RACHEL Halleen is more than happy for her teammates to take the limelight by scoring the big points, but the Mandurah Magic captain remains the heart and soul of the club and is deservedly proud to reach 300 games in the SBL.
Halleen might not attract the headlines like teammates Casey Mihovilovich, Carly Boag, Anita Brown, Nici Gilday and even Tracey Richter and Belinda Dodd earlier in her career, but she is more than content in her role as a leader who plays strong defence and does all those little things that make any team successful.
That’s why Halleen has been such an important part of the Magic team ever since she made her debut as a 16-year-old in 2006. She played just four games that rookie season, but by 2007 she entered the rotation with the Magic and has been part of it ever since.
That has seen Halleen be a key player on teams that have reached three Grand Finals during her career that will now reach 300 games in the SBL on Friday night when the Magic travels to Eaton Recreation Centre to take on the South West Slammers.
Halleen remains captain of the Magic in 2019 and remains a key part of everything they do, and a tremendous leader and role model for the entire club on and off the basketball court.
Given she first started playing basketball in Mandurah nearly 20 years ago and has spent her whole life with the Magic ever since she was a teenager, Halleen just doesn’t know any different than dedicated her life to the club and playing in the SBL.
That’s why she doesn’t feel like it’s been a particular grind to reach the 300-game milestone, but she couldn’t be prouder to get there while acknowledging she never could have without the support of her parents and partner, Shaun.
“My parents and Shaun are the rest I can keep playing basketball. My parents cook me dinner and house me on training nights to save me driving back to Perth late at night which really helps,” Halleen said.
“I’m definitely proud to have now played 300 games and 300 games at the same club as well with the likes of Casey Milo, Bree Klasztorny and even Bindy Dodd and Tracey Richter back in the day.
“I know 300 games sounds like a lot, but it doesn’t feel like a lot. I guess when you are doing something that you enjoy and are so passionate about, the number doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t seem like it’s taken a long time to get there.
“I’ve just been playing basketball for the Magic as long as I can remember that I don’t know any different. And I guess when you are with such a good group of girls as well, you don’t want to stop playing because you get this fear of missing out if you do decide to miss a season for travelling or whatever other reasons people stop playing for.
“I just couldn’t imagine not being around that group of girls every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for training, and on the weekends for games. We have such a good culture that really helps as well.”
The Magic are coming off reaching the past two Grand Finals and it was a heartbreaking defeat to Lakeside in 2018 when they dominated virtually the whole game before conceding the last 21 points.
That turned out to be Randy Miegel’s last game as coach with Craig Watts taking over in 2019, and things have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride never more evident than last weekend with a Friday night loss in Rockingham and then a remarkable 29-point win at home over Lakeside on Saturday.
Halleen hopes now they can build on that momentum with the double-header this weekend against the Slammers and Wolves.
“It definitely gives us belief and everything did click in that game on Saturday night in the end, but on Friday night it just wasn’t coming together for us whatsoever. We can throw every excuse out there as to why, but in the end we just had a bad game,” she said.
“Then on Saturday night, maybe Lakeside just couldn’t click and had a bad game, but we definitely played a much better brand of basketball.
“The signs were great, though, and we had Carly Boag rock up thinking it was a 6:30 game so she missed most of warmup so we had all sorts going on and you’d think we were in for a bad game.
“But for some reason we actually came out and everyone that hit the court had a positive impact. I can’t really tell you why or how it happened, but I hope it happens this weekend.”
Halleen has built her reputation on being one of the finest defenders in the competition. She’s always played with great scorers so while she is capable of putting up points or producing offensively when called upon, she doesn’t necessarily need to.
She has always taken pride in her defence and that’s why her individual career highlights are those nights where she successfully locked down the two standout SBL players of the past decade, Sami Whitcomb and Ali Schwagmeyer.
“I love the challenge of playing on the best players and that’s one of my favourite parts of playing basketball, and when I get those defensive roles I love the challenge,” Halleen said.
