The WNWBL continues to expand and in 2017, the league will involve a sixth team with the Red Dust Lady Heelers joining the competition.

The Heelers Program, conceived in 2012 by Outback Academy Australia, already own a team in the National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL) but have increased their reach to the WNWBL this year as they aim to offer more opportunities and tangible pathways for those interested in playing wheelchair basketball.

To be a Red Dust Heeler, players are required to be more than just on-court performers. Players are expected to participate in community engagement programs, cultural awareness training, and mentoring from Elders, as well as promoting a community of respect and friendship all integral to being a part of the team.

“All our athletes are well aware of this and have embraced this aspect of the team,” said Kathleen O’Kelly Kennedy.

“With Uncle Kevin Coombs OAM as our Patron, we have a strong commitment to creating disability awareness, inclusion and participation in Aboriginal communities across Australia.” 

“We are fortunate to have strong support from the Victorian Women's Trust and our Ambassador Evonne Goolagong-Cawley AO MBE as well.

“For young players like 22-year old Dianne Cowen, 14-year old Tahlia Hagart and 11-year old Lily Poulter, it is not just about the opportunity to play the sport.

“It is about the opportunity to develop as leaders in their communities through mentorship from the likes of Evonne, our senior Heelers and many other strong Aboriginal and other women linked to the Red Dust Heelers.”

Through the Club’s existing community engagement programs, they have already unearthed four new female talents and as their growth in the League continues, they expect to locate further athletes.

Georgia Inglis has come across from the Be Active Western Stars this season to join the Lady Heelers as she already represents The Heelers in the NWBL and is a strong mentor who will help development players like Anika Coppin-Foley, from Port Hedland WA.

As a member of the Australian Gliders, Inglis will be looking at this season as an opportunity to further her growth as a leader and as a player after finishing first in the competition for assists in 2016.

A documentary team will also follow the Heelers through their debut season, which will not only showcase the hard work of the players but provide inspiration to younger athletes as they focus on the development of new athletes from across the country.

The aim of the documentary is to highlight the trailblazing athletes of the men’s and women’s leagues as well as supporting and creating more opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities in sport, recreation and, in the words of Kevin Coombs OAM, to ‘give life a go’.

While the inclusion of the Heelers in the League this season will further strengthen the competition, the team is about so much more off the court. The Heelers will be a welcome addition to the landscape of Australian basketball in 2017.


Comment Guidelines: The SportsTG Network is made up of players, families and passionate sports followers like you who have a strong opinion about sport. That's great - we want you to have your say and share your thoughts with the world. However, we have a few rules that you must follow to keep it fun for all. Please don't be rude, abusive, swear or vilify others. Apart from some pretty serious sport sanctions, we also can ban you and report you if things get out of hand. So play fair and have fun, and thanks for your contribution.