Early in her ninth WNBL season Bendigo Spirit shooting guard Abbey Wehrung played her 150th WNBL game in a 20 point victory against Sydney Flames in a home game at Red Energy Arena on 12 November in Round 2 of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season. Wehrung had an equal game-high six assists in her milestone game and is averaging 4.7 assists per game, ranked eighth in the league.
Wehrung’s 150 WNBL games are comprised of 80 games for the University of Canberra Capitals from 2014/15 to 2017/18, 41 games for Bendigo Spirit and 29 games for Adelaide Lightning in 2020 and 2021/22.
The 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season is 26 year old Wehrung’s third season for Bendigo Spirit having previously played for the club in 2018/19 and 2019/20. Bendigo head coach Kennedy Kereama told WNBL Media “Abbey is a phenomenal talent and a wonderful human being. Her work ethic, her experience in the league, her versatility as a player, both on the offensive and defensive end, she can play multiple roles and has a number of boxes that she ticks with this team. For us to be able to bring someone of her calibre back to the program is a massive win for the Bendigo Spirit, she’s going to be a huge asset.”1
Abbey grew up in the country Victorian Town of Korweinguboora which is approximately 12 kilometres from Daylesford. After playing basketball with family members on the dirt court in their backyard Wehrung first played for a basketball team at nine years of age for her school team at Mowbray College. Wehrung played basketball for Ballarat Basketball Association and progressed through representative levels to play for Vic Country at Australian Junior Championships. Wehrung mas a member of the Victorian team that won the gold medal at the 2013 and 2014 Under 20 Australian Junior Championships.
In 2012 and 2013 Wehrung had a basketball scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. At the 2011 FIBA Under 16 Oceania Championship for Women Wehrung was a member of the Australian team that defeated New Zealand in all three games and won the gold medal. Wehrung represented the Australian Sapphires at the 2012 FIBA Under 17 World Championship for Women held in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Wehrung scored 19 points in a quarter final against USA and ranked in the Sapphires top three at the tournament in steals, scoring and minutes played per game.
After graduating from the AIS in December 2013 Wehrung made her WNBL debut with the University of Canberra Capitals at 18 years of age in 2014/15 and averaged 11.7 minutes per game. Wehrung’s scoring output increased rapidly at the Capitals to average 8.2 points per game in 24.0 minutes court-time in 2016/17. In both the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons Abbey ranked in the WNBL’s top 10 for three-pointers made per game and had a three-point accuracy above 40.0%.
During the 2018/19 and 2019/20 WNBL seasons with the Bendigo Spirit 178 centimetre tall Wehrung averaged more than 10.0 points per game. Wehrung made 1.9 three-pointers per game in 2019/20, ranked equal seventh in the WNBL and had a three-point accuracy of 44.6%. Against the University of Canberra Capitals in Round 15, 2019/20 Wehrung made nine of 17 field goal attempts for Bendigo at a field goal accuracy of 52.9%, made all 10 free-throw attempts, and scored a game-high and career-high 30 points.
Playing for Adelaide Lightning in 2020 Wehrung averaged a career-high 11.3 points per game and averaged 2.0 three-pointers made per game to rank in the WNBL’s top 10 for the fourth time in her career. Wehrung increased her scoring average in each of her first seven WNBL seasons from 2014/15 to 2020. In 2021/22 Wehrung started all 17 games for Adelaide Lightning and averaged a career-high 2.7 assists per game.
In four of the past six completed WNBL seasons Wehrung has ranked in the league’s top 10 for three-pointers made per game. Achieving this feat in 2016/17, 2017/18, 2019/20 and 2020. In all four of these seasons Wehrung had a three-point accuracy of greater than 40% and among players that made at least 20 three-pointers for the season ranked in the WNBL’s top seven for accuracy.
Wehrung was a member of the Emerging Opals team that won the gold medal at the 2017 and 2019 World University Games. At the 2019 tournament Wehrung was Australia’s captain and played a phenomenal game in the final to score 21 points and have 11 assists, setting game-highs in both categories in the 80-72 victory against USA. Wehrung made her Australian Opals debut at the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup held in Amman, Jordan from 27 September to 3 October and ranked equal second for the bronze medal winning Opals in assists per game.
Throughout her career Wehrung has played multiple seasons at state league level for two clubs in Country Victoria, Ballarat Rush in the SEABL from 2013 to 2016 and Bendigo Braves in NBL1 South in 2021 and 2022. Playing for Ballarat Rush in 2015 Wehrung won the SEABL’s Youth Player of the Year award. Wehrung was a starter in the Bendigo Braves team that finished on top of the ladder at the end of the 2022 NBL1 South regular season.
During a Bendigo Braves video published on 2 October 2021 Wehrung spoke about being a part of the community in Bendigo, commenting “There are some Biddy Ball kids, you get to know them and their families and they get really excited to see you every week, I think I get overly excited to see them, probably more excited than they are to see me every week. Similar with triple AAA (Access All Abilities), it is super grounding and it makes basketball so much more special when you can give a little bit back and help other people enjoy the game, kind of to the same level that you do, it makes the community so, so special.”
Abbey Wehrung’s basketball career is covered comprehensively below from juniors through to playing in the WNBL, at state league level and representing Australia.
Early life and junior career
Abigail Rose Wehrung was born in Daylesford on 28 December 1995, her parents are dad Duane and mum Kerryn and she has two brothers Nathan and Dan. Abbey grew up in Korweinguboora which is approximately 100 kilometres north-west of Melbourne and approximately 38 kilometres north-east of Ballarat. Abbey went to school at Mowbray College in Melton where her parents were both teachers.
