Bendigo Bank Spirit fans will have the honour of sharing a very special moment in the life of one of their heroes on Sunday.
WNBL All Star Kelsey Griffin will officially become an Australian citizen after the team’s clash against the Jayco Dandenong Rangers on Sunday.
The ceremony will take place on court at the Bendigo Stadium, giving Kelsey, and #onespirit fans, a chance to say ‘thanks’.
“The reason I chose to have the ceremony at the Bendigo Stadium is because I wanted a venue where anyone who wanted to be, could be, part of something so important to me,” she said.
“The people of Bendigo, the city of Bendigo, and the Bendigo Bank Spirit have done so much for me and I felt it was the least I could do to offer a place where anyone who wanted to be a part of the ceremony could.
“I want it to be my thank you to the community for supporting me in my journey of becoming an Australian.”
While basketball brought the 28 year old to Australia, it isn’t what is making her stay.
“I think what first and foremost made me fall in love with Bendigo and Australia as a country is the people and the Australian way of life,” she said.
“My team immediately made me feel right at home, but the entire city did as well. People are so thoughtful and generous here and I really appreciate how genuine they are.
“Believe it or not, there were a few times in the beginning when I was first learning to drive and get around Bendigo that I got lost. It didn’t matter where I stopped to ask for directions everyone was so nice and helpful.
“I love the way of life here. You catch up for delicious coffee and have a chat with someone. Not everyone is in a rush. It is laid back and people try and get the most out of life.
“I quickly learned what Sunday ‘seshes’ are, how delicious Harcourt ciders are and what a backyard BBQ is meant to be.
“The longer I stayed here, and the more of the country I was able to experience, the more it felt like home. “
While Kesley was quick to fall in love with Australia, she also fell in love in Australia.
“Erin and I bought a house in Bendigo after my second season here and that really solidified my feelings of Bendigo being home,” she said.
“I literally could not wait to come back every season after the WNBA. The only thing that would make Australia even better is if my mum, dad, sister and brother were here.
“Becoming a citizen is so important to me because I will no longer need to apply for visas to stay in the country that feels like home.
“I have created a life here that I absolutely love, and to know that without a doubt I will be able to stay here for the rest of my life is so exciting.
“My home is here, my partner is here, and I even have a dog here! It’s exciting that I know I get to stay here.”
In the WNBL off-season, Kelsey and Bendigo-girl Erin returned to America for an even more special ceremony.
“We were married in late July in Halibut Cove, Alaska. It is about a five-hour drive from where I grew up and is my all-time favorite place to go camping in Alaska,” she said.
“I have a lot of childhood memories of camping there and now it is even more special to me. It was a really intimate ceremony, but we did have eight Australians fly over for it.
“Erin’s immediate family came over and it was so fun to get to show them where I grew up and what a magical place Alaska is. My entire family was there, along with my closest friends from high school. Even Chelsea Aubry and her partner Shane flew over to help us celebrate the day.”
While Kelsey’s parents and siblings won’t be at Sunday’s citizenship ceremony, modern technology will give them a box seat.
“The world is becoming a pretty small place, but unfortunately it is still a rather long trip from Alaska to Australia,” she said.
“My plan is to have some sort of Skype or FaceTime set up for the ceremony so they will be able to watch in real time.
“My family knew how much I wanted to become an Australian Citizen, so they are extremely happy for me. They’ve visited Australia twice and completely understand why I love it so much here.”
And the all-important vegemite question?
“I really just can’t get behind the whole vegemite thing. I don’t mind a cheesymite scroll, but I would prefer a custard scroll if I had the option,” she said.
“That being said, if I had to do it as part of the citizenship ceremony, I 100% would!”