When Belinda Snell is asked to list the highlights of her Wattle Valley WNBL career, it is not difficult to see why she is regarded as Australian basketball royalty.
“Winning the WNBL championship with the AIS in 1998/99 was unbelievable. For a group of 17, 18 and 19 year olds to take out the national league was a huge feat,” she said.
“It may have had something to do with the superstars in that team, such as Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Suzy Batkovic, Kristen Veal, as well as our awesome coach Phil Brown.
“Winning the WNBL championship with Sydney Paragon Panthers in 2000/01 was also massive.
“Playing against Canberra in Canberra we were not expected to win and came from around 10 down with two and a half minutes to go to win.
“It was such a fun year and I learned a lot from playing with Annie La Fleur (Burgess), and Rhonda Corkeron, Suzy Batkovic and Natalie Hughes came up with some huge plays in the final.”
The 34 year old is having a stellar season with the Bendigo Bank Spirit, and will play her 250th WNBL game against Townsville on Friday night.
“It’s nice to reach 250 games. I missed quite a few seasons in the WNBL to play in Europe so to still be able to get 250 games under my belt in the best league in Australia is a huge honour,” she said.
“Basketball is my passion. I love playing this amazing game and I’m very lucky to be able to travel the world doing it.
“I love playing and the competitiveness of the WNBL. It has been a long time since winning those two titles. I have played in five losing grand finals — four with Sydney University Flames and one last year with Bendigo Spirit — so that drive to keep winning and chase another title is still there.”
That drive and competitiveness also comes from playing with, and against, some of the world’s best.
“I have been lucky enough to be teammates with Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor and Kristi Harrower, who are legends of the game,” Belinda said.
“It has been amazing to play with them, see their competitiveness and mental toughness, and learn from them.
“Laura Hodges and Jenni Screen have also been awesome teammates. I have loved playing with these girls, but not so much playing against them, as we have had some huge battles in the WNBL.
“These girls have definitely pushed me to become a better player. Not only are they great teammates but good friends off the court also.
“My years with Sydney University Flames and the guidance and mentoring from Karen Dalton, Donna O’Connor, Jodie Craig and Alicia Poto were important and definitely helped prepare me for international competition.”
Belinda’s career will not just be recognised on Friday night, but also at a special ceremony in front of her home crowd on December 12, alongside her family and some very special friends.
“My family have been there for me throughout my whole career. Win or lose, they are always very supportive and although these last couple of years have been difficult, they have been amazing,” she said.
“It’s also great seeing my nieces and nephews enjoying coming to games.
“I’m very excited for the game at home against Melbourne on December 12. I have my under 12 and 14 teammates from Mirboo North ,who I remain close friends with today, coming up to Bendigo for a little reunion, so I am looking forward to seeing them and all their kids at the game.”
In almost career-best form, Belinda is enjoying the current Spirit lineup and its enthusiasm and supportive culture.
“I’m enjoying playing with the Spirit. It’s wonderful that there is a team from country Victoria in the WNBL I love playing with such a nice group of girls,” she said.
“Gabe Richards, Kelly Wilson and Kelsey Griffin are great teammates and have been so successful with the Spirit, but also the girls that are so hardworking and committed to the Spirit in Heather Oliver, Jane Chalmers and Andrea Wilson are inspirational in their careers off the court also.
“The Spirit sponsors (special thanks to Central Kitchens) and supporters have been wonderful and make the atmosphere at games very exciting, so keep up the great work Spirit fans.”