During Player Profiles: Abbey Wehrung, Adelaide Lightning Podcast, Episode 6 published on 19 January 2022 Wehrung was asked “How did you get into basketball, when did this love of basketball come into it?” Wehrung responded “Dad was American, he was at school and then played basketball at college in the states. He joined the Navy and ended up in Australia on like a two week break while he was with the US Navy and he loved it so much that he moved out here, met mum and was coaching our school basketball team. We would just play all the time in the backyard, we had like a whole dirt court.”
When Abbey was nine years old her dad Duane died. “Duane had cancer on his tonsils and despite having them removed and being cleared by doctors, the cancer returned and spread through his body.”2
In an article written by Chris Dutton and published in The Canberra Times on 10 February 2017 titled Canberra Capitals guard Abigail Wehrung uses lucky No. 13 to honour her dad, Abbey commented “I remember the day my dad died. I was nine years old and I don’t think we knew how to deal with it, but me and my brothers went out the back and played basketball. Now before every game, he pops into my mind, I still feel like he’s always there and that’s nice. He played basketball and I think he’d just be smiling if he could see me play now.”
“It’s funny because I was such a nervous little kid and I never actually played basketball when he was alive. I was too scared of people watching me on the court. When he passed away, I thought maybe I should do it. Then I started and fell in love with it. It’s kind of like I was meant to play.”3
At nine years of age Abbey commenced playing basketball for her school team at Mowbray College. Wehrung progressed to play for the Melton under 12 representative basketball team and later on played junior basketball at Ballarat Basketball Association. Wehrung represented Vic Country at Australian Junior Championships up until the under 18’s.
At the 2011 FIBA Under 16 Oceania Championship for Women Wehrung and current Bendigo Spirit teammate Alicia Froling were both members of the Australian team that played New Zealand in a three game series held in Canberra. Australia defeated New Zealand in all three games to win the gold medal. Wehrung played two games and ranked fourth for Australia in assists per game and fifth in scoring.
In 2012 and 2013 Wehrung had a basketball scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, one of the other scholarship holders was current Bendigo Spirit teammate Alex Wilson.
Wehrung represented the Australian Sapphires alongside Alicia Froling at the 2012 FIBA Under 17 World Championship for Women held in Amsterdam, Netherlands from 17 to 26 August. In a quarter final against the United States of America (USA) Wehrung scored 19 points, made three of seven three-pointers at an accuracy of 42.9%, took five rebounds and made two steals in a 68-89 loss. The Sapphires finished fifth at the tournament, Wehrung ranked second for Australia in steals and third for scoring and minutes played per game.
At 17 years of age Wehrung was a member of the Victorian women’s team at the 2013 Under 20 Australian Junior Championships held in Launceston, Tasmania from 17-23 February. Victoria defeated South Australia 57-48 in the final to win the gold medal.
Wehrung graduated from the AIS in December 2013. During Series 5, Episode 11 of the Basket Case Podcast published on 19 December 2018 Wehrung reflected on her time at the Australian Institute of Sport, commenting “I went from living with my two brothers and I was a bit of a tomboy myself, I found it really hard to go to living with five other girls, I was a bit overwhelmed. I was a very quiet young girl and it took me a while to come out of my shell. It is probably the best thing I have ever done I reckon. Phil Brown is probably my favourite coach that I have ever had and he just knows how to get the best out of the players that he had there. I improved like crazy and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.”
Wehrung was a member of Victoria’s team at the 2014 Under 20 Australian Junior Championships held in Kalamunda, Western Australia from 16-22 February. In the lead-up to the tournament Wehrung told ballaratbasketball.com “It was an amazing experience to win the gold medal last year and I’m really excited about going back to try and get another one. We had seven bottom-age players in the Victorian team last year and five are continuing on this year so we’re pretty confident.”4 Victoria defeated New South Wales 87-64 in the 2014 Under 20 final to win the gold medal.
Playing in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) from 2013 to 2018
At 17 years of age Wehrung played for Ballarat Rush during the 2013 South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) season. Ballarat made the finals and advanced to the SEABL South Conference Grand Final against Knox Raiders. With three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Ballarat led Knox 66-61. Gabe Richards was the catalyst for Knox to go on an 11-2 run and defeat Ballarat 72-68. Playing off the bench for Ballarat during the 2013 season Wehrung played 17 games and averaged 5.6 points per game. Abbey was effective from the perimeter, making 16 of 32 three-pointers at an accuracy of 50%.
During the 2014 SEABL season Wehrung’s scoring output more than doubled to average 13.5 points per game. Wehrung impressed with her leadership in 2014 and at just 19 years of age was appointed a co-captain of Ballarat Rush for the 2015 SEABL season.
Wehrung had her appendix removed less than a fortnight before the 2015 SEABL season started and missed the first three games of the season. Playing for Ballarat Rush Wehrung scored more than 19 points in a game seven times during 2015. In 18 games for Ballarat Wehrung averaged 17.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Wehrung made 51 of 144 three-pointers at an accuracy of 35.4% and ranked fifth in the SEABL for three-pointers made. Wehrung won the SEABL’s 2015 Youth Player of the Year award and also won the Robyn Maher Rush Most Valuable Player Award.
In 2016 Wehrung played her fourth consecutive SEABL season for Ballarat Rush and whilst her scoring output was slightly less down on 2015, her shooting accuracy improved and her assists increased by 53.8%. Wehrung played 21 games for Ballarat Rush in 2016 and averaged 15.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Wehung made 41 of 100 three-pointers at an accuracy of 41% and shot free-throws at 86.3%.
Whilst between WNBL seasons with the University of Canberra Capitals Wehrung played five games for the Canberra Gunners during the 2017 SEABL season and averaged 17.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Abbey made 22 of 43 three-pointers at an accuracy of 51.2%.
