Bendigo’s Kelly Wilson makes WNBL history with 400-game milestone

When Kelly Wilson takes the field in her Canberra Capitals uniform on Saturday, she’ll try to pretend it’s like any other game. A match she wants to win.

But Wilson would go down in history as the only player to make 400 appearances in the National Women’s Basketball League (WNBL).

“I try not to think about it, to a degree,” Wilson said.

“I want to win and that’s the main thing on my mind – how we’re going to beat Sydney. “

During her 19 years playing in the WNBL, she won four WNBL titles and played for the women’s national team, the Opals.

For half of his career (205 games), Wilson played for Bendigo Spirit and was essential in his first and consecutive league titles in 2012 and 2013.

Bendigo Spirit players celebrate after winning the 2013 WNBL Championship. (Source: AAP)

“There have been so many ups and downs … what helps you are the friendships and the connections.”

She says while winning the WNBL Championships with friends and representing Australia are the highlights of her career, she currently cherishes every moment this season that her family can watch her play in Canberra.

A smiling woman holding a baby boy with her mouth open.
Ms. Wilson says it’s special that her 1 year old son Ted watches her play. (Provided: Kelly Wilson)

“My husband and my little boy can come to the games… the fact that he’s there is something. For me, it’s really exciting.”

“Should be celebrated across the country”

Spirit’s lifelong friend and former teammate Gabrielle Richards says Wilson’s competitiveness and determination are second to none.

“She did it all while working full time or studying and recently returned to have a child.”

Two girls on the sidelines of a basketball court, in blue uniforms smiling and cheering.
Friend and former teammate Gabrielle Richards says she is extremely proud of Wilson.(Source: Advertiser Bendigo)

“It is an absolutely superhuman effort which I believe will not be surpassed for the foreseeable future.”

Richards played with the Capitals Under-14 point guard for Vic Country, before playing together in Bendigo.

She was hoping to make it to Gippsland for the scoring game, but will have to cheer on her friend from home.

A brunette woman with slicked back hair runs on a basketball court and bounces a ball.
Ms Wilson’s 400th game has been repeatedly delayed, due to the impacts of the coronavirus on the WNBL. (Provided: Kelly Wilson)

Will all 400 players return to the Bendigo Spirit?

Wilson admits that she always envisioned finishing her WNBL with the Bendigo Spirit.

But it seems that life had different plans.

When she got pregnant with her first child two years ago, she thought it might be the end of her basketball career.

But the competitive streak returned.

“All of a sudden I was like, I feel pretty good… that competitiveness has come back,” Wilson said.

“It was definitely not something I had planned.”

kelly capitals 1
Ms. Wilson’s family will watch their 400th game on Wednesday night. (Provided: Gabrielle Richards )

Wilson and her husband both work full time and live in Bendigo and she says that won’t change.

“Bendigo is always where I’m going to end up.”

But this season, after a year and a half off the field, she’s just grateful that she gets to play.

And she shows no signs of slowing down.

“I’m super lucky to be here,” she said.

“Just being back there, loving playing basketball at that level, that’s something I don’t take for granted.”

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