NOTHING has diminished her passion for and commitment to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, not even three knee reconstructions, and that’s why Rebecca Motroni was so proud to become a 150-game player and is even prouder to be in a semi-final series with her team.
Motroni has spent half her life playing basketball with the Eastern Suns and she could never imagine playing anywhere else, or not playing basketball with Kalamunda, despite the obstacles she has come up against along the way.
The 23-year-old, who turns 24 in December, has had to overcome three knee reconstructions in her 12 years spent playing basketball with the Suns, but not once has she ever thought about walking away from the game or the club.
That’s why even going through challenging years with the club not a finals or championship threat never diminished her commitment, and it’s why it means everything to her now to be part of a Suns team that is just two wins away from a Grand Final appearance.
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Motroni was only 18 when Kalamunda last played in a Grand Final, losing to the Joondalup Wolves in 2013, but five years later she is now one of the leaders and has surpassed the 150-game milestone with the club.
To be part of a Suns team that beat a strong Willetton Tigers outfit in two games in the quarter finals to now set up the semi-final contest with the Lakeside Lightning starting this Friday night at Lakeside Recreation Centre certainly got Motroni right in the feels.
“Last Friday was pretty special and I got a little bit emotional, and that’s just how I play. It was pretty amazing and the amount of people we got to the game I think was the most we’ve ever had to a home game,” Motroni said.
“That was great to have everyone cheering us on and that really got us over the line having their support there at the end. It was awesome to be part of that. Getting it done in two games as well, I was really impressed with the girls and was proud of that effort against a strong Willetton team.”
Now that the Eastern Suns have overcome the Tigers, while it was a special feeling winning Game 2 to advance at a packed Ray Owen Sports Centre, their attention soon turned to the challenge ahead in the form of a Lightning team that has lost just once in 2018.
“Everyone is really excited but as soon as we finished that second game we knew we had a bigger and more difficult challenge ahead against Lakeside,” Motroni said.
“They have got some really amazing players on their team and Craig has coached me since I was 12 and he’s amazing. What he’s done with Lakeside the last couple of years is really impressive so they are a big challenge for us, but we are focused on trying to get our heads ready for that on Friday.”
Motroni has turned herself into a player who is a heart and soul type member of the Suns team with the leadership and defence she provides on the court, the way she fights on every single possession and for every 50-50 ball and the way she’s willing to do anything and everything for the team.
She is the type of unselfish player that makes the likes of Jennie Rintala and Alex Ciabattoni perform the way they have been, and that’s all because of the love and passion she has for the Suns organisation.
Motroni’s heart is with the Suns and when she reached her 150-game milestone late in the season in a home game against Willetton, that was an achievement she was deservedly extremely proud of.
“I’ve been playing for Suns since I was 12 and never would dream of playing for anybody else. It’s just such a great club and I love playing for Suns,” Motroni said.
“That milestone meant everything to me. I’ve torn my ACL three times and getting to that milestone, and what the girls did for me even though it sucked to lose the game, I was just absolutely spoilt by the club and by my team. It was a really special game for me and it was really great.”
Getting to the 150-game mark was all the more special for Motroni given the challenges she has had to endure, particularly the three knee reconstructions. But never did she think about not going through the gruelling rehab process to make it back.
“A lot of it is mental in the recovery especially to go through it three times, but I just love playing for my team and for Suns. I just love basketball and it’s just about not letting anything stop you from doing what you love doing,” she said.
“It’s made me grow a lot as a person a lot as well going through all of that, and going through all those hurdles to overcome them now makes me quite proud that I made it to 150 after going through all that. I’m still only 24 as well so I’m hoping all that is behind me now and I get to 300 without any more hiccups.”
Now looking ahead to the Lightning and it’s a big challenge for the Suns with Motroni likely to pick up the defensive match up on former teammate and two-time MVP Ali Schwagmeyer.
With Craig Mansfield coaching Lakeside too and Mel Moyle there as well, the series definitely will take on a bit of a strange feeling for Motroni and a lot of those involved as well.
“I think we’ve got nothing to lose and that’s just how we have to play. We need to come out and fight, and not stop fighting until the buzzer goes at the end. We just have to go out and give it everything we’ve got,” Motroni said.
“It will be a little bit strange just because I have so much respect for Craig, Mel, Schwag and everyone there.
“Craig has been a big part in me becoming the player that I am so I never really like playing against him because he knows my game so well. There is definitely that connection with them there so it will be interesting over the next two weeks.”
While Motroni will always be grateful to Mansfield for what she did to give her the start to her SBL career, she could speak any more highly of what Tom Knowles has brought to the Eastern Suns over the past two years as head coach.
“Tom is great. Just the support that he gives us, he really understands everybody’s individual strengths and how we gel well together. Especially for me, Tom is really big on defence and that’s where I make most of my impact on the game,” she said.
“He just loves anyone who puts up a fight and dives on those loose balls, and all of us girls here pride ourselves on doing that. He has been great and especially with working with our juniors and what he does for WABL, he really is a true team and club guy.”
With the Suns just two games from a Grand Final appearance and three wins away from a maiden championship, Motroni isn’t quite sure how she would feel if that did eventuate in three weeks’ time.
But what she does know is that it would mean a whole lot to so many people involved in Kalamunda basketball.
“I don’t know what that would feel like, I think I’d be overwhelmed. I’d just be proud more than anything and proud of us, proud of Tom and proud of just everyone who is involved in the club. It would mean the world to us and it would be so awesome but we have to get through Lakeside first and see what happens,” Motroni said.
“Especially having been at Suns from such a young age and going through WABL, there are people who have been there that whole time that I have who follow us into the SBL and who come along every week and volunteer their time to support us. I think it would mean just as much to them as it would to us. Part of that motivation for us is to get there for people like that and not just ourselves.”