Hunter superstar Isabel Palmer is on the road to the top. A successful campaign at the Under 19 World Cup with Australia led directly into her picking up a contract with the University of Texas, and becoming a Longhorn.
While she’s living the dream in the development team in the United States, and is bracing for the beginning of the college season, there’s always that thought of home, especially after the Hunters stormed to the 2019 Waratah League title.
According to Palmer, the opportunity to play for her home team in the Women’s National Basketball League would be “amazing” for everyone in the region, and something that would draw her and other national talents back to Newcastle.
“Obviously I’d want to go as far as I can in college, get drafted, and see where that goes, but if Newcastle had a WNBL team that I could go back to, that would be amazing,” Palmer told Pick & Roll during the college preseason.
“I remember always having to drive down to Sydney, and I would always wish that there was just the local team. We had the Pirates around a decade ago, but to have a professional team back in Newcastle, that would be great.”
Palmer, who came through the Hunters system before jet setting off to America to pursue her college dreams, pointed to a number of rising stars across the WNBL that could form the core of a national team in Newcastle right off the bat.
Hannah Young, Cassidy McLean, and Lara McSpadden were three that rose to the fore, all of whom are already forging career paths in the national comp. International superstar Katie Ebzery was another that could lead the team.
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“Like Hannah, Cass, Lara, if we could all just come back [that would be amazing],” she said. “Because we honestly grew up just going through all the pathways, so to all come back to the old stomping grounds in Broadmeadow, that would be great.”
Newcastle Basketball establishing a national team for the region isn’t outside the realms of possibility for the 2020/21 or 2021/22 seasons either.
In June this year, officials restarted plans to build a $25 million stadium in Hillsborough, after the state government approved funding for the program. The 10-court stadium would be capable of welcoming 4,000 spectators.
This development would give Newcastle Basketball a stadium up to scratch with WNBL requirements, which would complete the final piece of the puzzle general manager Neil Goffet has been thrashing out with Basketball Australia over the past few years.
“The facility was the first step. After the announcement [of state funding], we will have a facility built that meets regulations for any national or international competition that comes our way,” Goffet said.
“Hopefully Basketball Australia have expansion plans on the horizon and we can be part of those. I think we could run a WNBL team, with community support, in regards to sponsorships and partnerships.”