84 loss on 24 February.

Against the Southside Flyers at MyState Bank Arena in Hobart, Tasmania in Round 12 on 26 February Maley played a brilliant all-round game to achieve the rare feat of scoring more than 30 points, take more than 15 rebounds and make more than five assists in a game. Maley scored a game-high 35 points which included making 13 of 14 free-throws, took a total of 18 rebounds comprised of nine defensive and nine offensive to set game-highs in all three categories and had a game-high six assists in a phenomenal performance playing the full 40 minutes in Bendigo’s 96-80 victory over the Flyers. Maley was named the WNBL’s Round 12 Player of the Week and was the only player in the league named the POTW three times during the 2021/22 season.

During Season 8 Episode 13: Chaos Ball with Anneli Maley of the Basket Case podcast published on 4 March Maley commented on Bendigo’s team “I’m excited by our group, I really am, I think that if you watched us play we are an incredibly talented group of women, we run the ball really well, our defense is up and in, it’s a fast paced game, we like to play a running game. We don’t like the half-court sets, we prefer the fast up and back. We are young, we are quick, we are athletic and we are able to play that 40 minutes of running game. I think that now we have all started to gel together and learn together. From Bendigo Spirit last season there is one returning starter (Lavey), obviously it was going to take us a couple of games to gel but now we can see the four quarters of basketball that we can put together.”

On March 6 Bendigo defeated eventual 2021/22 WNBL Champions Melbourne Boomers 68-65 in a road game at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville. In the victory Maley scored an equal game-high 17 points along with Boomers point guard Lindsay Allen, took 15 rebounds and had an equal game-high four assists along with Boomers shooting guard Garrick. Maley was one of three Spirit players to score at least 13 points, being joined in this category by Lavey (16 points) and Garrick (13).

After winning only one of their first eight games of the 2021/22 WNBL season Bendigo Spirit were a much improved team in the second half of the season, winning six of their last eight games to finish the regular season fifth on the ladder with seven wins and nine losses. A game between Bendigo and Perth which was initially postponed was unable to be rescheduled which resulted in the two clubs only playing 16 games for the season, one less than the 17 games played by the other six clubs in the WNBL. Late in the 2021/22 WNBL season Maley did some special comments work for TV Broadcaster Kayo.

Entering the 2021/22 WNBL season Maley hadn’t led her team in scoring in any of her 50 WNBL games and hadn’t averaged 10.0 points per game in any of her first three seasons, having a career-best of 7.9 points per game with the Sydney Uni Flames in 2020.

Maley scored at least 13 points in 15 of her 16 games for Bendigo in 2021/22 and fell a solitary point short of recording a double-double in every game, scoring nine points against the Melbourne Boomers in a home game on 19 December. Anneli scored over 19 points in a game six times including two games with at least 35 points per game and took the massive leap from never leading her team for scoring in a WNBL game before the 2021/22 season to leading the league in 2021/22 for both points per game (19.8) and points in a single game (38).

On her offensive improvement in the 2021/22 WNBL season Maley told Basket Case podcast “In terms of the way that my stats have changed it is all mental, I have always had the skill-set and always put in the work. If you look at my past two NBL1 seasons I have always been able to put points on the board but making that mental steps to the WNBL and being able to produce that at a national level is a different thing all and of itself so I think my biggest jump actually came in my self-belief. Nothing has changed in terms of the hours that I put in or the amount of work that goes in off the court, the only thing that has really changed is my mental attitude, the way that I believe in myself and the way that I feel my teammates believe in me and the self-belief instilled in me by my coach. 90% of the game is mental and I feel that was always a missing piece of the puzzle for me, I boxed myself in as a defensive player and never allowed myself room to grow in that other space.”

In Maley’s first three WNBL seasons she made a total of 11 three-pointers at an accuracy of 19.5%. In 2021/22 with the Bendigo Spirit Maley was a much greater threat from long-range, making 18 of 59 three-pointers at an accuracy of 30.5%.

