HAVING an Australian Opals player in the SBL sounds good and Lauren Mansfield is now proving the reality is even better as she makes no secret of her Olympic Games ambitions while also being dedicated to helping the Perth Redbacks achieve success.
When a player the calibre of Mansfield signs to play in the Women’s SBL, it can only be to the great benefit of the league as a whole just in terms of having one of the best players in Australia wanting to ply her trade in the competition even if she’s not West Australian.
While that provides a boost to the league just on reputation, to actually then have Mansfield at the peak of her powers starring for a Redbacks team that is now in hot form is a treat for spectators, her teammates and everyone else involved to witness.
Mansfield has taken her game up another level in recent weeks with the Redbacks going on a five-game winning run after she missed the first six games of the season after a nagging foot injury carried over from the Perth Lynx WNBL season.
But now Mansfield’s ability to handle the ball, run the offence and either find her teammates her score herself, and then play aggressive and intense defence while crashing the glass like someone her size shouldn’t be able to has been fully on show for the Redbacks.
That has her in prime form now to head to Phoenix for an Opals training and selection camp ahead of September Asia Cup which Mansfield desperately hopes to be part of which could be a big indication that she’s in the mix to be there at the Tokyo Olympic Games next year.
While she rightfully has big goals, Mansfield is equally committed to taking the Redbacks as far as she can before and after that Opals camp as the lead in to her second WNBL season with the Lynx.
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Mansfield is going to be heading to Arizona for this upcoming Opals camp in great form and fitness, so that helps her confidence levels that she’ll impress enough to get selected in that team to play in the Asia Cup.
From there, that can only help in her long-term ambition to be at Tokyo representing Australia as well.
“It’s definitely the goal to play the Asia Cup. Any time I can represent Australia it’s pretty cool so that’s definitely something that’s in the back of my mind and is something I’m really striving for, and am determined to do,” Mansfield said.
“I know it’s going to be tough because I’ve kind of been out of the team for a bit and had to miss the last camp because of my foot. But I’m healthy now and over these next few weeks I want to prepare for that Opals camp to give it the best shot that I have to make that team. That’s the goal for sure.
“Playing in the Olympics is my ultimate goal so I really would love to assert myself as one of the main contenders for one those point guard spots. This next camp will be very important for me and my career with the Opals for sure so I’m going to try and be as prepared as I can be going into it.”
A big reason why Mansfield was keen to spend this WNBL off-season playing in the SBL was to remain in Perth where she’s now settled to plat the Lynx.
Rather than another off-season in Europe, Mansfield was keen to settle somewhere and enjoy the benefits of that, which she hopes continues to pay off not only by enjoying playing with the Redbacks, but by the time the WNBL season begins too.
“I really hope this leads to a good season at Lynx. Honestly my pre-season has already started and I’ve begun my working on sprint training and all of that sort of stuff,” she said.
“I’ve finally got my foot to a point where I’m not in pain anymore so I can really start to push myself and obviously I want to get my fitness up for Opals camp and then going into Lynx season.
“I think it’s going to be a huge advantage for me personally already being here and working with the Lynx strength and conditioning guys. Even being able to work with Andy once a week in a session we have with some of the other girls. I think it’s definitely going to be an advantage for sure.”
Having become accustomed to splitting her time between spending half a year in Australia playing in the WNBL and then the other half of the year playing overseas, Mansfield wanted to change things up coming off her first season in Perth with the Lynx.
That could only happen if she thought she’d get enough from playing in the SBL and found a good home like the Redbacks, which has turned out to be the case.
“I’ve spent quite a while moving every six months all over the world so for this off-season I just wanted to settle in the one place especially when I’ve had a few injury issues that I’ve been trying to get on top of,” Mansfield said.
“During the Lynx season, I was still playing when I decided that I really wanted to stay in the one place and just focus on getting my body right, look after myself and not be busy going here, there and everywhere. I spoke to Andy about that and I’d heard bits and pieces about the SBL.
“I had actually looked at playing here a few years ago but it didn’t work out. So I asked Andy about the league and spoke with some of the girls at the Lynx who played in the SBL because I didn’t know too much about it. But they gave me a bit of a rundown and it sounded like something I’d enjoy being part of.”
Now that Mansfield has been settled into Perth for almost 12 months, has been through a WNBL season with the Lynx and now is 12 games into her SBL career with the Redbacks, she’s starting to feel settled both in terms of the basketball in the west and the lifestyle.
“I am starting to feel comfortable here now and I really love Perth, it’s beautiful here. I’d been here a little bit before obviously, but living here I just love the summer, the beaches and even though there’s been a bit of rain lately, the weather in winter isn’t even too bad,” she said.
“It’s such a nice place and I’m starting to enjoy my time here, and I definitely do feel at home. Even the Redbacks, the whole club has been awesome to me and I’ve felt comfortable there straight away.
“I get along with all the girls really well and I feel like I’m in a very good environment right now and I’m happy here in Perth.”
Mansfield is settling in wonderfully at the Redbacks too and the team is now clicking as a result after a slow start to the season.
They did lose the opening six matches but they were all minus Mansfield. Her debut just happened to lead to the first win of the season against the Mandurah Magic.
Now the Redbacks have suddenly gone from battling to stay in touch with the top eight, to sitting with a 9-9 record inside the eight and attempting to finish as high as possible with a month of the regular season remaining.
Mansfield has been impressed by the quality in the SBL she’s come up against as well and is certainly enjoying her time in the league.
“It is a pretty high standard and it has been a while since I’ve played in South Australia, but i would compare it pretty favourably to that for sure,” she said.
“I think it’s a good, high standard league and there’s lots of really good teams with a lot of talent. I’m really enjoying playing in the league at the moment and I might enjoy it a bit more if we got a few more wins, but hopefully that’s starting to happen and we can make a run to the playoffs now too.”
Mansfield remains a teammate in the SBL with Nes’eya Williams as well and she can’t be any more buoyant about what the future holds for the supremely talented 17-year-old who is averaging 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game this season.
“I love working and playing with Nes’eya. She’s obviously very gifted and has massive natural ability, and she makes everything look really easy which I’m quite jealous of,” Mansfield said.
“I think she has a bright future ahead of her and she’s an exciting player. What I like about her is that she wants to learn too. Whenever I’m talking to her, I know she’s listening and taking it all in and I think she’s committed to working on her game and getting better, and improving every day.
“I think with that, she’s got the right attitude so I think that’s really going to help her hopefully go places and I’m sure she’ll have a career in the WNBL in the future.”