Great young po­ten­tial

Benalla Ensign - - Sport - By Di­dier Sto­bart

Be­nalla is tak­ing over coun­try bas­ket­ball thanks to Be­nalla lo­cals Chelsea Gil­crist and Loni Stick­land, who helped the Wan­garatta Lady War­riors win the CBL cham­pi­onship on Satur­day night in Wodonga, while also be­ing picked for the Big V rep­re­sen­ta­tive side The Bushrangers, who are coached by an­other home grown Be­nalla lo­cal Mick Hales.

All three were born and raised in Be­nalla and are putting bas­ket­ball on the map, thanks to some in­cred­i­ble play and ded­i­cated coach­ing.

The Bushrangers coach Mick Hales says he is in­cred­i­bly proud to be rep­re­sent­ing his home­town in the Big V league, and is so ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity to coach Be­nalla lo­cals.

‘‘They are both re­ally ex­cit­ing tal­ents. They showed that on the week­end for Wan­garatta and they have im­proved out of sight. What a proud mo­ment for Be­nalla and for the two girls in­volved,’’ he said.

Loni is de­scribed as a fierce in­side pres­ence with great hus­tle and re­ally re­fined skills. She has also im­pressed with her ma­tu­rity and lead­er­ship qual­i­ties.

‘‘Loni has a good strong body and does some re­ally amaz­ing work un­der the bas­ket. I haven’t seen any­one able to stop her yet and she is only get­ting bet­ter. I’m re­ally im­pressed by her hard work and lead­er­ship at the fit­ness test­ing we have done in the past few weeks.’’

Chelsea is one of the youngest on the team, at only 17 years old. She is way ahead of sched­ule in terms of de­vel­op­ment and Hales says the sky is the limit with his young guard.

‘‘Chelsea is in­cred­i­bly fast on and off the ball and can run all day. She is al­ready an as­set to the team at such a young age and I can’t wait to see what type of player she can be­come,’’ he said.

While Hales said the girls have some im­prove­ment to make to their shoot­ing abil­i­ties, he claims that they have al­ready have the men­tal and phys­i­cal skills that can’t be taught and their in­volve­ment in the Bushrangers can take their game to the next level.

‘‘Some of the phys­i­cal skills they have are quite in­cred­i­ble. We have had a few per­sonal train­ing ses­sions so far and they re­ally stood out from the group. It’s ex­cit­ing to see how much they can im­prove this year with the Bushrangers and I have a re­ally good feel­ing about the en­tire group.’’

Mick Hales has been coach­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive bas­ket­ball for 10 years and has been the head coach of the Bushrangers for past two sea­sons. The team was win­ning most of their games to­wards the end of last year and the coach is op­ti­mistic about the team’s chances thanks to the core group of play­ers stay­ing to­gether.

‘‘We re­ally came to­gether at the end of the year and we have some of our best play­ers re­turn­ing. I re­ally like our chances to make fi­nals and would be ec­static if we could move up a divi­sion this year,’’ he said.

The Bushrangers will play in the Big V divi­sion 2 league this year, play­ing 10 home games in Wodonga and 10 away games in Mel­bourne.

For more in­for­ma­tion on the team, visit the North East Bushrangers’ web­site.

We wish Mick Hales and his two lo­cal stars all the best for the year.

Rapt: Wan­garatta Lady War­riors cel­e­brate win­ning the CBL grand fi­nal.

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