Warrnambool Mermaids in recess as team support flounders

WOMEN’S basketball in Warrnambool will be void of top level competition in 2014, after it was revealed no Mermaids side would play the upcoming Big V season. 

The shock decision came after the Seahawks and Mermaids committee informed the board of Warrnambool Basketball Incorporated there wasn’t the senior player depth, commitment or off court support required to compete at the level. 

It’s the second year the top female side has struggled to field a team. 

A decision was made not to enter a Mermaids side last season, but a last minute fight to get the program running saw the side gain last minute entry to the division two competition.

Warrnambool Basketball Incorporated chairman Shane Dean said the decision wasn’t just about finding numbers on court, but off court as well. 

“We have to nominate our teams in October each year,” he said.  

“We no longer have the resources or desire to be waiting until December or January to learn who is or isn’t available, or under what conditions they might agree to train.’’ 

Dean said the decision not to enter a Mermaids team was a line in the sand moment. 

Dean said there was now an opportunity to create a better culture and to offer an environment where players, coaches and officials want to be involved year in and year out. 

“We have developed that culture with the boys over the past couple of years and now we need to work on creating that with the girls,” Dean said. 

“At the moment when the girls are getting to about 16 years old, they are torn between basketball and netball. At the moment they probably go with netball because that club social environment attracts them. 

“That’s something we need to try and develop.” 

Former Mermaid captain Holly Greene was shocked when told of the decision yesterday. 

Greene, who captained the championship winning Mermaids side in 2012, said she hoped for the sake of women’s basketball the Mermaids could be resurrected. 

“I can’t remember a time when there hasn’t been a Mermaids team in Warrnambool,” Greene said. 

“Being a country town, you always expect to have lax seasons, but you never expect there not to be a Mermaids. 

“I hope they can get it back up and running, I really do.

 ‘‘So many talented basketballers have come out of the Mermaids program. It would be sad to loose that.” 

Dean said Warrnambool Basketball would work closely with the Big V to review its development program in preparation for the 2015 season.

“Our preference is to have a men’s and women’s side playing at the highest level,” he said.  “The focus will now be on re-entering the women’s competition in 2015. 

‘‘Big V have suggested the youth league may be a way to do that. 

“There is some exciting talent in the under 16 and under 18 ranks, but those girls aren’t physically ready for division one or division two Big V commitments without some experienced players. 

“This won’t be the death knell for the Mermaids. We will still market ourselves as the Warrnambool Seahawks and Mermaids and we are committed to re-entering the women’s competition in some form next year.”

Dean praised the efforts of Seahawks and Mermaids chairperson Sue Gray and newly-appointed Mermaids coach Matt Smith. 

“Sue and Matt have put in an extraordinary amount of effort in recent weeks to assemble a committed group, both on and off the court,’’ he said.

‘‘Unfortunately they have been unable to meet the requirements set down by the board for team entry.

“The club will be looking to retain the services of Matt Smith, who couldn’t have been more impressive in his determination and desire to give the girls a strong foundation for future and consistent success.” 

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