Tall Ferns coach and players recognised by WNBL

Earlier this month the Australian Women’s National Basketball (WNBL) bestowed Life Memberships on Tall Ferns guard Toni Farnworth and Tall Ferns Head Coach Guy Molloy.

The Life Memberships recognise integrity, service and commitment to the WNBL with both Guy and Toni logging over 250 league appearances.

“I don’t think I’ve done much to deserve attention, other than I’ve been around for ages and I’m getting older,” said a modest Molloy when asked about the recognition.

“It is amazing to think that I got a head coaching opportunity in the league way back in 1989 with the Canberra Capitals when I was only 23 years of age!”

He would then travel west to become Head Coach of the Perth Breakers from 1993 to 1996, taking the club to the finals in all four seasons – picking up the WNBL Coach of the Year Award in 1995.

After stints with the Cairns Taipans, South Dragons and the Australian Men’s National Programme, Guy returned to the WNBL when signing on with the Melbourne Boomers in 2013 – winning his second WNBL Coach of the Year gong that season.

“Unfortunately, I’ve been a perennial bridesmaid with about seven semi-final exits and two Grand-Final losses. So, that championship ring still eludes me.

“But I’ve been blessed to have coached so many outstanding female players, including many that have gone on to storied careers at international levels. And, of course, it was the experience and reputation gained in the WNBL that helped me with the opportunity to take on the wonderful New Zealand Tall Ferns.”

Toni is naturally proud of the Life Membership recognition and grateful for the opportunities that have arisen during more than a decade playing in one of the world’s toughest leagues.

“Playing in the WNBL has allowed me to develop my game, play with some amazing teammates and be coached by great coaches.

“I definitely wouldn’t have thought when I pulled on a Christchurch Sirens singlet in 2007 that I would still be playing twelve and a half years later,” she said.

Fresh out of Christchurch Girls’ High School, Toni was forced to leave the Garden City to pursue her basketball goals as the Sirens folded after one season.

A Tall Ferns debut was ticked off in 2008 and she has been a constant in the national team ever since.

Toni was a member of the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medal-winning team and more recently played all three games at 2019 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Auckland last November where she scored 17 points in the notable win against Korea.

Displaying her versatility and athleticism, Toni was also part of the 2018 Tall Ferns 3×3 Gold medal-winning team at the FIBA Asia Cup in China.

Following the Sirens only season, she played for Dandenong Rangers (2009-10), Bendigo Spirit (2010-11) and Adelaide Lightning (2011-12) before moving to Western Australia
There she played six consecutive seasons for Perth Lynx (2013-19) before moving to Melbourne with her husband Josh and linking up with Guy Molloy and the Melbourne Boomers.

Her 269 games in the WNBL is a record number of appearances for a New Zealand player. We will have to wait and see if she adds to that number in 2020-21.

“We’re blessed to have her at the Melbourne Boomers,” Molloy said.

“Toni has been a terrific, consistent, long-term contributor and a great teammate for every team she’s been on.”

Sentiments all who have coached Toni would agree with.

Melbourne Boomers General Manager Christy Collier was full of praise for the pair.

“Guy and Toni have been incredible servants of both the WNBL and women’s basketball in general.

“We’re thrilled to see them recognised this last season with not only their 250 game milestone but also with WNBL Life Membership.

“It takes a lot of sacrifices to achieve what Guy and Toni have done, and they should both be commended for their efforts.”

There was more good news emanating from the Boomers Awards Night on Thursday.

Stella Beck, in her first season with the Boomers, took home the 2019/20 Coach’s Player and Deakin University’s School of Exercise and Sports Science High Performance Player awards.

Stella stepped up to the challenge of starting at point guard during the season as Boomers star Lindsay Allen rehabbed a knee injury for the latter half of the season. She scored a WNBL career-high 17 points against UC Capitals in January and finished the campaign averaging 5.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Her three-points shooting was also impressive, knocking them down 18 at 51% (18/35) with her percentage from the field a very healthy 61% (53/87) – a team-high in both categories.

Beck will be staying in Melbourne to play NBL1 during the winter months, linking up with former Tall Ferns coach Kennedy Kereama at the Knox Raiders. Farnworth will also remain in the Victorian capital playing for the Ringwood Hawks.

The other two Tall Ferns at the Boomers are making a move away from Melbourne. Kalani Purcell has signed for the Southern District Spartans in Brisbane, therefore, won’t be returning to the Auckland Dream in 2020. However, Penina Davidson will again play in the Sal’s NBL, once again suiting up for the Harbour Breeze.