For the 2018 SEABL season Wehrung returned to Victoria, played for the Diamond Valley Eagles and was named the club’s captain for their inaugural SEABL season. Wehrung was one of five players from the University of Canberra Capitals 2017/18 WNBL roster that played for Diamond Valley along with Ezi Magbegor, Lauren Scherf, Maddi Rocci and Chevannah Paalvast. Diamond Valley had 12 wins and eight losses during the 2018 SEABL season to finish fifth on the ladder out of 16 teams. In an elimination final at Diamond Valley Recreation Centre the Eagles lost to Geelong Supercats 65-92. Against Geelong Wehrung made eight of 14 field goal attempts at 57.1%, three of seven three-pointers, scored a team-high 20 points and took six rebounds. Wehrung played 18 games for Diamond Valley in 2018 and averaged 11.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Playing in the WNBL for the University of Canberra Capitals from 2014/15 to 2017/18
In 2014 Wehrung signed a three-year deal in the WNBL with the University of Canberra Capitals until the end of the 2016/17 season. Carrie Graf was in her 14th season overall and 10th consecutive season as the Capitals Head Coach. Graf commented “Abbey’s size, basketball IQ, and work ethic were all key elements in us recruiting her to the UC Capitals. She has a bright basketball future ahead of her, and we plan to work with her to develop her game over the next three years.”5
In Series 5, Episode 11 of the Basket Case Podcast Wehrung commented “It was reassuring knowing that I wasn’t going to be moving around, I didn’t have that question where I didn’t know where I was going to be and if I had a contract because I knew I was locked in for three years, so it was really good as an 18 year old to have that reassurance.”
At 18 years of age Wehrung made her WNBL debut with the Canberra Capitals early in the 2014/15 season, her teammates included Kristen Veal who was a mentor to Abbey, Carly Wilson, Abby Bishop, Lauren Jackson, Jess Bibby and Steph Talbot. Canberra had 11 wins and 11 losses in 2014/15 and finished, losing a tie-breaker to Sydney for the fourth and final finals position. Wehrung played 20 games for the University of Canberra Capitals and averaged 2.9 points and 11.7 minutes per game during her debut WNBL season in 2014/15.
Against Bendigo Spirit on 24 October 2015 Wehrung scored 12 points, took four rebounds and had two assists. In a 61-66 loss at home to the Melbourne Boomers on 28 November 2015 Wehrung made a game-high five assists – two more than the second ranked players in the game. In an away game against the Dandenong Rangers at Dandenong Stadium on 12 December 2015 Wehrung made three of eight three-pointers, scored 15 points, took four rebounds and made two assists. Wehrung played 24 games for the University of Canberra Capitals in 2015/16 and averaged 4.5 points and 16.4 minutes per game. The Capitals finished the 2015/16 regular season in last position with two wins and 22 losses.
Paul Goriss was appointed as the Head Coach of the University of Canberra Capitals for the 2016/2017 season. In the Capitals opening game of the season against the Dandenong Rangers at the National Convention Centre on 8 October 2016 Wehrung started for the Capitals alongside Lauren Mansfield, Jazmon Gwathmey, Mikaela Ruef and Marianna Tolo. Other members of the Capitals core rotation of eight players who each averaged more than 12.0 minutes per game were Kate Gaze, Carly Wilson and Keely Froling.
In a Capitals home game on 8 December 2016 at Southern Cross Stadium Wehrung made six of 13 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 46.2% and made three of eight three-pointers to score 15 points against Sydney Flames. Against Sydney on 8 January in a road game at Brydens Stadium Wehrung made five of 10 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 50%, two of three three-pointers at an accuracy of 66.7%, scored 12 points, took four rebounds and made three assists in the Capitals 76-73 victory.
Abbey Wehrung playing defense for University of Canberra Capitals against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 17 December 2016
On 12 February 2017 Wehrung scored a game-high 18 points and made two assists in a 77-52 Canberra victory against Bendigo Spirit at Southern Cross Stadium. Wehrung shot the ball proficiently to make six of nine field goal attempts at an accuracy 66.7%, five of six three-pointers at an accuracy of 83.3% and her only free-throw attempt. Wehrung suffered ligament damage to her ankle in the third quarter and played 20 minutes and 37 seconds court-time for the game. For her brilliant performance Wehrung was named in the WNBL’s Round 18 Team of the Week. Due to her ankle injury Wehrung missed the Capitals last two regular season games.
The University of Canberra Capitals finished fifth for the second time in three seasons, having 13 wins and 11 losses and finished one win behind fourth placed Townsville. During the 2016/17 WNBL season Wehrung played 16 games for the University of Canberra Capitals and averaged 8.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 24.0 minutes per game. Wehrung ranked fifth for the Capitals in scoring, rebounds, assists, and minutes played per game. From the perimeter Wehrung was very effective, making 27 of 67 three-pointers at an accuracy of 40.3%. Wehrung’s 1.7 three-pointers made per game led the Capitals and ranked ninth in the league. Abbey was in a select group of four players that had an accuracy of more than 40.0% and made at least 20 three-pointers for the season along with Sami Whitcomb, Sarah Graham and Belinda Snell.
On Wehrung’s 2016/17 WNBL season Capitals Head Coach Gorris commented “Abbey’s come along leaps and bounds this year. I’m so happy for her. She’s always been touted as a future star since her junior days, now time and experience is playing a part. It’s an opportunity to step up and show what she has got. Realistically she’s the most improved player in the league this year. She’s got that belief in herself.”6
For the 2017/18 WNBL season Wehrung signed a single-season contract extension with the University of Canberra Capitals. In the Capitals opening game of the 2017/18 season on 6 October 2017 against Bendigo Spirit Wehrung started for the Capitals along with Nat Hurst, Keely Froling, Jordan Hooper and Lauren Scherf. Wehrung commenced Canberra’s season opener against Bendigo in blistering fashion to get the opening score of the game with a three-pointer 12 seconds into the game and then followed up by making a second three-pointer in the second minute of the game. For the game Wehrung made eight of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 72.7%, four of five three-pointers at an accuracy of 80% and made both free-throw attempts to score an equal game-high 22 points along with Bendigo Spirit forward Kelsey Griffin. In the Capitals 93-80 victory at the National Convention Centre Wehrung also took five rebounds and made five assists.
