By JARROD POTTER
THE time was right for Jacinta Kennedy to return to her basketball home.
Kennedy (nee Hamilton), 33, will resume her Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) basketball career after a 10-season hiatus as she returns to the Dandenong Rangers’ roster for the 2015/16 season.
The three-time WNBL champion and Commonwealth Games’ gold medallist retired when she was only 24, as she moved overseas to support her husband (former Socceroo Josh Kennedy) and his burgeoning professional soccer career and start her family.With Josh hanging up the boots this year though, Kennedy decided she could devote herself to the rigours of WNBL life once again.
“I’m excited to get back in the league – I didn’t think it would happen, but I’m really, really happy it has and I suppose I’m a bit proud of myself to get back to that level,” Kennedy said. “I just set myself a goal of having a really good SEABL season – I said I had to have a good season to even consider it.
“We’ve got the three kids, my husband is back in Australia now and has retired recently, so it was just a matter of seeing realistically if I could do it and logistically with the kids and all of their stuff, so I’m lucky to have great support at home with him and we’ve kind of figured it out and have managed it.”
With tall tandem Lauren Scherf and Alex Bunton also in the line-up, Kennedy isn’t sure what her role will be, but is thrilled to once again feature in a Dandenong WNBL campaign and add to her 132-game career.
“It’s exciting – we’ve started pre-season and I think we’re two or three weeks in and I’m loving it – really enjoying it,” Kennedy said.“I hope I can be a contributor for the team – my role is probably a bit unknown at this point, but that’s exciting and a bit nerve-wracking- but I’m just going to push myself as much as I can, and really be a strong contributor for the team.
“We’ve got two six-foot-five girls in Lauren Scherf and Alex Bunton and trying to fight with them in the post and get position and really have to think my way through things has been really enjoyable.”
Kennedy’s winter season has one week left as her Rangers’ SEABL side battles it out against Kilsyth in the grand final on Saturday after defeating Geelong in the East Conference finale.
“It feels good – we’ve got such a good bunch of girls and a great group of people off the court and just sensational competitors on it,” Kennedy said. “Our record speaks for itself and to get the win against Geelong – especially as they were the ones who knocked us out of the finals race last year- it’s really sweet.”
Also joining the Rangers’ roster in 2015/16 will be point guard Amelia Todhunter, who left the Melbourne Boomers this off-season.
They join a new-look Dandenong roster under incoming coach Larissa Anderson, who was excited to get two exceptional players who will fit into the Rangers’ roster with ease.
“Obviously the two of them are phenomenal players, phenomenal people, fit our culture perfectly, work their butts off and will bring a great deal to our group,” Anderson said. “I’m really pleased that we’ve got them on board and for Jacinta to be out of the game for as long as she has been, it’s really exciting to welcome her back to the Rangers and Amelia as well – it’s her home.”