BASKETBALL and football are two sports that often go hand in hand but not always at the elite level however, Australian Opal and Richmond AFLW player, Tessa Lavey, is proving it is possible to have the best of both worlds.
“[Footy and basketball] do have similar traits to them, when you’re in close there is a lot of decision-making with your hands,” she said.
“Footy into basketball has helped me a lot to be honest with the contact side of things, I think I’m taking a lot more contact now. So yeah, I think both have really had a positive impact on one or the other.”
Lavey has certainly been on the move for her career. She was born in Swan Hill in regional Victoria, then lived in Hamilton before getting a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport at 16 years old. At 18 she moved to Bendigo to play in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) for the Bendigo Spirit, before jetting across the country to become the first captain of the Perth Lynx. Lavey then relocated to Melbourne to play for the Dandenong Rangers, then back to Bendigo, and then recently moving back to Melbourne.
She is currently playing for Melbourne based women’s team, the Frankston Blues, who are part of the NBL1, during the off season from the WNBL. The Blues are currently undefeated and are sitting at the top of the ladder.
“I wanted to be down in Melbourne and be closer with, I guess, football to be able to do both, and I know Snelly [Belinda Snell] really well, I’ve played with her before, and she also does the Opals, so me trying to get to Tokyo that’s obviously a bonus for me knowing the plays inside and out. So I ended up out at Frankston.”
Lavey has been apart of the national team for a while now, debuting for the Opals at the Rio Olympics back in 2016.
“So 2016 was really wild over in Rio. I didn’t expect to go to Rio, and it all happened really quickly… I was like a 23-year-old looking around just taking everything in as much as possible.”
Again selected for the Opal’s Olympic team this year and set to head over to Tokyo in July, Lavey said that the feat is “an amazing achievement of mine that I’m really fortunate to have in front of me at the moment”.
“I’ll be doing that same thing, going in and taking everything in and using my experience as well… I think us as a group, we’re just ready to get over there and give it all we have.”
With the Olympics originally set to be held in 2020 but postponed due to COVID-19, the opportunity to play sport again was one of real excitement for a lot of people, but especially for Lavey.
“I think everyone missed sports in general last year, so for us to be playing, we know we are really lucky to be doing that, and it’s been really nice to reconnect with a lot of people, and the AFLW was obviously really cool to play and also share that experience with a lot of family [and] friends.”
The Richmond Tigers selected Lavey with pick no. 43 during the draft in 2020 after not having played football much since her days running around with the boys in the under 14’s in Casterton.
“I’ve supported them my whole life, so when they got an AFLW team I always joked around that I would eventually play for them,” she said.
“I just sort of reached out… got the ball rolling and went down for a kick, then turns out we were lucky enough to get me through on draft night.”
With so much to juggle, Lavey is trying to focus on one thing at a time, with the next goal in her sights the Olympics.
“Tokyo is the main focus right now. And then after that, just get back to Australia and see some family and friends, catch up with everybody, and then I’m straight back into everything; footy, basketball, it will be full tilt ahead.”
Photo credit: Tracey Nearmy