During the 2021/22 WNBL season Maley played all 16 games for the Bendigo Spirit and averaged 19.8 points – an amazing 250% improvement on her previous best, 15.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocked shots and 36.9 minutes per game to set new career-highs in all six categories. In 2021/22 Maley led the WNBL for points, rebounding, free-throws made and minutes played per game, ranked equal 15th for steals, equal 16th for assists and equal 22nd for blocked shots.

In the end of season WNBL Awards Maley was named in the 2021/22 All-WNBL first team along with Adelaide Lightning guard/forward Steph Talbot, Perth Lynx guard Jackie Young, Canberra Capitals guard Brittney Sykes and Melbourne Boomers forward centre Ezi Magbegor. The five players selected on the All-WNBL second team were Adelaide Lightning forward Alanna Smith, Melbourne Boomers point guard Lindsay Allen, Melbourne Boomers forward/centre Cayla George, Canberra Capitals forward Kelsey Griffin and Perth Lynx guard Marina Mabrey. Maley is the only one of the 10 players selected on a 2021/22 All-WNBL team that hasn’t played in the WNBA – seven of the 10 played in the WNBA during the 2021 season – Australian Opals representatives Talbot, Smith and Magbegor along with Americans Young, Sykes, Allen and Mabrey.

During the 2021/22 WNBL season Maley consolidated her standing as the league’s most dominant rebounder and took her offensive game to another stratosphere to lead the league in scoring, earn All-WNBL team selection for the first time and also won the Suzy Batkovic Medal as league MVP with 78 votes, one vote ahead of Adelaide Lightning captain Steph Talbot.  

After no player averaged a double-double during the 2020 WNBL season Maley was one of three players to achieve the feat in 2021/22 along with Cayla George and Perth Lynx centre Lauren Scherf. Maley led the league for both offensive rebounds (5.2 per game) and defensive rebounds (10.2 per game) for the second season in a row in 2021/22. Only two players took as many total rebounds per game as Maley took defensive rebounds per game –  George (10.6 rebounds per game) and Scherf (10.2 rebounds per game). Maley’s 15.7 total rebounds per game were 48% more than the second ranked George which highlights how dominant Maley was on the boards.  

On April 5 Bendigo Spirit announced that Tracy York had resigned as head coach. In an article published on York commented “After much thought and two impacted COVID seasons with extended time away from my family, I have made the decision to ask for a release from my contract with the Bendigo Spirit. Having new recruit Anneli Maley winning the team and WNBL League MVP was great for the club and showed what relentless energy and effort can achieve.”12

In a video published by Basketball Australia Media Jessica Robinson commented to Maley “Individually this was a mega breakout season for you, you have gone back to back with leading rebounder and now the leading scorer as well.” Maley responded “I didn’t think that that was going to be my year this year. I spent a lot of time in the off-season working on my offensive game but I didn’t think it was going to pay off in this dividends. I put in the work, I worked really hard, a lot of late nights at Eltham High School, Greg Jeffers the GM gave me the keys and I was in there most nights getting shots up, playing one on one against Marena, I dragged my brothers into it, we’d play two on two. I try and present the same, no matter who we are playing against, I am always going to give the energy, I am always going to go after every board, I am always going to play hard defense and I am always going to drive and run the lanes and I think that because my game isn’t so dependent on how well I shoot I still have impacts in other areas.”

Maley will be playing for Bendigo Spirit again in the 2022/23 WNBL season, having signed a two-year contract during free agency in the lead-up to the 2021/22 season. The free agency period of the 2022/23 WNBL season opened earlier this week on Monday 2 May. Mary Goulding is the only other player currently signed by Bendigo Spirit for the 2022/23 season.

WNBA training camp with Chicago Sky in 2022

On 14 March 2022 the Chicago Sky announced that they had signed Maley to a training camp contract. Four of the top five scorers from Chicago Sky’s 2021 WNBA championship winning team return for the Sky in 2022 – Kahleah Copper, Candace Parker, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot. Ruthy Hebard who was a teammate of Maley’s at the Oregon Ducks is another WNBA Championship winning player from Chicago’s 2021 roster that is returning. James Wade is in his fourth season as Chicago’s head coach and general manager in 2022. In the off-season Chicago recruited 2019 WNBA Finals MVP Emma Messeman.