“Sami Whitcomb and Ali Schwagmeyer are probably the two standouts but there’s been plenty over the years. Players of that calibre are easily capable of scoring 40 points a game so to have games where you keep them to single figures is a massive thriller.
“People talk about career highlights and their highs in points and assists or whatever, but my career highlights so far is when I’ve been able to keep those players in single figures because it helps the team win games at the same time.”
It’s fair to say the Mandurah Magic is a massive part of Halleen’s life and has been for almost 20 years now.
From the instant she played basketball, she fell in love with it and that’s why that after starting in the SBL aged 16, the 28-year-old now couldn’t imagine doing anything else despite the challenges it provides with building a career and having a personal life.
But the fact that she loves everything so much about basketball at Mandurah makes every bit of it worthwhile.
“I came through WABL and I was 10 or 11 when I started in the under-12s program with Alan Shepherd so we did have quite a good development program when I was younger which I’m forever grateful for,” she said.
“My sister was also playing WABL and my dad did a bit of assistant coaching along the lines, and I just progressed through that into the SBL side when I was in Year 11. I’ve just been part of it now ever since.
“The club is such a big part of my life and it helps when you have such great volunteers, admin staff and workers around the club as well.
“We have great coaching staffs as well and all our volunteers just put in so much work and Mandurah as do the board and committee. They make it a great place to be and obviously the new stadium has made a huge difference as well.”
Halleen remains captain of the Magic in 2019 and she has been there to lead them into the Grand Finals the past two years as well and continues to be one of the best leaders and captains in the competition.
She certainly thrives on the responsibility that comes with being captain and that’s not just as leader of the SBL team, but to be a role model for the entire club.
“It’s definitely an honour to be a leader of this playing group in particular and to have the support of Bree and Emma who are my vice-captains this year,” Halleen said.
“But Casey Milo is always going to be a leader no matter if she has that title as one or not. I definitely aim to be a role model for the younger girls coming through and even the younger girls who come along to watch the game so it definitely is an honour to have that role.
“One thing I’m especially big on with the younger girls is that basketball’s not all about scoring points. Obviously I’m not a big scorer myself but playing defence can be just as important, if not more important than anything you do on offence.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t touch the ball on offence or aren’t the one scoring, you can still have a huge impact on the court. At a young age, all you want to do is be the one who scores and has the ball in your hands, but that doesn’t really matter in the long-term.”
Given how close Halleen and the Magic have been to that elusive first SBL championship for Mandurah during her career, and especially the past two years, nobody could blame her if her sole motivation to keep playing is to finally taste that ultimate success.
While Halleen desperately would love an SBL championship, though, that’s hardly her only motivation to keep playing.
“I think even if we did get there I would still want to keep playing on afterwards. That drive for a championship is always going to be there and not just for myself obviously, but all the girls who have been around for a long time and still haven’t had that success of a championship,” she said.
“But even so, it’s about more than just the championship. It’s about the relationship to basketball and the camaraderie you have on the court. As much as I want to win a championship, it’s more than just that which keeps me coming back.
“It’s not just about on the court either, off the court as well with the giggles and fun you have before and after training with all the girls. We often organise little get together outside of basketball which is special to be part of as well.”
Playing through a broken bone in her leg through last year’s playoffs says it all about Halleen’s commitment, toughness and dedication to the Magic.
But overall, she’s had a good run with injury through her career and even as she now bursts through the 300-game barrier, she sees no end in sight of her career just yet.
“I do think about it every now and then, but my body is holding up alright at the moment even though last season I nursed a fractured fibula through the finals,” Halleen said.
“But that recovered really well and because I haven’t had any major setbacks injury-wise, it’s not like I’m thinking of retirement in the next couple of years or anything like that. But I am knocking on the door of 30 so who knows what’s around the corner.
“It definitely does play on my mind at times and my goal at the moment is to keep my body as fit and healthy as I can so I can play the game that I love for as long as possible.”