Confidence sparks in many forms and according to Wheelchair Basketball coach Brad Ness that applies to the softly spoken Mary Friday and an unheralded rookie in Taishar Ovens.
The pair recently impressed at an U25 national training camp in Canberra that has put Friday firmly in the selection frame for this year’s U25 World Championships in Thailand, whilst it has also validated a recent decision from Ness to hand a full training scholarship to Ovens.
Ovens had spent four months with WAIS on a training agreement before a discussion with the coach ahead of the national camp convinced her to fully commit to the program.
"We could forecast down the track a bit, that she did have an opportunity so I said to her, hey if you want to go for that World Championships side, you’d be best placed to be within the WAIS system, so is that something that you’d be willing to take on and get up to speed with,” he recalled.
At 20 years of age, and working in the fitness industry, Ovens decided to give it a crack.
And Ness believes the holistic approach offered through WAIS, had rewarded that faith with a new landscape on her sporting journey.
"WAIS is very driven in the sense of wanting results,” he begins.
"How do you get results in basketball? It’s not just baskets scored, and it’s something that has just, with the help of all of the staff here over the last year (since the wheelchair basketball program launched), we’ve actually implemented testing mechanisms in the gym, on the court and then obviously game statistics – which has given the athletes the opportunity to get a snapshot of exactly where they are in all elements of the program.
"So when Taish came in and started doing the initial testing – to now, and the testing that she’s doing – I think she’s seeing her own personal bests coming out in each of those tests which is huge.”
When it comes to 20 year-old Friday, Ness said that a sense of belief was beginning to distil in her own game as she grows in experience and as an athlete.
"When you first meet her, she’ll be sitting back behind the front row and she won’t say boo but when you gain her trust, she becomes an entirely different person. She’s very witty and great to have around the group,” he said.
"Once you get to know her, you see that there’s actually a really fierce competitor there, someone who will not use anything as an excuse and someone who really wants to achieve and the proof of that is that she’s now in that starting five and is cementing her spot and is now on a plane next week to Osaka with Gliders (a training camp with the senior women’s national team).”
Friday was a starting member in each game of a seven match series that the Australian women’s U25 squad – they’re known as the Devils – played against a visiting Japanese U25 squad.
They edged the series four wins to three, with Ovens improving to the point that she earned a starting berth in two of the matches.
The 2019 IWBF U25 World Championships will be held in Thailand from May 20-30.