WITH the string of injuries the Mandurah Magic have had to fight through in 2018, Anita Brown might have had to take on more of the load than was planned but she’s been more than up to the challenge and hopes the club’s maiden championship is the end reward.
Brown joined as the new back court import for the Magic in 2018 and had big shoes to fill after the tremendous season Nici Gilday had in 2017 to help them reach the Grand Final before ultimately coming up short against the Perry Lakes Hawks.
Even though Carly Boag’s season ended with injury and the likes of Casey Mihovilovich, Bree Klasztorny and Rachel Halleen have all battled injuries along the way, Brown has kept things together for the Magic.
Even though things got tough mid-season and even just reaching the playoffs seemed like it would be a good achievement, the Magic pulled together to qualify sixth and now have swept their way through the playoffs.
Two straight wins against both the Rockingham Flames and Perth Redbacks have the Magic back in the club’s sixth Women’s SBL Grand Final on Friday night against the Lakeside Lightning.
Brown has been superb right the way through for Mandurah putting up 24.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game to ensure she will be right up there in MVP voting.
But more importantly she wanted to help the team win and go as far as they could this season, and now she couldn’t be happier to be in the Grand Final with the club’s first ever championship within reach.
“It just feels really good to know that our faith has paid off. Each week coming into practice it was tough and we lost a lot of games, but we never had a defeated attitude. Our coaches kept telling us that it would come together so to see it all come together and be in a Grand Final feels good,” Brown said.
“Coming in this year I had a talk with Milo and she told me we’re winning it this year. I told her I was on board with that because any time I come to a team I want to play for a championship.
“I haven’t played for a championship since my sophomore year in college so to be playing for one again is special and this is a special group of girls.”
Brown has taken on board the history of the Magic this year since joining the club and knowing they’ve been in five previous Grand Finals and never quite managed to prevail is motivation plenty for her to bring a first championship back to Mandurah.
There’s also plenty of motivation for herself too as she chases a first championship since her sophomore year when she was part of Akron winning the 2014 MAC Championship at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.
“It would mean everything if we could win. The fact that we even got to this point feels amazing but growing up I always watched Kobe and his drive to win with his mentality. I just feel like that’s part of the puzzle and if we don’t win there’s going to be a piece of me not completed until next season,” she said.
“Even though I’ve only been here for six months you can just tell how much of a family the whole City of Mandurah is. Being a part of that has been great from the moment I got here and they’ve made me feel part of the family.
“I want nothing more than to help them win their first championship because every time I win a game with them I feel like I’ve been here forever even though it’s only my first season. I feel like that would be the ultimate icing on the cake.”
The Magic won the first five games of 2018 but then went through a run of winning just three of the next 13 games but towards the end of that stretch, Brown’s belief in what the group could still achieve began to grow.
Narrow losses to Rockingham, Lakeside and Perth showed to Brown that they could compete and would be even more capable of doing that when back to full strength, so she had belief even heading into the playoffs before the four impressive wins over the Flames and Redbacks.
“There was a stretch where we played Rockingham, Lakeside and Redbacks and all of the games were fairly close where in the fourth quarter I felt like we had a chance to win all of them,” Brown said.
“Even though we lost all three I was confident because we just proved we could play with the top three teams and that was when we were far from full strength.
“That’s the point I gained a lot of confidence and I knew we had a lot of talent, and just were one piece short because of injury of it all coming together.”
Brown has gravitated to spend plenty of time with Casey Mihovilovich this year during her stint with the Magic and can’t help but be inspired by the Mandurah legend who is still chasing that elusive championship.
“Milo is just inspiring. I look at her and I’m just motivated because she gets up every morning at 5.30 to work out and practice. It doesn’t matter how she’s feeling, she comes in and is going to put pressure on whoever’s she is playing against,” she said.
“Any time you play with somebody like that you want to go out there and match their energy. When I come into practice and see her working hard, it makes me want to work even harder.
“She’ll tell you exactly what you are doing wrong if you don’t get things right as well, but at the same time I’m really hard on myself and she’ll tell me things to help me or lift my mood. She is a huge encouragement and has definitely helped me raise the level of my game.”
Based on her outstanding season with the Magic, it’s hard to imagine her not being seriously looked at in the future for a WNBL opportunity. But whether that happens or not, she’s loved her two years in Australia after playing for Nunawading in the SEABL last year and hopes there’s plenty more to come.
“I love competition and when I first got here and they told me about the WNBL, I wouldn’t say I made it my goal, but if the opportunity ever came up I would love to be able to showcase what I’m able to do at that level,” Brown said.
“I love it here in Australia. When I go home I’m bragging about it because first of all it’s beautiful, especially Western Australia.
“Then the people over here are very relaxed and the laws are a little different and everything is just very chilled. I love it here. I want to come back here as many times as I can.”