Abbey Wehrung about to have a long range shot for University of Canberra Capitals against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 18 November 2017
Against the Dandenong Rangers in a home game on 22 October at the National Convention Centre Wehrung made seven of 10 field goal shots at an accuracy of 70%, was even more damaging from behind the arc to make five of six shots at an accuracy of 83.3%, scored 19 points, took five rebounds and had three assists in a 76-77 loss.
In a home game at the National Convention Centre on 17 December against Adelaide Lightning Wehrung scored 10 points, took four rebounds and had six assists in a Capitals 88-87 victory.
Abbey Wehrung playing for University of Canberra Capitals against Dandenong Rangers at Dandenong Stadium on 23 November 2017
The University of Canberra Capitals had seven wins and 14 losses in 2017/18 and finished sixth on the ladder. In 2017/18 Wehrung played 20 games for the University of Canberra Capitals and averaged 9.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 26.5 minutes per game. Wehrung ranked second for Canberra in assists per game behind Hurst, third for minutes played, and fourth for steals. Wehrung was very effective from long range, making 33 of 71 three-pointers at an accuracy of 46.5%. Wehrung made 1.7 three-pointers per game, ranked second at the Capitals behind Hooper (2.1 three-pointers made per game) and equal seventh in the league. Wehrung’s three-point accuracy of 46.5% ranked second in the league among players that made at least five three-pointers and first among players that made at least 20 threes.
Representing the Emerging Opals
In 2013 Wehrung was a member of the Emerging Opals team that toured China. In addition to playing several Chinese teams the Emerging Opals competed in a four nations tournament against Hungary, China and USA.
At the 2017 World University Games held in Taipei Wehrung represented the Emerging Opals alongside current Bendigo Spirit teammates Megan McKay and Alex Wilson. In the quarter finals the Emerging Opals defeated USA. In a semi final against Chinese Taipei Wehrung shot the ball exceptionally to make all nine shots comprised of four two-point field goals, three-three pointers and two free-throws to score 19 points. In Australia’s 79-74 victory Wehrung also took three rebounds and made three assists. The Emerging Opals won the gold medal, defeating Japan 85-78 in the final with Wehrung scoring 11 points.
Wehrung was the captain of the Emerging Opals team for the 2019 World University Games held in Napoli, Italy. Australia won their first five games of the tournament to progress to the gold medal game against the United States of America. At half-time of the gold medal game the Emerging Opals led USA 37-34. The Emerging Opals dominated the third quarter 29-14, to set up an 80-72 victory to win the gold medal. Wehrung was instrumental in the Emerging Opals victory, making eight of 13 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 62%, made all three three-pointers, scored a game-high 21 points, had a game-high 11 assists and an equal team-high two steals in Australia’s victory against USA in the gold medal game.
After Australia defeated USA in the gold medal game Wehrung commented “I am super proud of the girls, of the whole team. It is really exciting. We knew the game was going to be tough, but we were super fired up and determined. We executed the game plan, and are happy to have the win. Only four of us attended the last Universiade. We have seven new members, but everyone gets along very well and it is really enjoyable and a great team to be a part of.”7 Wehrung was one of four players that were members of the Emerging Opals gold medal winning teams in 2017 and 2019 along with Lauren Scherf, Keely Froling and Alex Sharp.
2018/19 and 2019/20 WNBL seasons with Bendigo Spirit
On 9 March Bendigo Spirit announced that Wehrung had signed with the club for the 2018/19 WNBL season. Simon Pritchard was in his fourth season as Bendigo Spirit Head Coach and told WNBL Media “We are proud to bring Abbey back to country Victoria. She was produced here and we want to see her reach for the Opals over the next couple of seasons. Abbey will fit in nicely to our team as she is an unselfish blue-collar worker who exudes all the qualities we embrace at the Bendigo Spirit. Abbey’s defensive ability will help us to get our team defence back to level of previous Spirit teams.”8
Wehrung commented to wnbl.basketball “I’m so excited and super keen for a new beginning in Bendigo, to be coached under Simon and to be a part of the great team that he will put together. I’m looking forward to really working hard and improving my game under Simon. He’s had a lot to do with my basketball since under 17 level and I know he has a lot of belief in me and my game. I’m just thrilled to have signed on with the Spirit. I’m also really keen to be close to home and family, as well as being back in country Victoria where it all began for me.”9
Pritchard had been an assistant coach of three teams Wehrung had played for, the Capitals in Wehrung’s first WNBL season with the club in 2014/15, the Australian Sapphires at the 2012 Under 17 World Championships and the Emerging Opals at the 2017 World University Games.
In Bendigo’s opening game of the 2018/19 season at the State Basketball Centre on 13 October 2018 Wehrung was a member of Bendigo Spirit’s starting line-up along with Nat Hurst, Marena Whittle, Nadeen Payne and American import Becca Tobin. Eight Bendigo players averaged more than 15.0 minutes per game with the five season opening starters being joined in this category by Barbara Turner, Louella Tomlinson and Cassidy McLean. In Bendigo’s upset 82-72 victory against the Boomers Wehrung had an equal team-high three assists.
Abbey Wehrung in action playing for the Bendigo Spirit against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 4 November 2018
Against Townsville at Red Energy Arena on 24 November Wehrung made three of six three-pointers at an accuracy of 50%, scored 19 points, took three rebounds and made two steals in an 82-89 overtime loss. On 7 December in a road game at Bendat Basketball Centre against Perth Lynx Wehrung made four of nine three-pointers at an accuracy of 44%, scored 16 points and made five assists.
