Orla O’Reilly’s best friend bugged her for years to come out to Australia and play basketball.
Fellow Irish basketballer Jessica Scannell, herself playing in the Big V competition, thought that O’Reilly would love the competition and the country.
“She’d [Scannell] been going on about it non-stop. I was home during the off season and she cornered me about playing [in Australia],” O’Reilly said last week.
When Sunbury coach Kennedy Kereama offered O’Reilly a spot in the Sunbury Jets’ Big V women’s state championship side it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.
The Jets won last year’s division 1 championship and have continued on their winning way – 10 games into this season they are undefeated.
O’Reilly has fitted in well, averaging 14.6 points and six rebounds per game.
She’s connected with her teammates on and off the court, but a couple things in the competition have surprised her.
“The competition has quite skilled players, the physicality has surprised me.
“In Spain, the gym isn’t a big thing, but I’ve been in the gym all the time here.”
One element O’Reilly has really enjoyed has been the opportunity to coach younger players.
She said training commitments in other countries meant she couldn’t do as much coaching as she would have liked.
“I coached a lot in Ireland over the summer, running camps on a guest coach basis. I did a little bit in Spain, but I’m doing a lot more out here.
“These girls and boys that we coach are the ones that come and watch us play. We’re giving back to them.”
Playing basketball came natural growing up, her two older brothers Niall and Colin both played and went on to represent their country.
O’Reilly and her twin sister Sinead followed the same path through junior basketball and to university.
“I started playing when I was 10. We were both part of the All-Irish team and got scholarships to Binghamton University in New York.
“We both made our senior debut for Ireland as 17-year-olds.
“It’s quite popular to go to college in the states as it’s quite close, I enjoyed New York.”
While O’Reilly knew she wanted to continue playing basketball, Sinead decided to give away the sport and focus on her career.
O’Reilly said that was common in Ireland.
“You usually go to the states and come home and play in the amateurs or start having a career. Once you hit 22 you sort of start losing players,” she said.
“Jess and I are the only [Irish women] players playing professional at the moment.”
O’Reilly spent a year in Czech Republic before playing in Spain for the past three years.
A broken hand brought to an end her time in Spain last January, then a broken wrist while representing Ireland in a 3 x 3 Euros tournament ruled her out of FIBA European Championships for Small Countries in June.
O’Reilly was meant to captain the Irish team at the championships.
“We were quite strong six to seven years ago, but the Irish Association was in debt so we couldn’t play.
“I was one of the youngest, now I’m the more experienced and captain.”
O’Reilly said she hadn’t thought much about her plans once the Big V season ends. She hasn’t ruled out returning to Australia next year.
“A championship with the Jets is all I’m thinking of,” she said