Today I want to highlight the recent wonderful achievement of the Adelaide Lightning women’s basketball team in winning the 2007-08 WNBL championship.
Last month, the Lightning defeated the Sydney Uni Flames 90-82 in the grand final at Wollongong to claim its first WNBL title in a decade. An unstoppable display from the Lightning’s Renae Camino—who, coincidentally, is a former Wollongong junior—helped her team to the title as she set about racking up a game-high 32 points for herself and was rightly judged the MVP for the game. For my colleagues in the chamber who are not exactly sports nuts, I can advise that MVP stands for ‘most valuable player’.
Other players to star in the match were Camino’s fellow Adelaide starting guard Erin Phillips, who had 16 points and seven rebounds, while Sam Woosnam had 13 points and eight rebounds.
However, the result clearly required a wonderful effort from the entire team to defeat a very strong team in Sydney Uni—a team that has played off in six grand finals in seven seasons. Adelaide raced to a 30-16 lead at quarter time, but Sydney Uni fought back hard to trail 40-35 at half time. However, a great third term to Adelaide broke the game open and it was never troubled in the final term.
This victory was a sweet one for the Lightning, having forfeited home court advantage to the Flames after a shock loss in Adelaide in the semi-final. Having earned a spot in the grand final by defeating the Dandenong Rangers, Adelaide made sure its exceptional 21 to three season record did not go to waste. It should also be noted that Adelaide’s 92 points is the highest score in a WNBL grand final.
Lightning coach Vicki Valk was delighted with the side, and I personally recognise Vicki’s wonderful work through the season. Vicki should be proud of her efforts and those of her coaching panel and players in bringing the title to South Australia. The administration and the club as a whole should be very proud. In particular, owners Vince and Catarina Marino should be congratulated wholeheartedly for their solid financial backing of the team.
WNBL was established in 1986 and the Adelaide Lightning now has five crowns—a very solid effort which is worth recognising. Regrettably, that brings me to my next point. I have found a negative in all this—and, indeed, I am saddened by it. The Adelaide Lightning has received no public recognition from this government.
I recall in September last year receiving some written notification from the Premier that should Port Adelaide win the AFL premiership a public reception would be held to honour the players. History shows that the reception was never required. Certainly, in 2004 Port Adelaide was publicly honoured by the government for winning the AFL premiership—and rightly so—as was the Adelaide Football Club in 1997 and 1998.
I also recall being invited and proudly attending public receptions in the past for the Adelaide 36ers when they won national titles. However, the Adelaide Lightning—a team which has won a national title with very little fanfare—has received no recognition from the government of the day. One has to ask why this is so. South Australia is a small state which constantly punches above its weight in a number of areas, none more so than the national sporting stage. That is why it is important that we celebrate our successes. I am sure the Lightning players would be delighted to be recognised publicly by the government: it would make their win even more special.
It is true that women’s sport does not enjoy the public profile nor attract the big sponsorship dollars of men’s sport. As opposition sports spokesman, I think it is even more important that we recognise special achievements in women’s sport. This government must do its part to acknowledge the great achievements in women’s sport. I am convinced that would help more young women become involved in sport. Growing participation in sport and recreation, after all, is one of this government’s goals, apparently.
In addition, I am concerned about the recent news that South Australia has lost the chance to host a netball test between Australia and New Zealand in October. The state government has yet to commit the $150,000 needed to purchase portable flooring at the Distinctive Homes Dome that will allow Netball SA to secure big games for this state. I attended the last test; it was a magnificent event, and it needs to be supported.
At this stage, it appears that the government is dragging its feet in helping Netball SA to purchase the necessary infrastructure and, as a result, Netball Australia has given the test flag to Brisbane. My concern is that this government has committed $20 million towards a demountable stadium for motor racing but has yet to say that it will provide just $150,000 for women’s netball. Coupled with the Adelaide Lightning’s not receiving rightful recognition of its achievement, this sends the message that the Rann Labor government does not care about women’s sport.
I can report to the council that I have written to Vicki Valk, the coach of Adelaide Lightning, and offered to host, at my expense, her and her team as my guests at Parliament House to show that at least some in South Australia care about their special achievements.