- Kelly Wilson, 399 WNBL games
- Jessica Bibby, 394
- Rachael Sporn, 377
- Lucille Bailie, 377
- Karen Dalton, 375
Kelly Wilson was so close to making WNBL history on Wednesday night that she was getting ready for her 400th game when a positive COVID-19 case resulted in it being called off.
The 37-year-old took it in her stride as her milestone game had already been moved twice previously. Plus, as the mother of 11-month old son Teddy, she has plenty to keep her busy.
The Capitals’ Kelly Wilson is preparing for a big WNBL milestone this weekend.Credit:Getty Images
Wilson already holds the WNBL games record and the three-time championship winner will become the first WNBL player to reach 400 games. She could be the only one to achieve the feat considering she is the sole active player in the top-10 and current players have opportunities to go overseas or be poached by other sports.
As of Friday afternoon, Wilson was hoping her Canberra Capitals would be able to play the Melbourne Boomers in Traralgon on Saturday night at 5pm AEDT and their second game at the State Basketball Centre on Monday night at 7pm, but the two clubs are the “last ones standing” when it comes to COVID-19 stoppages, so nothing is certain.
“The 400th was planned for a certain game, then that got cancelled, and then another game got postponed so when it fell on a Wednesday night in Canberra I said to my family, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to come up”,” Wilson told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
“I was so grateful they hadn’t come because I would have felt so bad if they drove all the way to Canberra and I was going to see them this weekend in Victoria anyway.
“If I’m being 100 per cent honest, I can’t be certain the game is going ahead, especially after Wednesday when I was literally getting ready to go to the game.
“We will get to shoot around Saturday morning and see how we go from there.”
Close friend and long-time teammate Gabrielle Richards was teasing Wilson that she could be stranded on “399 not out” but Richards also paid tribute to the Leongatha-raised Wilson’s longevity.
“I’ve played with her since we were in under-14s and she’s always been an incredible athlete and fiercely competitive,” Richards said.
“I’ve seen a play with broken ribs, huge hits to the head and even with a broken ankle – she’s the definition of tough and when you mix all those traits, it’s no surprise she has played this long.”
Wilson has always been an understated player, defending hard, hitting her shots and letting bigger stars get the attention.
“It’s been uncomfortable for me but the calls and messages have been amazing,” Wilson said.
“It’s the people I’ve met throughout my career that mean the most to me.”
Wilson started in 2002-2003 when the Australian Institute of Sport fielded a WNBL team and she played in 16 or more games every campaign until the hub season last December when she was in her third trimester with Teddy.
Wilson either studied or worked as a teacher in Bendigo for “80 to 90 per cent” of her career, although she took leave to join Townsville Fire as a full-time professional in 2017-2018 and leave without pay to join Canberra in 2018-2019.
Wilson had no comeback plans after the challenges of becoming a mum during the lockdowns of 2021.
But NBL1 side Bendigo Braves kept asking Wilson to train and she eventually joined them, becoming “super competitive again” and opening the door for a WNBL comeback. However, balancing mum duties with playing has been tough.
“Becoming a mum is one hell of an adjustment and nothing makes you ready for it,” Wilson said.
“But it’s not just me. I have an amazing, supportive husband, family who help out and I definitely don’t have time to myself now but we make it work.”
Wilson, husband Michael and Teddy are spending the season in Canberra.
“Ted has no idea what is going on, but he likes to come to basketball and see the girls because he gets a fair bit of attention,” Wilson said.
“For me, I just love seeing him happy and realising that there are more people than just mum and dad and immediate family – that is exciting for me.”
Teammate Kelsey Griffin said she thought no one would break Wilson’s record in her lifetime but Wilson hopes someone does.
“I hope someone gets the chance to play that many games,” Wilson said.
“When I was a kid and looking up to players in the WNBL and hoping I could get there, it didn’t seem like I would play this many games and the only reason I’m still playing is because I’m enjoying it, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it.”
In the NBL, only one game remains scheduled for this round with Brisbane to play New Zealand in Brisbane on Sunday after COVID-19 cases at the Adelaide 36ers resulted in their two games being postponed.
South East Melbourne Phoenix hope to have a replacement import for their next game which is currently scheduled for January 15.
The Phoenix are looking for a replacement for Devin Thomas who was terminated from his position last week.
Coach Simon Mitchell said he was looking at a more versatile forward instead of a centre as Dane Pineau and Zhou Qi were performing well at that position.
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