In an article published on on 22 April, 2022 Maley told Basketball Australia Media “The opportunity to go to Chicago, to a WNBA training camp, I would be happy to go for one day, I’m just so excited and I don’t think there’s anything that can ruin the experience for me. I’ve never been to Chicago, it’s another unreal thing, I feel giddy and excited and not nervous!”13

Attending the training camp with Chicago Sky will be a great experience for Maley however there will be strong competition for spots on Chicago’s playing roster for the 2022 WNBA season. Each of the 12 WNBA teams can have a maximum of 12 players on their roster however at the Chicago Sky Media Day: Press Conference 2022 on 3 May Head Coach Wade commented “Our roster will have to be cut to 11, more of the teams that have the veteran players are probably going to be at 11.” Usually the reason for a WNBA club only having 11 players on their is that they don’t have room in their salary cap to sign a 12th player, this is the case with Chicago in 2022.

Four of the players that will make Chicago’s 11 player squad for 2022 in 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Copper, Julie Allemand, Rebekah Gardner and Li Yueru haven’t attended training camp and will join the Sky after the start of the season due to being overseas. With Chicago having seven available players from their 11 player roster at the start of the season the Sky will be able to sign replacement players under the hardship exception. These replacement players can play WNBA games for Chicago but will be waived when Copper, Allemand, Gardner and Yueru return to Chicago from overseas.  

In a pre-season home game for Chicago Sky at Wintrust Arena on 25 April Maley played 16 minutes off the bench, scored nine points making three of five field goal attempts including her only three-pointer and took an equal team-high five assists in a 77-92 loss.

Against Indiana Fever in a road game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on 30 April Maley scored seven points, making three of four field goal attempts at an accuracy of 75%, including making her only three-pointer and took four rebounds in 18 minutes and 46 seconds court-time in a 75-79 loss.

Parker and Quiqley didn’t play in either of Chicago’s two pre-season games. Messeman played both pre-season games and Vandersloot and Hebard played the second pre-season game against Indiana.

Chicago Sky commence their 2022 WNBA season with a home game against the LA Sparks on Friday 6 May. At the time of Chicago Sky’s Media Day on 3 May they had 19 players on their roster and need to reduce the roster down to 11 players before their season opener. At that point in time five players on Chicago’s roster had at least six seasons WNBA experience –  Copper (6 seasons), Messeman (7), Vandersloot (11), Quigley (13) and Parker (14). Seven players on Sky’s roster had between one and four years WNBA experience and Maley was one of seven rookies.  

At the Chicago Sky Media Day: Press Conference 2022 on Tuesday 3 May 14 players on the Chicago Sky roster and coach James Wade made an appearance either individually or in a pair. Maley appeared alongside Serbian forward/centre Tina Krajisnik. Maley was asked “Obviously this is your first time in a WNBA position how does that feel, your first team is the reigning champs, how is that experience for you?” Maley responded “It is an honour I would say. Just being invited to a WNBA camp itself is a huge tick off my bucket list, something that I have always wanted to do. I feel very privileged to be here. The fact that it is Chicago adds another layer of excitement to it, I feel like I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face since I got hear (laughs), if I am honest. It has been really enjoyable, this experience is a once in a lifetime thing, especially for the reigning champs as well, it is very exciting.”

Maley and Krajisnik were asked “What would it mean to play this season with the Sky?” “Maley responded “It’s pretty exciting and you can kind of tell by the energy that we both have. To be able to play with the Sky this year would be an incredible opportunity, but not just because of this city and the team but because of the players that are on this roster. It’s a hall of fame roster, it’s a star-studded roster, its basketball royalty in a lot of sense.” Krajisnik added “For me this is the best team. If someone said which team (do) you want I would go to Chicago definitely.” Maley smiling and in agreement says “Yeah.”

During the Chicago Sky Media Day Press Conference a journalist asked “Is there anything that James Wade has talked to you about what his expectations are for you?” Maley replied “Just to play hard. We are here for a reason obviously, you get invited because of what you bring. His instructions are just to play hard and play with passion. Do what it is that he noticed us for. Play great defense and get the ball into the hands of our stars, that’s the message.”

During Chicago Sky’s media day Head Coach James Wade commented on reducing Chicago’s roster size before the start of the season “It is going to be difficult, we have some capable players and we know with the roster sizes the way they are and the influx of talent that has come into the league teams are going to have to make some difficult decisions. What we are looking for is not just the level of play but also the chemistry that comes along with building around the players that you have and complementing those players. So it is going to be a lot of tough decisions, not just for myself but the rest of GM’s (General Manager’s) and coaches in this league as well and we are probably going to have some players that are actually WNBA players that are left without jobs for the moment.”  

On Wednesday 4 May Maley was one of five players waived by Chicago Sky. Several of the players that attended Chicago Sky training camp and are waived before the start of the 2022 WNBA season are likely to be signed as replacement players for Copper, Allemand, Gardner and Yueru which will enable them to have a brief stint playing in the WNBA for Chicago until the players they are replacing return.


At under-age level Maley represented Australia at several tournaments including the 2017 FIBA Under-19 World Cup where Maley led the Gems with 10.7 rebounds per game to rank fourth overall at the tournament in this category.

For much of Maley’s career, from SEABL/NBL1 and College through to WNBL it has been common for Maley’s rebounds in a game to exceed for points tally. This was still the case in the 2020 WNBL season when Maley averaged 7.9 points and a league-high 12.1 rebounds per game for the Sydney Uni Flames.

Many people had boxed Maley in as a defensive and rebounding player including Maley herself. Through playing 3×3 basketball and the traditional five on five format in NBL1 Maley had been working hard on improving her all-round skill-set and strengthening her one on one and offensive capabilities.

In a quote from the opening paragraph of this article Maley told the Bendigo Advertiser in early May 2021 “It would be cool to be known as not just a rebounder. I want to be an offensive threat as well.” The stepping-stones by Maley at 3×3 level and in NBL1 combined with greater self-belief in her offensive game and confidence instilled in her by Bendigo Spirit coach Tracy York and her teammates came to fruition and contributed to Maley having a breakout 2021/22 WNBL season and amazingly increase her scoring by 250% from 7.9 points per game in 2020 to a league-leading 19.8 points per game in 2021/22. Maley averaged 15.7 rebounds per game with Bendigo to lead the league in this category for the second season in a row and earnt All-WNBL first team selection. As the season progressed a new-look Bendigo Spirit increased gelled together to win six of their last eight games of the season.

During the 2021/22 WNBL season Anneli Maley completed the evolution from exceptional rebounder to Suzy Batkovic Medal winner, well and truly demonstrating that she was an offensive threat by leading the league in scoring as well as leading the WNBL in rebounding for the second consecutive season. Maley’s superb performances for Bendigo Spirit in the 2021/22 WNBL season also contributed to her attending training camps with both the Australian Opals and WNBA club Chicago Sky, in the process ticking two more items off her bucket list.

Article and photographs by Dean Andrews

Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777















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.

Links to the Milestones and Misses homepage and WNBL category are below:

The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. From 2020 onwards articles have been published on the following sportspeople:


Anneli Maley

Lindsay Allen

Jade Melbourne

Maddison Rocci

Cayla George

Kelly Wilson

Steph Talbot

Bec Cole

Aimie Rocci

Abby Bishop

Tessa Lavey

Ezi Magbegor

Zitina Aokuso

Leilani Mitchell

Maddie Garrick

Sara Blicavs


Nathan Sobey


Ashleigh Riddell

Hayley Miller

Darcy Vescio

Tessa Lavey

Georgia Patrikios

Alyce Parker

Tyla Hanks

Tyanna Smith

Tarni White

Caitlin Greiser


Sam Walsh

Jack Steele

Luke Jackson

Harry McKay

Seb Ross

Nicky Winmar

Jayden Short

Clayton Oliver

Lenny Hayes

Tim Membrey

Rowan Marshall

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