During Series 5, Episode 11 of the Basket Case Podcast published on 19 December 2018 Wehrung commented “Here in Bendigo we do a lot of community stuff as well. We spoke about how it is more than just a game. We have little kids that look up to us whether we win or we lose and it is about staying in the moment because you really are influencing the younger generation that comes to our games, that we work with in the community.”
In Round 15, 2018/19 Wehrung scored 24 points in the first half of a home game at Red Energy Arena against her former team the University of Canberra Capitals on 19 January. Wehrung made nine of 17 field goal attempts in the game at a field goal accuracy of 52.9%, made all 10 free-throw attempts, scored a game-high and career-high 30 points, took four rebounds and made four assists in a 97-101 overtime loss in Bendigo’s final game of the season. Wehrung’s exceptional game earned her selection in the WNBL’s Round 15 Team of the Week.
Bendigo Spirit finished seventh at the end of the 2018/19 regular season with seven wins and 14 losses. In 2018/19 Wehrung played 21 games for Bendigo Spirit and averaged 10.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 31.4 minutes per game. Wehrung ranked fourth for Bendigo in scoring, assists and three-pointers made per game.
Tracey York was appointed Bendigo Spirit’s Head Coach for the 2019/20 season. York was in her second WNBL season as a Head Coach, having coached Adelaide Lightning in 2015/16. In Bendigo’s opening game of the 2019/20 season at Red Energy Arena on 12 October 2019 against Melbourne Boomers the Spirit’s starting line-up was Tessa Lavey, Kelly Wilson, American import Marte Grays, Carly Ernst and Gabe Richards. Nine Bendigo players averaged more than 17.0 minutes per game in 2019/20 with the five season opening starters being joined in this category by Wehrung, Shyla Heal, Demi Skinner and American import Becca Tobin who was unavailable for the Round 1 game against Melbourne due to concussion.
On 1 November 2019 Wehrung made five of nine field goal attempts at an accuracy of 55.6%, made four of six three-pointers at an accuracy of 66.7%, made both free-throw attempts, scored a team-high 16 points and took three rebounds in Bendigo’s 67-54 victory against Adelaide Lightning at Red Energy Arena.
Abbey Wehrung in possession of the ball playing for the Bendigo Spirit against the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre on 4 November 2018
Against the Melbourne Boomers at Red Energy Arena in Round 6 on 24 November 2019 Wehrung scored a team-high 13 points, took two rebounds and had two assists but also suffered a concussion half-way through the last quarter. Wehrung missed three games and made her return in a road game against Adelaide Lightning on 15 December.
In a home game at Red Energy Arena Against Townsville on 28 December Wehrung made seven of 13 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 53.8%, scored 18 points, took an equal team-high six rebounds, had four assists, two steals and blocked one shot in Bendigo’s 79-78 victory.
Abbey Wehrung playing defense for Bendigo Spirit against the Southside Flyers at Traralgon Sports Centre on 26 October 2019
At the end of the 2019/20 regular season Bendigo finished seventh on the ladder with five wins and 16 losses. Wehrung played 17 games for Bendigo Spirit in 2019/20 and averaged 10.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 24.5 minutes per game. Wehrung led Bendigo with 1.9 three pointers made per game and ranked third for scoring per game. Abbey made 33 of 74 three-pointers at an accuracy of 44.6% and ranked equal seventh in the league for three-pointers made per game. Among players that made at least 10 three-pointers Wehrung ranked fourth for accuracy behind Stella Beck, Jenna O’Hea and Bridget Carleton.
2020 and 2021/22 WNBL seasons with Adelaide Lightning
Wehrung joined Adelaide Lightning for the 2020 WNBL season and told WNBL Media “I think it’s a really good opportunity and a versatile team to be a part of. I’m excited about bringing some aggression offensively and defensively to this group at both ends of the court. Defensively I want to be a stopper and add to the team’s already solid recruiting in this area.”10
In July 2020 Abbey’s mum Kerryn died. In an article published in The Local on 16 October 2022 Abbey commented “Mum did a tremendous job raising and supporting us when Dad passed. To then lose her was really hard. I had to go to Adelaide pretty soon after and I kinda tossed and turned about whether I went or stayed home. But I knew she would not have wanted me to stop so you just kind of have to keep going. I know she would be looking over us happy that we are still happy.” 11
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.
In the opening game of the 2020 WNBL season Adelaide Lightning played a thrilling game against the University of Canberra Capitals who had won the previous two WNBL championships. Adelaide’s starters were Wehrung and Alex Wilson in the back-court along with Steph Talbot, Marena Whittle and Chelsea Brook in the front-court. Wehrung, Talbot and Wilson had all attended the AIS together. Wehrung made three of six three-pointers, scored 16 points, took nine rebounds and had three assists in the Lightning’s 85-73 overtime victory against the Capitals at Mackay Multi-Sports Stadium on 11 November.
With Adelaide starters Wilson and Brook missing the 29 November game against Southside Wehrung took on more responsibility on offense and made seven of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 58.5%, made four of five shots from behind the arc at 80%, scored a team-high 21 points, made two assists and blocked one shot.
Against Townsville Fire on 11 December at Cairns Pop-up Arena Wehrung made six of 10 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 60%, made three of three free-throws, scored a team-high 15 points, took two rebounds and made a team-high four assists.
