By Lance Jenkinson
When Maddison Rocci re-signed with Canberra Capitals in the Women’s National Basketball League last off season, it was done with an element of trust.
There are no guarantees in sport, but Rocci was sold on the Capitals’ ambitions and big plans to go from also-rans to contenders.
After the Capitals finished sixth out of eight teams and eight games back from first place in 2017-18, winning a championship was probably the furthest thing from Rocci’s mind entering the new season.
She did, however, want to see stark improvement in the team and be part of it in her sophomore season.
As the 2018-19 season rolled on, belief snowballed in Canberra – leading to championship glory.
The Capitals ticked off their first goal by reaching the finals, then took out the minor premiership.
They had become the team to beat heading into the finals.
“Last season was a rough one,” said Rocci, 20, a Werribee product. “We didn’t go as well as we wanted to. When they re-signed me, they said that they were looking to recruit some big-time players and improve on how we did last year.
“I guess I had trust in them, but I didn’t think in my second season I’d have a WNBL championship already.”
Rocci’s importance to Canberra rose dramatically on the back of an injury to star player Leilani Mitchell.
Rocci was suddenly thrust into a bigger role in a sink-or-swim situation.
It was a chance for Rocci to take centre stage and show what she could do in the spotlight.
She rose to the challenge, upping her minutes and statistical output across the board.
“I just wanted to show the league that I’m here, I’m ready to play,” she said.
“Coming into this year, I had more confidence and I was ready to go.”
Rocci’s faith in the Capitals, her growth as a player and trust in her own game have seen her realise a childhood dream.
Her former Werribee Devils coach, Lloyd Klaman, describes her as a “basketball nut”.
Talking with Rocci for a even short time reveals how true that is.
From a young age, Rocci watched the WNBL and wondered what it would be like to stand atop the podium as a champion.
She got to experience that sensation with the Capitals, who beat Adelaide Lightning 2-1 in the best-of-three grand final series.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Rocci said. “Words really can’t describe how much it does mean to me to win this championship.”
Rocci will never forget the adulation the Canberra sports public heaped on the championship-winning Capitals.
She was thrilled to play in front of packed home crowds in the AIS Arena.
“That roar when we came on to the court for the first time – I got shivers down my spine,” she said.
Rocci will forever cherish the moments after the 93-73 win in game three.
After a “crazy” week, she finally got a chance to share the achievement with her family.
“On Saturday, we had a big party afterwards and on Tuesday we had a parade, which was great to see all those fans there,” she said.
“I headed home Wednesday afternoon to spend some time with family.”
Rocci cannot get enough basketball.
She will rest for just two weeks before she begins pre-season with Sunshine Coast Rip City in preparation for the Queensland Basketball League season.