DURING a distinguished playing career throughout Europe, Regina Palusna always dreamed of playing in Australia and it has lived up to what she hoped with the only thing missing being a Mandurah Magic SBL championship.
Better known as Ginka, Palusna has become more and more of a difference maker with the Magic having arrived for an Anzac Day loss at home to the Perth Redbacks, and she has been a huge factor in Mandurah reaching a second straight Women’s SBL Grand Final this Friday night against the Lakeside Lightning.
Initially, coach Randy Miegel signed Palusna with an eye to forming what could have been quite the unstoppable Twin Towers duo of her and Carly Boag. But once Boag’s season ended with a knee injury then the Slovak national team member suddenly had an even bigger role to play.
The 29-year-old was more than ready to take on that extra responsibility too while loving life in Australia having spent her career up until now playing at home and then right throughout Europe in Belgium, Spain, France, Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
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Throughout her career, she has won a Czech Republic Cup and Belgian Cup while regularly representing the Slovak Republic and playing throughout Europe including in the EuroLeague, but wherever she went she couldn’t shake the desire to one day play in Australia.
It wasn’t an easy ride for the Trnava-native to reach Australia, but once she heard about life in Western Australia and Mandurah, and playing with the Magic in Sweden last year, she just hade to make it happen and she’s never regretted it for a second.
“I have been playing so many years as a pro in Europe but this was my dream since when I was young,” Palusna said.
“It was actually pretty hard for me to get here even though I spoke with my agents before, but they said for European players it’s not that easy.
“But I never give up and last season I was playing in Sweden and I was lucky that one of my teammates was the girl who played for Mandurah Magic last season.
“She helped me to contact with the coach and we find solution so I could get here. I’m pretty happy we could do that and this is one of the best years in my career for how I’m enjoying the basketball.
“I just always had a feeling that this is a place that I should be and I still have it. I love it here and I honestly am leaving in a few days and it will be probably the hardest goodbye for my career.”
While Palusna is loving everything about living in Australia, the style of play compared to what she has experienced her whole career in Europe has taken some getting used to.
Her size has dictated her becoming more of a post player in the SBL when that hasn’t been her regular role in Europe too, but she is now at a point where she’s feeling right at home.
That’s highlighted by averaging 21.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 blocks over the past six matches including a season-best 28 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks in Friday’s clinching Game 2 win against the Perth Redbacks.
“It’s really different for me and that’s why it might have taken a little longer to find the right chemistry in our team,” she said.
“Basketball in Europe is much tougher and in Europe we might play more patient, but here it’s really different and a lot faster. I am used to it now and I am honestly enjoying this game now. I really like it.”
Before coming to Mandurah, Palusna liked everything she was hearing about the team and was excited at the prospect of trying to help them make up for losing last year’s Grand Final to the Perry Lakes Hawks and going one step better in 2018.
She was also looking forward to forming a potent front court duo with Carly Boag, but even when that didn’t eventuate it didn’t shake her confidence in what the team could accomplish.
“Honestly my career has been really long and I can tell every season on every team I play there will be many ups and downs,” Palusna said.
“There will always be some part of the season that you are down but I believed in us all the time. We are a group of really good players and people, and we just needed more time to find the right chemistry. I think we found it at the right time.
“I was really excited to play with Carly because all the people were saying we would be a really good couple on the court because we play similar basketball, and we could help each other.
“But it’s a sport and injuries always happen, but I didn’t feel more pressure on me. I have been playing for many years and have played important roles before, so I just wanted to take it and do my best for this team.”
Now that Palusna has played such a pivotal role in Mandurah reaching Friday night’s Grand Final against the Lakeside Lightning, she is looking forward to embracing the occasion and her battles against the likes of Sam Roscoe and Ash Grant.
“What I expect is such a good game and I think everybody will enjoy it with so many people here watching. It will be a perfect atmosphere and the better team will win, I just really expect a good and close game that’s full of emotion. This is the best part of the season, a finals game,” Palusna said.
“I’m so excited and I really can’t wait for Friday. It actually was my goal since the beginning when I got here to play in a Grand Final because I heard many stories about the team and how they play, and how they lost last year and everything.
“I really feel like we can do it and I’m really happy that we made it to the Grand Final even though we had a hard season.”
The Magic are now in their sixth Women’s SBL Grand Final and chasing the maiden championship with Palusna wanting more than anything to be part of history.
“What can be better than making history and if it happens you can be part of that history. I think there is nothing more better you can do in your career than to be part of history like that,” Palusna said.
“It would mean a lot to me. It was my dream to get to come here to play and to actually play in a Grand Final, and if we win the Grand Final all the dreams I was thinking about would have come true.”