SHE might have preferred to not have to eliminate her former team to reach the second SBL Grand Final of her career, but given Melissa Moyle felt she might have never got back this season she’s making the most of every moment with the Lakeside Lightning.
Having played more than 200 games at the Eastern Suns, Moyle made the decision to leave to join the Lightning in 2018 to again be under the tutelage of brother and coach Craig Mansfield.
It was only fate that it ended up that the Lightning met the Eastern Suns in the semi finals in her first season with Lakeside but it hasn’t been one without challenges with her season in jeopardy due to a knee complaint.
But she has made it back for the last six games of the regular season and now the three finals matches so far that saw the Lightning eliminate the Perry Lakes Hawks in two games and then win Game 1 of the semi finals 92-41 last Friday night over the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
That has Moyle one win from the second SBL Grand Final of her career and the Lightning their first since 2014 heading into Game 2 back at Ray Owen Sports Centre on Friday night against the Eastern Suns.
Having played more than 200 games at Kalamunda on top of a WNBL career where she played at the Perth Lynx and Townsville Fire, Moyle made the change coming into 2018 to join a Lightning team who had pushed the Mandurah Magic to three games in the semi finals in 2017.
She had every reason to expect to join a strong team and that’s proven the case with Lakeside having lost just once to date in all of 2018, but after playing the first three games through a knee problem, she doubted for some time if she’d get back.
She still requires surgery to remove bone spurs from a tendon in her troublesome knee, but has made it back now and she couldn’t be happier to be one win away from a Grand Final appearance with her new team.
“It’s been a super challenging season. I played two games right at the beginning and I was already injured. Then I found out that I needed to have surgery so for a few months I was coming to watch trainings but mentally I figured I might not be back this year,” Moyle said.
“But I just wanted to keep a foot in the door and I knew I couldn’t disappear if I wanted the opportunity to actually come back. I went to a couple of different doctors and the first one said that I would just have to put up with the pain, but there was no way I could play on the pain.
“I found another doctor who said we could try injecting it and I ended up getting two injections. For each one you have to have a few weeks off just to be really safe.
“I did that and still wasn’t very hopeful but then it actually started to feel really good so I tried getting back on the court and I finally made it back. It’s very challenging, though, because when you miss a lot of the season you aren’t in the shape you’d like but I’m still trying my hardest obviously.”
Coming up against a Kalamunda team she knows so well and remains close to in terms of both players and people involved at the club certainly created for an awkward semi-final series for Moyle.
It will be even more so the case this Friday when she returns to Ray Owen Sports Centre in an opposition uniform for the first time. But she’s actually looking forward to it.
“It was definitely a little weird and I still love the club and all the girls there, and everyone at the club. it’s super weird being on the other side but I try to not think about it too much during the game and just focus on the job. It was good to get the first one out of the way,” Moyle said.
“My mum is still heavily involved in the club so of course I would have preferred to probably play another team in that situation. But at the same time I want to make the Grand Final as much as anyone so even though I would have preferred it being another club, I wasn’t disappointed that we were winning.
“I actually really love the court so I was thinking it will be nice to get back out there to play again. But it will definitely be a little bit strange warming up down the other end and I was only thinking about that the other day that we’ll actually be the team down the front end as you walk in to the stadium.
“This will be my first game playing against them there. I am actually looking forward to it and seeing a lot of old friends at the club again even if I’m playing for the other team.”
There was a number of reasons for Moyle to want to join Lakeside in 2018, but without question a significant factor was to play under her brother as coach Craig Mansfield again.
They went through a Grand Final loss in 2013 together at the hands of the Joondalup Wolves at Kalamunda and now she would love nothing more than to celebrate a championship with him in a week’s time.
“I actually played at Lakeside as a junior when I was really young and obviously my brother played a big role. I always really enjoyed playing for him and a lot of people might find it strange that a brother and sister can actually work together,” she said.
“But there’s quite a large age gap and for me it hasn’t ever felt like I’ve been playing for my brother, he’s just a coach that I totally respect. I’ve had so many coaches now that I really appreciate how good he is so I 100 per cent respect everything he says to me.
“I love his trainings and his coaching style. That was definitely a big drawcard for me and I also live near Lakeside so that makes it easier. I knew Lizel was coming too and I had played with Ali before so I was really looking forward to joining them again.
“I would absolutely love to win one with my brother. Obviously we have a strong history and he has put a lot of time and energy into me as a coach over the years selflessly. We grew up playing together in the backyard when I was a tiny little six-year-old so it would be the best thing ever if we won one together.”
While it would undoubtedly be a special experience for Moyle to enjoy a potential championship victory this season, she’s certainly not getting ahead of herself and knows the Eastern Suns will be putting up quite a fight this weekend.
“I hate jumping the gun even though I like to be positive. But not too forward thinking and I just like to take everything as it comes. Our priority this week is Friday and I definitely don’t like to get over excited and think about what could potentially happen next week even though it’s tempting of course,” Moyle said.
“Well I don’t want to jinx myself but it is super exciting. I was in one in 2013 and unfortunately we lost that but I think every coach and player wants to at least win one in their career.
“The longer I play the more I realise how hard it is to actually win Grand Finals or even to get there. People might take it for granted if you get one early in your career and don’t realise they are actually really hard to come by. It’s very exciting to be so close.”
While Moyle was excited to join Lakeside in 2018 and determined to make it back despite her knee problem, finding a role in a team that is performing so strongly has had its challenges.
But she has just been happy to play whatever role she can and to try to help the Lightning to their first Women’s SBL championship since 2006.
“I definitely knew the team was going to be good and you’d always like to think the team you’re in could potentially make the Grand Final. Of course, on paper you look at players and can see that there’s talent there so I was certainly hoping we’d at least be in the finals,” Moyle said.
“When you’ve got such a strong team it can be hard to find your role especially when they’ve been playing together all season and are so in sync with each other. You kind of feel like you come in and are trying to get in sync with everyone else.
“It has been challenging in that sense but at the same time I’ve been fortunate in that there’s been some games where we’ve been winning and that’s allowed me to get some extra minutes at the end of the game to try and get some fitness and form.”