STARRING on the big stage of the Medibank National Junior Classic is something most Australian junior teams set their sights on early in the season.
As a peak club tournament for young basketballers throughout Australia, the Classic offers the spotlight to anyone who earns their place in the 128-team tournament.
But it’s not just for those sides in the Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League (MUVJBL) engaging in the highly-competitive Victorian Championship (VC). There are alternative pathways into the Classic.
Country Victorians know this pathway better than most. To those who win the BVC Country Championships Division 1 titles, the right to bid for the Medibank National Junior Classic is the biggest part of the prize. To go from Country champion to vying for a national-calibre title is what sets the elite apart.
With the ability to throw their hat in the ring, sides from the far flung corners of Victoria are able to make a name for themselves, their associations and their home towns in a bid to take out the #MUVJBL17 Medibank National Junior Classic.
Other teams from the country won the title and also qualified through their MUVJBL competitions, but for Sale and Wodonga under-12s, the BVC Champs pathway was their only chance… and the country champions earned their places in style.
Earning the club’s first under-12 girls Country Champs, the Sonics head coach Jo Crawford-Wynd said it was the culmination of work from committee, coaches and players to get this achievement in the books.
“We’ve been working for quite a while – Sale has never won this title (under-12 girls) before,” said. “We had an under-12 boys team that won Div 1 Under-12 and Div 1 Under-14 but our poor Sale girls have just never got there, so we’ve been working pretty hard to get there.
“Great bunch of kids, great bunch of parents and we knew if they played well it was theirs to win.
“Everyone has played their best and we’ve got such a good team that one can have a down game in one and the next one just fills the gaps and play the hole and we’ve got a lot of versatility and a really talented bunch of perfect little humans.
“Our Sale Sonics club has been in a lull – we’ve been playing Div 3, Div 4 in previous years… but we’ve got a new committee now and a great president, secretary, vice president and they said for us to go for it, whatever we need, as many court hours as you want and whatever resources you need to get the best out of these kids.
“We wouldn’t be here without their support.”
From the fast-paced BVC Under 12 Country Championships held in Bendigo last month, the
Wodonga boys engaged in a frenetic grand final triumph over Traralgon to seal its Classic spot. Wolves head coach Keith Ainsworth could hardly believe his team had done it and earned a place in the Classic’s team list.
“It’s absolutely fantastic mate – we’ve been dreaming about this (winning a state title and bidding for the Medibank National Junior Classic) and it’s happened,” Ainsworth said. “It didn’t go smoothly, we had our ups and downs, but the boys to their credit keep fighting and fighting and taking it on as they come along and it led to a fantastic tournament in Bendigo
“Just the way they boys lift – they’ve lifted another bar, we’ve gone up another level compared to months gone by and the way they respond and keep bouncing back will put them in a great place.”
The opportunity to compete against the state’s best is something no country or interstate team should underestimate as the results are incredible no matter where you finish. As a supreme proving ground for your child’s development and to test yourself against the best, the Classic is hard to beat.