October 16th, 2022Balancing life and sport in Korweinguboora
KORWEINGUBOORA local Abigail (Abbey) Wehrung loves where she lives on the fringes of the Wombat Forest.
Surrounded by her menagerie of animals including nine horses, dogs, chooks and a goat, she knows there is no place like home. But her day job as a professional women’s basketball star is constantly demanding her time, energy and commitment.
As well as local games she was part of the Australian women’s national basketball team (The Opals) in the 2021 Asia Cup in Jordan, taking third place. Abbey was born in Daylesford in 1995 and began her professional basketball career in 2014 when she joined the Canberra Capitals competing in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) but her interest goes back many years before that.
One of three competitive siblings, she began by playing basketball with her dad Duane in the backyard. Unfortunately he died before seeing Abbey begin playing organised matches at the age of nine.
After rising through the junior leagues in Ballarat and making her international debut at the 2011 FIBA U16 Oceania Championship, she won a scholarship to study at the Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, graduating in 2013.
“When I first moved away it was really hard,” recalls Abbey.“It was just Mum and my two brothers at home and I was pretty used to the country lifestyle and a quiet household. It was a bit of a shock to the system initially. It is always hard moving away and leaving. I just love home so much.”
However travel has remained a large part of Abbey’s life and sports career. She did four years with the Canberra Capitals and during the off seasons would come back and play with the Ballarat Rush in what was the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) competition now known as NBL1 South.
“After I finished with the Caps (Canberra Capitals) I came home and played for Bendigo Spirit in the Women’s National Basketball League before joining Adelaide Lightning. Now I’m back for another season with Bendigo Spirit again. So I’m back home, which is really nice.”
To maintain this form of high level commitment is trying for any talented player no matter what sport they play but Abbey must call on an inner strength beyond that of many of her colleagues. In 2020 Abbey along with her brothers Nathan and Dan also lost their mother Kerryn; a loss that put an incredible strain on Abbey’s sporting commitments, almost prompting her to retire.
“Mum did a tremendous job raising and supporting us when Dad passed. To then lose her was really hard. I had to go to Adelaide pretty soon after and I kinda tossed and turned about whether I went or stayed home. But I knew she would not have wanted me to stop so you just kind of have to keep going. I know she would be looking over us happy that we are still happy and finding joy in, kind of a shit storm, I guess.”
To embody this form of personal loss says so much about Abbey’s personal motivation and personal resilience; qualities she will have to call on again and again with more trips away from her beloved Korweinguboora. And while she is developing business plans to put in place post-career, at this stage she considers herself blessed to be able to purely focus on basketball as a job with all the future experiences it can offer.
“Female athletes, specifically basketballers don’t really hit their peak until 28-29,” she says, “and I’m just enjoying it while I can. My next goal is to make the Opals squad again and hopefully take part in the 2024 Paris Olympics.”
Words: Tony Sawrey | Top image: Contributed |On court action image: Craig Dilks