Adelaide Lightning had five wins and eight losses during the 2020 WNBL regular season and finished sixth on the ladder. During the 2020 hub season in Queensland Wehrung played 12 games for Adelaide Lightning and averaged 11.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 29.0 minutes per game. Wehrung ranked equal second for Adelaide in scoring per game with Wilson, behind Talbot and third for assists and minutes played. Wehrung made 24 of 59 three-pointers at an accuracy of 40.7% to be equal leader at Adelaide for three-pointers made per game along with Wilson who is a Bendigo Spirit teammate in 2022/23. Abbey’s 2.0 three-pointers made per game ranked equal fifth in the league and she was one of seven players in the WNBL that had an accuracy above 40.0% and made at least 20 three-pointers for the season. Wehrung’s scoring per game increased in each of her first seven WNBL seasons form 2014/15 to 2020 and in five consecutive seasons from 2016/17 to 2020 she averaged more than 8.0 points per game.
Throughout the 2021/22 WNBL season Wehrung was living with Adelaide teammate Steph Talbot. In Adelaide’s opening game of 2021/22 Wehrung and import Kiana Williams started in the back-court and Talbot, Alanna Smith and Kylee Shook started in the front-court. Wehrung started all 17 games that she played for Adelaide in 2021/22. Eight players averaged more than 10 minutes per game for Adelaide in 2021/22 with the five starters being joined in this category by Marena Whittle, Chelsea Brook and Sam Simons.
On the road against Sydney Flames on 20 January 2022 at Brydens Stadium Wehrung made six of nine field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7%, four of seven three-pointers at 57.1%, scored 16 points, took three rebounds, made two assists and one steal in Adelaide’s 77-52 victory.
During Player Profiles: Abbey Wehrung, Adelaide Lightning Podcast, Episode 6 published on 19 January 2022 Wehrung commented on being a basketball player “I really enjoy the process. Putting in work and indies, obviously it helps when you have coaches that you really enjoy working out with as well. Just seeing and implementing things that you have put in training into then scrimmages or games. I really enjoy the process, I am addicted to it.”
On life away from the basketball court Wehrung told the Adelaide Lightning Podcast “I like all animals, love em, have so many at home so when I am at home it is horse riding. We live right in front of the Wombat State Forest, our back gate opens into the forest, we can walk the dogs out there and ride the horses and explore and four wheel drive, kind of all that fun stuff. Very much a country girl, love camping when I get the opportunity to. While I am here (in Adelaide) I really like the beach and taking my dog Reggie for beach walks and to the dog park, yeah a bit of everything.”
In a home game at the Lights Community and Sports Centre against Townsville on 5 March Wehrung made four of seven field goal attempts at 57.1%, was even more effective from long range making three of four attempts behind the arc at 75%, made both free-throws, scored 13 points, took two rebounds and made three assists in the Lightning’s 78-57 win.
Abbey Wehrung playing for Adelaide Lightning against Melbourne Boomers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 24 March 2022
Against Perth Lynx on 9 March at Bendat Basketball Centre Wehrung made three of seven three-pointers at an accuracy of 42.9%, scored 13 points, took four rebounds, made one assist and one steal.
Adelaide finished fourth at the end of the 2021/22 WNBL regular season with 10 wins and seven losses, two wins behind minor premiers Melbourne. In the eighth WNBL season of her career Wehrung played finals for the first time. At half-time of game 1 of the semi final series at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville Adelaide led the Boomers 47 to 32. Melbourne dominated the second half, outscoring Adelaide 63 to 17 to win 95-64. Adelaide were defeated by Melbourne in a low scoring game 2 at the Lights Community and Sports Centre 49-61.
Abbey Wehrung playing for Adelaide Lightning against Melbourne Boomers at Melbourne Sports Centres Parkville on 24 March 2022
During the 2021/22 WNBL season Wehrung played 17 games for Adelaide Lightning and averaged 6.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 28.1 minutes court-time per game. Wehrung made 14 of 45 three-pointers at an accuracy of 31.1%. Wehrung ranked third at Adelaide for assists per game, fourth for three-pointers made and minutes played and sixth in scoring.
Representing the Australian Opals
On 20 August 2021 Australia Wehrung was included by Basketball Australia in a 21 player Australian Opals squad for the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup held in Amman, Jordan from 27 September to 3 October. Wehrung was left out of the 12 player Opals team named on 1 September 2021 but was one of two emergencies named along with fellow guard Jade Melbourne.
Basketball Australia announced on 27 September 2021 that there were two late changes to the Asia Cup team with Wehrung and Melbourne replacing Maddi Rocci and Bec Allen. With Australian Opals Head Coach Sandy Brondello unavailable for the tournament due to commitments in the WNBA with Phoenix Mercury, Opals Assistant Coach Paul Goriss took over as the Head Coach for the Asia Cup. During Wehrung’s third and fourth seasons with the University of Canberra Capitals in 2016/17 and 2017/18 Gorris had been the Head Coach of the club. Gorris told Australia.basketball “Abbey has always been a very consistent WNBL player and can play both ends of the floor. She is a good on ball defender and can shoot the 3, so her versatility shows at both ends of the court. Having coached both of these players it will be an easy transition for them both into the Opals team and I’m looking forward to getting started in Jordan.”12
Wehrung was one nine members of the team made their Australian Opals debut in the team’s first game of the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup against Chinese Taipei on 27 September. In the Opals 72-61 victory against New Zealand in a qualification semi final game Wehrung made one of two three-pointers, scored three points, took five rebounds and made four assists – ranked second for the Opals behind the captain, Sami Whitcomb with six assists.
In the third place game against Korea Wehrung scored eight points, took four rebounds, made two assists and one steal. The Opals defeated Korea 88-58 to win the bronze medal. Wehrung played all six games for Australia at the tournament and averaged 3.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 18.6 minutes per game. Wehrung ranked equal second for the Opals in assists per game and ranked sixth for minutes played.
During Player Profiles: Abbey Wehrung, Adelaide Lightning Podcast, Episode 6 Wehrung was asked ‘What is it like representing Australia?” Wehrung responded “Yeah, really surreal. It is obviously what you work towards as an athlete, I know I have for my whole career, that has always been the main goal.
