As CEO of Basketball Australia and member of FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022 Local Organising Committee, Maria was pivotal in winning the bid for Sydney and organising the event - which kicks off on 22 September.
Now with only days to go before the World’s best basketball players descend upon Sydney, Maria is urging fellow WOB members to head courtside to support these female athletes - including WOB member and Australian basketball legend Lauren Jackson AO OLY - who is also Head of Women in Basketball at Basketball Australia - who makes her court comeback on Thursday against France at 8.30pm.
“It is a bit surreal that the FIBA Women's World Cup is almost here. Who would have thought when we started this journey back in 2018,” Maria said.
“The challenges and the barriers long forgotten and now we are about to see the Opals playing a major championship on home soil here in Sydney for the first time since the Olympics 2000. Young girls and fans engaging with elite basketball and the Opals - their idols - will have an opportunity of a lifetime.”
“For me this has been a crusade with no plan B. Firstly securing the funding and the bid with a small group of people, to forming the Local Organising Committee and being appointed to the Board and in charge of legacy.”
Australian basketballer Lauren Jackson at an Opals vs Japan friendly at Sydney's Olympic Park with (l-r) Melissa King, CEO at FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup, Claire Braund, Jenny Dean, Chair Basketball NSW and Lisa Yen, Non-Executive Director Basketball NSW.
As part of the lead up to the event, Basketball NSW has delivered several programs including, I am Girl Come and Try sessions, Community 3x3 for kids with an Indigenous and multicultural background, Dads and Daughters basketball programs and a Women in Leadership scholarship program focused on developing female community leaders across Australia.
“The partnership between the LOC and BNSW has been strong and staff have worked alongside each other from Day 1. I can confidently say that we would do it again.”
‘Impact will be immeasurable'
Basketball NSW Chair and WOB member, Jenny Dean, who was also on the LOC Finance and Risk Committee said the impact of the international event will be widely felt across Australia and inspire young basketball fans and players - just as the World Cup in the early 90s did for her.
“The impact on the next generation of basketball participants will be immeasurable and it will be long term,” said Jenny, who will be attending and watching every night.
“Back in 1994 when Sydney hosted the World Cup I was a fan watching the medal matches, obtaining signatures and talking to players from USA and Australia. Now two of those players, Dawn Staley and Sandy Brondello return to face off in Sydney again but as Head Coaches of their respective countries. That experience embedded in me a love of the game that went beyond casual playing to wanting to coach and inspired me to be involved in many ways across the sport including as Chair of Basketball NSW.
“I still revert to that fan when I meet the basketball legends I have watched over the years like Michelle Timms, Shelley Sandie and of course the returning Lauren Jackson and I cannot wait to see new legends created on the court.”
She said planning for the event - with COVID and the global economic and political conditions changing rapidly - meant the committee had to be resilient and nimble in the planning stages to ensure the event is world class.
“I want to encourage all WOB members to get out and buy tickets to see games either as a group or take your family. The ticket prices have been set to be accessible for a range of budgets so that everyone has the opportunity to see these world class players in action.”
For tickets click HERE
Read more: Everything you need to know about the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup