DON’T worry, win or lose Friday night’s SBL Grand Final and it won’t be last game in the remarkable career of Mandurah Magic legend Casey Mihovilovich and as strong as her desire is to taste championship glory, she wants to more achieve it for the club and local community.
Mihovilovich is the face of the Mandurah Magic and despite now nearing the 450-game milestone and preparing to play in her fifth Grand Final this Friday night against the Perry Lakes Hawks at Bendat Basketball Centre, there is no end in sight just yet to a career that started at 14 years of age.
And why should there be when she is continuing to enjoy basketball as much as ever, she is playing well and has remained relatively injury-free throughout 2017, is part of a winning team and most importantly the Mandurah community is right behind her club.
The new facility at the Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre has rejuvenated the spirits of everyone involved with basketball in Mandurah in 2017 and now the women have a Grand Final to prepare for Friday night against Perry Lakes.
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As much as Mihovilovich desperately wants to win Friday night to create history and bring the first championship to Mandurah, seeing the support the club has received and the boost the new stadium has provided has been reward enough for what 2017 has provided.
“It has been so incredible to get to play in our new stadium with all the community supporting us. We had 750 people here on Saturday night and basketball in Mandurah has really increased in terms of participation and involvement, and support for our SBL teams,” Mihovilovich said.
“I just feel really appreciative to the City of Mandurah for saying they will build us this show court and I can’t thank them enough along with the board who have helped along the way to create a stadium and what would work for us. It has been a real partnership but to see a packed out stadium has been amazing for us to get that support.”
The Magic have previously played in four Women’s SBL Grand Final with Mihovilovich part of those teams in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009 that just came up short.
But she is fully aware that making a Grand Final in its own right is a massive accomplishment and she remains proud of everything she has achieved in her remarkable career.
And as good as winning a championship would be, she doesn’t want to be defined by whether she achieved that or not.
“I have so many memories from them and it’s more about lessons learnt more than anything else,” she said.
“It has been four Grand Finals, but I tell you what it is so hard to get there and people say all the time that they want me to win one, and yes I would love that, but I look back on my career and I’m so proud to have my kids come watch and have such great friendships with the girls.
“Because I haven’t actually won one I don’t know how it feels, but I don’t think I’m defined by winning one or not. What matters now is that I’m enjoying basketball, I have a great bond with my team and the Mandurah community is loving basketball. It’s a great place to be.”
Mihovilovich also has no doubt that the Magic’s preparation of needing three games to beat the Lakeside Lightning and to win Game 3 at home on Saturday night will hold them in good stead for Friday’s Grand Final with the Lady Hawks.
“After we lost Game 2 as disappointed as we were, we thought there was no better way to prepare ourselves for a Grand Final than having to win Game 3 against such a quality side,” Mihovilovich said.
“We were really happy to have beaten that team and whoever would have won Game 3 would have been gracious in accepting defeat because both teams worked so hard to get to that point.”
A huge reason for the Magic’s success this season has been the back court combination that Mihovilovich has had with first-year import Nici Gilday.
While Carly Boag, Bree Klasztorny, Rachel Halleen, Emma Klasztorny and others will have a big say in whether Mandurah wins on Friday night or not, Mihovilovich knows that if she and Gilday can both fire that they will be tough to stop for the Hawks.
“We feel that if we can play well then we’ll be hard to stop but then you add Carly, Breeza, Rach and Em on to that as well, if we all have a great game at the same time which we haven’t yet been able to do this season, then I have no doubt we will be successful,” she said.
“It’s been amazing playing with Nici but I feel like both of us together haven’t had a great game at the same time, it seems to be one or the other. We keep saying that this will be the game where it all clicks and we both play well so there will no better time than the Grand Final.
“I am her biggest supporter and when things are down I always make sure that she’s up and she does the same for me. We have a great appreciation for each other and being opponents most of the time at training actually provides great preparation for games. She has been great for us.”
As for some of her longer-term teammates, Mihovilovich couldn’t imagine wanting to run out on Friday night alongside anyone other than players like Bree and Emma Klasztorny, and captain Rachel Halleen.
“They are hilarious both Klasztorny girls but my god, they are so focused when they get out there. They lift everyone on the team and when they are playing well they lift everyone around them. They just don’t take no for an answer no matter what it is, so it’s great to have them as teammates,” Mihovilovich said.
“She (Halleen) is just such a hard worker and a defensive machine. I love her playing defence on me because it makes me a better player, but I do believe she can stop anyone. She has that confidence in herself now too as a more mature player and she believes in herself. She is a huge asset to us and she’s so loyal and we value her so much with that defensive advantage she provides us.”
Mihovilovich has also let herself enjoy this Grand Final perhaps more than she did the previous four that she played when there were more responsibilities and expectations resting on her shoulders. That’s allowed her to just worry about getting her preparation right.
“I focus this week on what I have to do and no matter what I know I can play good defence and I have to prepare for my match ups, and I have to be really careful with what I do during the week,” she said.
“Preparation is very important. I have made my work second priority this week and my family is a great support. I’m not captain this time so I don’t have as many responsibilities so I can focus on myself a little bit more than I have in the past.”
As for the future, Mihovilovich has already committed to play on in 2018 no matter what happens in the Grand Final and that’s because her sons Will and Brock simply won’t allow her not to.
But having the continued support of her sons and husband Ben just make being able share life at the Magic with them all the more special.
“My kids won’t let me retire, they have told me they won’t let me and that I have to play for three more years. They just love being here, they love all the girls and they come to training sometimes and they have a ball,” Mihovilovich said.
“They love the environment that basketball brings and my kids are giving me no choice but to play on. They are really excited for Friday. My eldest is so nervous so that’s probably a good thing that I’m having to settle him down. I’m taking it in my stride and we’re having a lot of fun this week, and now all I want is for us to win.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)