On 6 December 2021 Wehrung was named in an extended 24 player Australian Opals squad for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup in Sydney.
During Player Profiles: Abbey Wehrung, Adelaide Lightning Podcast, Episode 6 Wehrung was asked ‘What is it like representing Australia?” Wehrung responded “Yeah, really surreal. It is obviously what you work towards as an athlete, I know I have for my whole career, that has always been the main goal. It was amazing and the Asia Cup was a really fun group of people and I really enjoyed the experience. I kind of went in with no expectations, I was the second reserve and fortunately got to go, unfortunately for Maddy Rocci who was injured but really grateful for that opportunity and I was able to cement myself and I am now in the World Cup squad. It was really exciting and I loved every minute. It is just a huge honour and it kind of represents your journey a little bit and how many hours you put in to the game and you feel grateful to be there.”
Wehrung didn’t play any games for the Opals during the lead up to the 2022 World Cup and was left out of the 12 player team.
Playing in NBL1 South from 2019 to 2022
In 2019 a new league NBL1 was established as the premier winter basketball league in Southern Australia consisting of 18 teams, succeeding the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) which was disbanded.
During the 2019 NBL1 season Wehrung played for the Knox Raiders. In a road game against the Frankston Blues on May 18 Wehrung scored 29 points. In 17 games for Knox Raiders in 2019 Wehrung averaged 14.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Wehrung made 41 of 101 three-pointers at an accuracy of 40.6%.
For the 2020 NBL1 South season Wehrung signed with the Bendigo Braves. NBL1 expanded for the 2020 season with the original NBL1 league which was comprised mainly of Victorian teams rebranded as NBL1 South. The former Queensland Basketball League was rebranded as NBL1 North and the former South Australian Premier League was rebranded NBL1 Central, both new NBL1 leagues were scheduled to commence in 2020.
On 21 March, 2020 NBL1 released a statement saying “All three conferences of the forthcoming 2020 NBL1 season have been cancelled. The NBL in conjunction with Basketball Victoria, Basketball Queensland and Basketball South Australia have notified clubs of the decision not to proceed with the 2020 season. The decision follows the indefinite closure of indoor sports centres because of COVID-19. All three conferences, NBL1 South, NBL1 North and NBL1 Central, had already been postponed until May.”13
Wehrung played for Bendigo Braves in the 2021 NBL1 South season, her teammates included Cassidy McLean, Piper Dunlop and Kate Oliver. Tess Madgen played seven games and after Kelly Wilson made her basketball return on 2 July after having son Teddy in February 2021. In the first half of August Wehrung scored 25 points against Ballarat Rush on 1 August and 30 points against Albury Wodonga Bandits on 14 August. Due to COVID-19 and restrictions in place there were disruptions to the 2021 NBL1 South season. In the second half of August the season paused again due to the tightening of restrictions. 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.”14 During the 2021 NBL1 South season Wehrung played 15 games for the Bendigo Braves and averaged 17.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Wehrung made 38 of 100 three-pointers.
Wehrung is one of four players on Bendigo Spirit’s 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL roster that was part of the Bendigo Braves full-strength starting line-up during the 2022 NBL1 South season along with Kelly Wilson, McLean and McKay. The Braves starting line-up was completed by Australian Opals captain Madgen.
Abbey Wehrung playing defense for the Bendigo Braves against Ringwood Hawks in the 2022 NBL1 South Grand Final at the State Basketball Centre on 3 September 2022
Wehrung scored at least 27 points in a game four times including 27 points, six rebounds and six assists in a 111-81 victory against Hobart Chargers in a home game at Red Energy Arena on 24 July.
The Bendigo Braves had 20 wins and two losses during the regular season to win the minor premiership, two wins ahead of the Ringwood Hawks. In a preliminary final against Waverley Falcons on 28 August at Red Energy Arena Wehrung made eight of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7%, three of seven three-pointers at 42.9%, all four free-throws, scored an equal game-high 23 points along with Madgen took eight rebounds and made three assists in a 79-76 victory.
In the Grand Final Bendigo lost to Ringwood 73-89. During the 2022 NBL1 South season Wehrung played 25 games for the Bendigo Braves and averaged 16.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Wehrung ranked third for the Braves in scoring and rebounds. Wehrung made 66 of 174 three-pointers at an accuracy of 37.9% and including finals ranked fourth in the conference for three-pointers made.
Abbey Wehrung playing for the Bendigo Braves against Ringwood Hawks in the 2022 NBL1 South Grand Final at the State Basketball Centre on 3 September 2022
2022/23 WNBL season with Bendigo Spirit
Bendigo Spirit announced on 25 August 2022 that Wehrung had signed with the club for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Wehrung told wnbl.basketball “I’m stoked to be back, the stadium here feels like a second home to me so I’m really excited, it’s just all-round good vibes. I’m looking to be a real lock-down defender this season, be really attacking offensively, play an up-tempo game and bring lots of energy.”15
Bendigo have retained four of their starters from 2021/22 – Suzy Batkovic medal winner Anneli Maley, Tessa Lavey, Alex Wilson and Megan McKay. Also suiting up for the Spirit again in 2022/23 are guard Cassidy McLean and forward Piper Dunlop who will each be playing their third consecutive season for Bendigo Spirit in 2022/23.
On 24 May Bendigo Spirit announced that the club had appointed Kennedy Kereama as the Spirit’s Head Coach for the 2022/23 WNBL season. Kereama was Head Coach of the West Coast Waves (now known as the Perth Lynx) for three WNBL seasons from 2012/13 to 2014/15. Kereama was an Assistant Coach of the University of Canberra Capitals in 2021/22 and was the Capitals caretaker Head Coach for four games.
