Tall Fern Natalie Taylor is making a quick dash across the Tasman to link up with the Auckland Dream for the Women’s Basketball championship (WBC) in Tauranga on Friday.
Just a couple of weeks ago Taylor produced an outstanding performance in the Commonwealth Games bronze medal game against Canada eventually won 74-58 by New Zealand.
With the Tall Ferns leading 34-26 at half-time Taylor was simply unstoppable in the third period scoring no fewer than six threes from just seven attempts to break the game open and secure the kiwis a well-deserved medal.
The Tall Ferns co-captain was equal top scorer in the game with rookie Charlisse Leger-Walker and ironically the pair will face each other on Saturday in Tauranga when Auckland will meet the Waikato Wizards for a 5.45pm tip-off at the Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre.
Taylor will be accompanied on the trip from her home on the Gold Coast by sister Charmian Mellars, herself a former Tall Fern. The pair play for the South West Metro Pirates in the Queensland Basketball League but have taken leave to assist the Dream as they open their WBC campaign at the weekend.
The weekend will also be something of a family reunion, as they will also link up with younger sister Hailey Moala-Purcell and cousin Idaho Purcell in the Auckland Dream ranks.
“Having two such experienced, highly decorated internationals is a coup not only for the Dream but also for the WBC competition,” said Auckland Dream General Manager Bevan Murray.
For her part Taylor is delighted to be re-uniting with family members and also giving back to the game in New Zealand.
“I always love the opportunity to play with my sisters. Char and I are getting older so our chances to all play together are becoming fewer. I had wanted us to play together again anyway so am pretty excited we are back this year.
“I also think it’s really important for current Tall Ferns members to play back in the WBC where possible. With most of us living and playing abroad we have limited opportunities to play at home in New Zealand both for the Tall Ferns team as well as in our domestic league. Staying connected to the basketball community in New Zealand, especially the junior players, is really important.
“We need to increase the exposure of women’s basketball in New Zealand, grow and develop the women’s game, and inspire juniors that may want to explore the many opportunities basketball has to offer.”
Taylor has certainly enjoyed and experienced numerous outstanding opportunities during her successful career. At college in the States she helped Southeast Missouri State University make the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
Taylor played for Christchurch Sirens in the Australian WNBL the season before representing the Tall Ferns alongside sister Charmian at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Since then she has largely been based in Australia playing successfully at both the Women’s NBL and State League levels.
In 2011 Natalie headed to Ireland and helped the University of Limerick win the Irish Superleague title whilst at the same time being named Import Player of the Year.
“I’m pretty excited to see some of the up and coming talent in NZ women’s basketball right now. It’s been four years since I played in the WBC so there will be a lot of new girls coming through.”
“I’m also glad I will be suiting up for my junior association again and alongside some of my sisters and old friends. That always makes playing a little more special.”
“Introducing a combine this year is great and I’m looking forward to seeing how that will look and work. Overall I’m pumped to be back in New Zealand for the 2018 WBC.”
Taylor and her teammates secured an early win on day one of the WBC, beating the Harbour Breeze 88 69 in the first game of round one. The Dream will have two more games over the weekend going up against the Waikato Wizards on Saturday at 5.45pm and Otago Gold Rush on Sunday at 10.45am.
Today Taylor and the entire Auckland Dream squad visited Tauranga Intermediate School after their opening game. Taylor and sister, Charmian spoke about their experiences as Tall Ferns and what it was like to win bronze at the Commonwealth Games before fielding a range of questions from the year 7 and 8 students.
All games will be played at the Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre, Tauranga and Friday’s games will be streamed via Basketball New Zealand’s Facebook page and Basketball TV, links available below.
The full draw is available here.
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Watch the livestream coverage of the WBC on www.facebook.com/basketballnz/
For more information on the teams, draws, results and more go to www.nzwbc.basketball
Want to get involved in the game? Contact your local association via www.thehuddle.co.nz