Warrandyte Basketball is celebrating its most successful season in a 48-year history that has seen many star players progress through the popular club, however, as has been the case in previous years, outstanding juniors are now playing senior basketball at their home club and that has now resulted in two Big V (State League) titles.

With a senior/youth program in only its seventh season, the Venom snared the Youth League Women and Division One Women’s championships, highlighting enormous growth at the club and the rise of many juniors. All up, of the 21 championship-winning players, 15 have come via the club’s junior program, an achievement not lost on retiring senior coach Justin Nelson.

“I think the titles speak volumes for the work carried out over the last seven years, it’s not just about this one season,” said Nelson, adding “Winning championships is a process, it’s about building strong and sustainable foundations and that starts with all the work being carried out in the junior programs.”

The first title came in mid-August when the ‘Porter Davis’ Youth Women defeated Hawthorn by 20 points in front of a massive home crowd at Warrandyte Sports Complex, capping a brilliant season by the team under coach Nicole Howard.

“Nicole is an exceptionally talented coach, she has been with the club for about six years now and totally understands the process,” said Nelson.

“Winning these sorts of titles take patience and development over a period of time, it’s about players buying into the system, working hard and adjusting to a more physical style of basketball, and to that end Nicole prepared these girls really well.

“Best of all, our youth team is really young and the bulk of the group could keep playing at this level together for the next four years. The likes of Maddi Taylor could play in the youth competition for the next seven years!”

With the Youth League title in their keeping, the club then set about winning the Senior Division One championship during late August, a result that would prove to be the perfect send off to Nelson after his impending retirement was announced just a few weeks earlier.

After getting past Whittlesea in the semi finals with ease, the Venom stitched up the title with a 2-0 win against Geelong in their best-of-three Grand Final series, the second and deciding win at Warrandyte in front of another huge crowd.

The championship victory also marked an amazing run of 18 straight wins for Nelson’s team, an achievement not lost on the coach.

“Winning the title is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, but it was the way in which we did it that really impresses me,” said Nelson.

After winning just two of their first five games to start the season, the team never looked back and swept all before them, never dropping another game on their way to the title.

“We were fit and healthy, we trained hard, we made defence our priority and we never looked like losing when we hit the front in games. There was just this amazing inner-belief in the team, they just knew our game plan would get us across the line every time we stepped out to play. Confidence is an amazing thing in sport, but it’s the hard work that really takes you to the next level,” added Nelson.

With his decision to step away from coaching in the State League topped with the biggest win of his coaching career, Nelson also heaped praise on everyone around him and the support they have shown over the years.

“Playing and coaching at this level is about more than just the coach and players. I can’t thank the likes of Jenni O’Brien (team manager), Jacqui Howes (trainer), Peter Anderson (venue manager), the committee and our game staff enough. Also, a massive thanks to Gardiner McInnes Real Estate for sponsoring this team since 2007. To Vicki, Russell and the team at Gardiner McInness, thank you for backing us.”

Though not in a position to confirm his next move, Nelson took time to also thank the players, families and supporters for the last eight years.

“Warrandyte Basketball has seen enormous growth since late 2005, it really has been quite an amazing transformation and I’m proud to have played a role, but to be honest that’s all I’ve done, played a role. To all the players, families and supporters, what we have achieved and continue to achieve is about you. It’s your club, it will always be what you make of it, but for me there is no better feeling than being part of a sporting club that you have, can and always will call home,” said Nelson.

“You won’t always win, you may not always agree with a decision that needs to be made, but I’ve always said that if you embrace Warrandyte Basketball it will embrace you back ten-fold. That’s the greatest experience I take forward with me. This club has given me ten times what I’ve given it and for that I’m most grateful.”


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