Tall Ferns hope to make Olympic comeback

By Regan Paranihi

The Tall Ferns are preparing to take on China, Philippines and Korea in this week’s FIBA World Olympic Qualifier Tournament.

The Tall Ferns squad haven't been seen at the Olympics since 2008 and they are hopeful this is their time to shine. This could be an opportunity of a lifetime for many of these players.

Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato) says, "Obviously for any athlete one of the pinnacle sporting events so it would be an unreal feeling being able to get there. We have a really good chance of heading to the Olympics this year for next year so it’s a pretty awesome opportunity."

Tall Ferns coach, Guy Molloy, says the cultural aspect within the team is what makes them stand out from the rest.

"There's a deep spirit within the team and that comradery that connection is very strong and they play very hard so they're the things that we try to tap into and the basketball team is just a reflection of the wider cultural values of the nation."

He also says this sport is growing here in New Zealand.

"Basketball is one of the momenta upswings in New Zealand and basketball for junior females is really going places."

Leger-Walker adds, "It is hard for New Zealand to do that because of the powerhouse teams we have to play against to get there, the likes of Aussie, Japan, China." 

Matangiroa Flavell has been a role model for young Māori women who want to pursue this pathway.

"It's awesome to be a representative for both Māori and women."

She also adds, "My main hope is to stay in the team and to hopefully be able to go to the Olympics."

Leger-Walker says this could be her chance to walk in the same shoes her mother once walked in.

"Being able to go there, and just kind of follow what my mum did, from talking to her she had some of her best experiences over there, so it'll be pretty cool to get over there."

"That's the ultimate goal no matter what, however, we need to focus on the smaller goal at this time," adds Flavell.

The three teams were welcomed on to the Trust Arena this morning and the first game starts tomorrow at 5pm.