In the off-season Wehrung was one of four players recruited by Bendigo Spirit from a rival WNBL club. This quartet of players had all played for Bendigo in the WNBL previously and had also played for the University of Canberra Capitals. Three players that Kereama coached at the Capitals in 2021/22 were recruited by the Spirit – Kelly Wilson, Kelsey Griffin and Alicia Froling. After playing three seasons of College basketball for UC Irvine University, forward Sophia Locandro made her WNBL debut with Bendigo in Round 1 of the 2022/23 season and is the only player on Bendigo’s 11 player main roster that hadn’t played in the WNBL for Bendigo before this season.
Seven players on Bendigo’s roster for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season were starters for their respective WNBL clubs in 2021/22 which highlights the depth the Spirit have this season. Joining Bendigo’s four returning starters Maley, Lavey, Alex Wilson and McKay were Wehrung who started for Adelaide and Kelly Wilson and Griffin who both started for Canberra.
Wehrung is one of four players along with Kelly Wilson, McKay and McLean who were starters for the Bendigo Braves during the 2022 NBL1 South season.
Bendigo Spirit team huddle before their pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Dandenong Stadium on 22 October 2022
In the 2022/23 pre-season Bendigo Spirit defeated the New Zealand Tall Ferns twice and also defeated WNBL rivals Melbourne Boomers and Southside Flyers. In a pre-season game against the Southside Flyers at Dandenong Stadium on 22 October Wehrung scored an equal game-high 17 points along with Southside forward Sara Blicavs in the Spirit’s 77-67 victory.
Abbey Wehrung playing for Bendigo Spirit in their pre-season game against Southside Flyers at Dandenong Stadium on 22 October 2022
Due to AFLW commitments with Richmond point guard Tessa Lavey didn’t play for Bendigo Spirit in the first two rounds of the 2022/23 WNBL season.
On 4 November Bendigo Spirit announced that Kelly Wilson and Griffin were Bendigo Spirit co-captains for the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season. Completing Bendigo’s five player leadership group were Wehrung, Maley and McKay
In Bendigo’s opening game of the 2022/23 Cygnett WNBL season against the University of Canberra Capitals on 4 November Kelly Wilson and Wehrung started in the Spirit backcourt along with Maley, Griffin and McKay in the front-court. Over Bendigo’s first three games seven players have averaged more than 15.0 minutes per game, other players in this category are Alex Wilson and Alicia Froling.
Against the Capitals Wehrung made seven of 12 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 58.3%, three of four three pointers at an accuracy of 75% and scored 19 points. Wehrung also made five assists and took an equal game-high three steals in the Spirit’s 105-85 victory.
During the post-game interview on 9 Now Wehrung commented “It’s a great group, we play a really fast-paced style of basketball. I just love this team and it is great to start the season with a win.” Carly Wilson asked “Do you love being in Bendigo because it is a bit of a homecoming for a few of you that have played in Bendigo before and now you are back?” Abbey responded “Yeah, definitely, a few of us back there and obviously an honour to play with Kels and Kelly again, it is really exciting and really close to home for me so it is perfect.”
In Bendigo’s first home game of the season at Red Energy Arena on 6 November Wehrung made five of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 45.5%, two of five three-pointers at 40%, her only free-throw, scored 13 points, took four rebounds and made three assists in Bendigo’s 85-66 victory over Perth Lynx.
At 26 years of age Wehrung played her 150th WNBL game in Bendigo’s Round 2 home game at Red Energy Arena on 12 November 2022 against the Sydney Flames. Wehrung played excellent defense against Shyla Heal, made an equal game-high six assists and took four rebounds in Bendigo’s 105-85 victory. Wehrung made three of her five field goal attempts at an accuracy of 60% and scored six points.
Bendigo have won their first three games of the season to be one of only two undefeated teams after Round 3 along with Townsville Fire who have also won three games. In both club’s next game they will play each other with Townsville hosting Bendigo at the Townsville Entertainment Centre on Friday 2 December. With Richmond’s AFLW season having been completed point guard Lavey will be available for Bendigo’s Round 4 game road game against Townsville.
Wehrung has played Bendigo’s first three games of the season and is averaging 12.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 29.6 minutes per game. Abbey has made five of nine three-pointers at an accuracy of 55.6% and is shooting at 53.6% from the field. Wehrung ranks second at Bendigo for assists, equal second for three-pointers made and fourth for scoring and minutes played.
As a little kid Abbey grew up in the country Victorian town of Korweinguboora and enjoyed playing basketball with her family on the dirt court in their back yard but didn’t play for a team as she was scared of people watching her on the court. When Abbey was nine years old her dad Duane died. Playing basketball enabled Abbey to continue a connection with her dad. Abbey thought she should have a go at playing basketball for her school team at Mowbray College in Melton, loved it and has gone on to have a professional basketball career.
In Wehrung’s first three WNBL seasons her scoring output increased rapidly from 2.9 points per game in 2014/15 to 8.1 points per game in 2016/17. From 2016/17 onwards Wehrung has averaged at least 24.0 minutes per game in each season and has been an outstanding three-point shooter to regularly rank in the WNBL’s top 10 for three-pointers made and three-point accuracy.
At international level Wehrung has represented Australia at under-age level, been a member of the Emerging Oplas team that won the gold medal at the World Uni Games in both 2017 and 2019 and won a bronze medal with the Australian Opals at the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.
It is fitting that earlier this month Abbey Wehrung played her 150th WNBL game in a home game for Bendigo Spirit in country Victoria close to where her basketball journey began playing in the backyard with her family. Abbey’s parents Duane and Kerryn would be smiling and proud of what Abbey has achieved in her basketball career and the positive impact she makes on the community.
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.
A link to Milestones and Misses homepage and WNBL category is below:
The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. From 2020 onwards articles have been published on the following sportspeople:
Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin