One of the Rockingham Basketball and Recreation Association’s most accomplished and successful products will use the 2021 NBL1 West season as a springboard to Olympic selection, with three-time Flames championship player Darcee Garbin agreeing to return to the Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames for the coming season.
In a strange quirk, given all the pain and devastation Covid-19 has caused globally over the past 12 months, if not for the pandemic Garbin probably wouldn’t be donning the black and orange in 2021.
Returning to Western Australia was not in the 188cm forward/centre’s long-term planning as she was set to play in the 2020 NBL1 North competition in Queensland with Townsville Flames, but the onset of the pandemic saw her return home to be with her family.
While not considering herself too spiritual a person, Garbin said she believed “everything happens for a reason” and returning to Rockingham was the first piece to fall in place for her eventual reunion with the club she first burst onto the state basketball scene with in 2011; the second piece was her former coach Ryan Petrik’s appointment as Perth Lynx head coach.
“I was kind of forced to move home due to Covid and that meant packing up everything in Townsville and moving home, which I didn’t think was going to be for very long at the time, given the whole unknown element of it,” Garbin said.
“The longer I was at home the longer I liked the idea of staying and I ended up signing with the Lynx (in the WNBL)… Ryan becoming head coach was hard to say no to because I’ve known him since I was 16, he coached me for so many years in SBL and he’s become a great friend of mine.
“Then I bought a house here. While it has come about not how I would have planned maybe 18 or 12 months ago, I’m very happy to be home and really enjoying it.”
Garbin didn’t play any competitive basketball in 2020, deciding not to partake in the West Coast Classic once back in WA in case any national team commitments arose, but a lack of court time doesn’t mean she didn’t gain a new perspective and learn a new set of skills, as she spent the eventual season as an assistant coach to Keegan Crawford at the Flames.
“I thought it’d be nice to take a bit of a break from playing, and I kind of thought there still might have been more national team commitments; I wanted to make myself available for any Opals things that might have come up but in the end there was none,” she said.
“It was nice to be an assistant to Keegs (Crawford). I learned a lot and it gave me a different perspective of the game. I’ve become more aware of everything going on on the court and more focused on areas I might have switched off on before.
“I was probably spectating the first couple of times coaching. Keegan would ask me a question about something and I’d be like, ‘whoops, sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to that’. So I’ve become more aware of everything that’s happening in the game and not just what affects me.”
The final piece to fall into place in her return was the support she has received, not just in being given the club’s blessing to chase her Olympic Games dream, but throughout her entire playing career with the Flames.
“I was a little hesitant to commit for this season because I felt bad that if I committed to Rockingham that there was the potential to miss a heap of games, but they’re an awesome club and have always been super supportive of me,” she said.
“I can’t ever imagine the club being upset if I did make the Olympic team, and if I do how much time I’ll miss depends on what’s going to happen with international travel. I’m glad they’re so supportive and hopefully I play enough games to qualify for finals and come back having been successful with the Opals. I’m also loyal to the club in return; I’d never play for another SBL club. The Flames are my team.”
Her goal for 2021, other than her Olympic dream, is to secure another championship for the Flames. Given her track record of winning everywhere she has played – three SBL crowns with the Flames, two WNBL titles with Townsville and a league and cup double in Germany – and the squad the club has assembled to date, only a fool would count it out.
“It’s going to be exciting an exciting season,” Garbin said.
“A new coach is a bit of a change up for us but I’m expecting to win a championship. We have a team just as good as the one that won a championship in 2019 so I can’t see why we can’t do it again. We’re looking really good on paper and with a few pieces still to add.
“I believe the championship is the main goal and I always set my standards high so I’ll be disappointed if we fall short of that.”
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