WHILE it’s easy to point at the arrival of Nici Gilday and Carly Boag for the rise of the Mandurah Magic into SBL championship contenders in 2017, a fully available and healthy Bree Klasztorny has provided that missing piece and all she wants now is to try and win for the Mandurah community.
Nagging injury problems have kept Klasztorny from being on the court as much as she would like and having the impact for the Magic she wanted to the point where before the 2017 season started, the doubts were so strong that she wasn’t sure if she still had what it takes.
But those doubts have been well and truly buried in 2017 with Klasztorny settling alongside Boag in a starting role for the Magic providing quite the impressive front court in a team that has been outstanding right through the season.
Klasztorny’s numbers are solid for the season with 5.7 points and 5.5 rebounds a game while shooting 51.7 per cent from the field, but that only tells part of the story.
Her physical presence and ability to fight inside above her size and weight on top of her infectious competitive nature, leadership and direction is all immeasurable in terms of the impact she he has made.
The 27-year-old has been massive with the Magic firstly finishing the regular season in second position before then beating the Perth Redbacks in two games in the quarter finals and then the Lakeside Lightning in three games in the semi finals.
Klasztorny was outstanding particularly in the Game 3 victory on Saturday night against Lakeside at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre helping the Magic into the Grand Final with her 17 points, five rebounds and three assists on 7-of-10 from the floor including a string of long jumpers.
After being there in the Grand Final loss of 2009 against the Willetton Tigers then as a 19-year-old, Klasztorny is excited to be back there again to play the Perry Lakes Hawks at Bendat Basketball Centre on Friday night.
But it’s not the personal glory she is craving, it is the reward for the hard work of so many that she’s most happy about.
“It’s pretty surreal that we are in the Grand Final and I’m still not sure if it’s fully sunk in yet to be honest. I don’t really think too much about the game too early in the week so I might not start really until Thursday during our last training session and then Friday about lunch time,” Klasztorny said.
“I find that I’m pretty bad for overthinking things so I like to keep myself busy but it’s a very exciting time and I’m just really happy for our club to be honest. This club has been through a hell of a three or four years so this is a nice way to thank everyone that has put so much time into rebuilding this place.
“Randy is an incredible guy and so is Patty and then Craig is on board this year and this group of girls is unbelievable really. You don’t get much better as a team than this and I don’t just say that, I mean it wholeheartedly. We don’t have any crap and everyone is held accountable, and we all live here and love this place, and pride ourselves to play for Mandurah Magic so we are excited now for Friday.”
There has been a special feeling with the Mandurah women all season long and then with the added boost of the opening of the redeveloped Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre, it has given everyone a real lift.
The atmosphere for the semi-final Game 3 on Saturday night was tremendous and Klasztorny is proud of her team for giving the local community something to enjoy.
“It was incredible on Saturday night. I remember being on the court and I couldn’t even hear Milo calling plays and it was an incredible atmosphere,” she said.
“I remember on the opening night here this season and our numbers have grown since then, and people are coming from all over to watch the Mandurah Magic women play and I think that’s a very special culture we are starting to create here in Mandurah for basketball.
“It meant everything to play in front of our fans and supporters, and they come with us every week. To be able to win like that at home in this facility was very special.”
As for Friday night’s Grand Final, as much as Klasztorny would enjoy winning a championship for herself, it is the chance to make history by winning Mandurah’s first title and doing it for so many long-time servants of the club and the legend herself Casey Mihovilovich that provides the ultimate drive.
“Of course the thought of winning crosses your mind at some point, but you try to snap out of that pretty quickly because you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself,” Klasztorny said.
“I just want to do it for everyone here. I want to bring that flag back and say thank you for everyone and to so many different people starting the Milo family and down from there.”
With her physical troubles in recent seasons, Klasztorny never was quite sure if she would be able to get back to play the type of season that she has in 2017.
She is also so passionate about doing what was best for the club that she would have been willing to step aside if she thought it was what was best.
But now to get back and play so well and most importantly do all the right things to make sure she hasn’t missed a game is something she takes great pride in.
“I never wanted to become a hindrance and that thought did cross my mind if I was being disruptive by being in and out because of my body, and I didn’t want to be a bad influence on the kids coming through. But I wasn’t ready to pack my shoes away just yet. Just being physically prepared has definitely helped me get through this year,” she said.
“I work in even numbers so I thought because it was 2017 something was going to go wrong but touchwood it hasn’t. It has been a great year but everyone has worked really hard in the off-season and I make sure I rehab every day basically.
“That’s the only way I can play along with a bit of yoga and I just do what I need to do to get ready. I definitely count my blessings that I have made it through every game and haven’t had an injury or surgery slow me down. It’s been an amazing year after some tough times.”
Klasztorny was also mindful to make sure her desire to play basketball didn’t cause any long-term issues in terms of her being able to remain fully active the rest of her life. She’s confident now that has everything in order and the worst of her injury troubles are well and truly behind her.
“It’s good to play some decent basketball and that’s more for myself and not really anyone else. I didn’t think I had to prove anything to anyone, but it is nice to show myself that I have made the right decision to keep playing basketball,” Klasztorny said.
“It definitely crosses your mind at times if you should give it up and I’m a sports teacher so I don’t ever want my work to be impacted by my basketball career. But this year has been good for a lot of reasons.”
It’s fair to say that the Klasztorny family is quite synonymous with basketball in Mandurah as well. The whole family remains heavily involved include Bree and Emma now preparing to play in Friday night’s Grand Final and their younger brother Fletcher now preparing to head off for college.
Being such a family club is one of the big reasons why Bree’s passion for the Magic is so strong.
“Sometimes it drives me insane with how many Klasztorny’s are involved at the club but it’s pretty special really. I owe this club everything and I met my fiancé because he was playing basketball in Mandurah and it’s been a hell of a ride for my family with the club,” she said.
“It’s been amazing and I have loved seeing my brother put his boots back on and come back to basketball after he took a year off to play footy. That has meant so much to everyone in my family and obviously Taylor is playing, and it means the world to me playing alongside my sister.
“But we’ve also had the Pettit sisters, the Sidebottom sisters, the Ballantyne kids with Morgan having her brother playing and even Randy has his two kids playing in the SBL too now. It’s just that family culture we have here at Mandurah that makes it special.”
As for Klasztorny’s fiancé Taylor Mullenax, it does appear his strong SBL career firstly as an import and more recently as a local with the Magic is over after the veteran big man suffered a serious knee injury late in the season.
It was terribly unfortunate after he was having yet another strong season despite having to be persuaded to play on in 2017 by coach Aaron Trahair, but Klasztorny is glad to see him now begin the slow recovery process from the operation.
“He’s alright and this will be the biggest injury he’s had to deal with. He’s had his ankle done before but I guess the pain and significance of this is another level,” she said.
“It’s been pretty sore this past week and he’s a big guy and he’s pretty hard to manoeuvre, but he’s holding up alright and is starting to weight bear a bit now.
“It was pretty big surgery but he’ll be fine even though I don’t think he’ll play again so I think this means he’s done. He will continue to turn into the Australian that he’s slowly becoming by fishing and drinking beer, and taking our dog four-wheel driving.”
For the couple to be able to share playing with the Magic on top of helping run the club’s Elite Fundamentals Academy means that it is likely to remain a significant part of their lives.
“It’s really special for us to share this club and it’s something we are really grateful for,” Klasztorny said.
“That’s why we want to put back into the club and I really don’t think I would be the person I am today if it wasn’t for the people I’ve met at this club and what it’s done for me. We have something really special down here in Mandurah.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)