TONI Farnworth has now made Perth home since arriving in 2012 and is loving her time at the Perry Lakes Hawks in her second season but she hasn’t won a championship since leaving New Zealand and she’s desperate to change that in the SBL Grand Final on Friday night.
The last championship Farnworth remembers winning was as an 18-year-old back in New Zealand and despite everything she has achieved since in a remarkable career whether representing the Tall Ferns, playing in the WNBL or at state league level, it’s that championship that remains elusive.
She has played since in the WNBL with the Dandenong Rangers, Bendigo Spirit, Adelaide Lightning and now West Coast Waves/Perth Lynx, on top of at state league clubs the Albury Wodonga Bandits, Bendigo Braves and now the Willetton Tigers, Joondalup Wolves and Perry Lakes Hawks.
With the Hawks facing the Mandurah Magic in Friday night’s SBL Grand Final at Bendat Basketball Centre, Farnworth hopes that personal drought is broken since she made the move to Australia.
“Honestly it will be great and it will mean a lot and a lot to the club because it hasn’t won a championship in 10 years,” Farnworth said.
“It feels like a really good strong group and to win championship with a group like this will be pretty special and I haven’t won a whole lot of championships. It’s been a lot of years for me so it will be really exciting and a great thing to do with a great group of people.”
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Farnworth remains one of the very best players in the Women’s SBL in 2017 in her second season at the Lady Hawks as she continues to play all-year round without a break.
She started the season with Perry Lakes fresh from her fifth season playing with the Perth-based WNBL franchise and while her SBL season was interrupted, it was for a pretty good reason given she was representing New Zealand at the FIBA Asia Cup with the Tall Ferns finishing sixth.
Before and after that, Farnworth has been a powerful force for the Lady Hawks helping them to the minor premiership with a 20-2 record and then into the Grand Final without dropping a game to the Cockburn Cougars and Willetton Tigers in the playoffs.
While averaging 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game overall in 2017 for Perry Lakes, her scoring has gone up to 21.5 points a game during the finals to date with her proving unstoppable by the Cougars and Tigers.
Farnworth is still well and truly capable of putting up big numbers and being an unstoppable force, but she now feels more comfortable in her skin where she doesn’t feel like she has to go out and do that. She is focused on just doing whatever is best to help her team win.
“I think as you get older and more experienced you realise that’s what it’s about. When you are younger you are a bit more worried about your personal goals and those sorts of things but now I think numbers and all those things don’t really matter and winning is why you play the game,” she said.
“I think being in a spot where you have your role to play helps and whatever that role is I’m happy to play and I don’t put that same pressure on myself to put up big numbers anymore.
“I am required to score a bit here but I am required to be a big defensive presence and to provide leadership and facilitate as well, but at a WNBL level it might be different again as well. But I think just having a role and only really concerning yourself with that is important to be effective.”
Despite continually going from WNBL season to state league seasons for the past decade and remaining committed to New Zealand along the way, there is no sign of burnout from basketball with Farnworth and she’s not crying out for a break.
She gives a lot of credit to that to how much she has enjoyed being in Perth since joining the Waves originally for the 2012/13 season.
“I love playing basketball and I really haven’t taken much time off at all in like the last 10 years, it’s been great though,” Farnworth said.
“I found the Lynx a couple of years really invigorated me and then joining the hawks as well has been really good. I’ve been really enjoying the club, I don’t find myself not wanting to play at any stage. Maybe some practices can be a bit of a grind but I’m always up for the games.”
After spending two SBL seasons at Willetton and then one with the Lady Wolfpack, Farnworth joined Perry Lakes in 2016 helping them to the semi finals where they lost in three games to the Wolves.
She returned again in 2017 alongside Lynx teammate Nat Burton and Gabby O’Sullivan on board with the core including Emily Burton, Sarah Donovan, Kate Anthony, Lauren Jeffers and company all back again.
Farnworth couldn’t help but be impressed with the physical shape the team was in when she arrived following her WNBL season with the Lynx and that, combined with the growth of the team over the past couple of years has her feeling they have more than deserved a Grand Final berth now.
“That was probably the goal coming back was to go at least one step further and making it into the Grand Final,” she said.
“There are a few young players in the team I thought would be definites to develop further and I saw the potential to get better and I think a few of the girls have improved really quite a bit this year. Switching Nat and Doccy has been really our only main change and we haven’t dropped a beat at all there as well.
“I think it’s been a great achievement from the team from when I came in. I didn’t do much of the pre-season with the girls but everyone was in really good shape and I was impressed when I came in and I could sort of feel we definitely were going to take a step up from the year before.
“As for what comes this week, we have played Mandurah a couple of times and both games had been pretty tough particularly the second one. I guess we have to be ready for potentially a bit of a grind at times and play our style, get out and run and use our advantages.”
Farnworth has also certainly enjoyed Deanna Smith taking over as coach at the Lady Hawks after she retired as a player following that semi-final series last year.
“She is good and there is a different dynamic I guess having played with your coach for quite a few years but it’s good,” she said.
“I think we can talk as ex-teammates and as player coach as well so we can be pretty honest with each other and bounce ideas of each other so it’s good.”
Before arriving at the West Coast Waves for the 2012/13 season and now remaining with the Perth Lynx the past two years and playing in the SBL along with that at Willetton, Joondalup and now Perry Lakes, it is the stability that Farnworth was craving in her career.
Having come from Christchurch to Dandenong to Bendigo to Adelaide and then Perth over the previous five years, it’s fair to say she was used to spending a year in one destination and then moving on.
But the combination of meeting her husband, loving the basketball and enjoying the lifestyle has all meant that Perth is home for Farnworth now despite her Kiwi blood.
“I think the fact that Perth does reminds me a bit of New Zealand is quite nice and it’s pretty laid back and that’s how I like life,” Farnworth said.
“I met my husband Josh here too so that was a pretty big thing too so it’s a combination of more lifestyle and life factors and the club has been good for the time I have been here. It’s been six years playing WNBL and five years of state league now.
“We are building a house at the moment so its relatively permanent that I’ll be staying here I would say. I don’t know what will happen when I retire but I love Perth and think I will be here for a while.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)