Bribed with a Mars Bar
By Andrew Frackowski
Today Australian Opals Basketball star Laura Hodges leaves Adelaide to compete in her third World Championships.
She departs this time as a senior player.
“When I was young it was all very exciting but you don’t know how many more years you can play for your country and represent the green and gold” Hodges explained. “Each trip is exciting, but at the same time you get a little bit nervous because you know what you’ve got coming up
“In my first championships I didn’t really realise how tough it was going to be emotionally and physically.
“This tour is probably the most important to me.
“Having been at the World Championships before you’ve got at the back of your mind that you can prepare for it and you’ve got that experience so you can get through it a little bit easier in the end.
Australia has selected a formidable line up, including recent WNBA title winners Phoenix Mercury’s Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips.
Hodges believes the World Championships is also great to spend time with the team and you can build some valuable friendships with all the players with the amount of time that’s spent together and she can’t wait to be in that environment again, but knows once they hit the court its game on.
“You spend a lot of time travelling to and from the games and the bus trips are always fun, that’s probably when you get to spend the most time with the team and during dinner times when you have lots of laughs”, Hodges said.
“I’m looking forward to that competitive nature when you stand up watching the other team and listening to your national anthem and always getting that ‘goose bumps’ feeling, It’s our sort of version of War, It’s do or die for 40 minutes and that’s when the competitive nature sinks in”
When growing up Hodges was forced into basketball by her sister and dad.
She remembers the day when her father, Greg Summerton a former 1983 West Adelaide premiership player bribed her to play her first game of basketball for Sturt Sabres with a chocolate Mars Bar.
“I certainly didn’t want to play, I remember my sister (Jane Bauer) holding my hand and walking me out onto the court and I just remember that I didn’t enjoy it at all” Hodges explained.
But one game lead to another and Hodges was chosen in numerous representative teams before being selected in the Australian Institute of Sport at just 15.
Since her stint in the AIS, Hodges has gone onto play for Adelaide Lightning, then had a stint in Italy along with playing for Connecticut Sun in the WNBA, believing her time with the late 7’2” Margo Dydek was a huge influence on her career. Both Dydek from Poland and Hodges were the Sun's overseas imports at the time.
“Margo always looked out for me, I learnt a lot by the way she went about things” Hodges said.
The 30-year-old admits, whilst she doesn’t want to look too far ahead with the 2016 Olympics approaching, her aim will be to try and play for her country for as long as she can.
“I don’t think you can look that far ahead when you get a little bit older,’ she continued.
“I am a competitive person, it would be hard to let go of wearing the Australian uniform.
“At the same time it does make it easier for you in the end because I’m proud of what I have done I don’t have any regrets,
“I’ve accomplished everything I’ve been able too,
“I was fortunate to go to the Commonwealth Games in 2006 when we won gold so I feel like I’ve done everything.
“Every year is a bonus now and I feel like I kind of get more relaxed in the situation.
“On reflection I probably reckon I play my best when I'm relaxed so if I’m still ready to go in two years (for the 2016 Olympics) then that would be a great opportunity”
Hodges had quite arguably her best season to date in 2013/14 for Adelaide Lightning finishing third in the League MVP, number one in Field Goal percentage with 57.9% and being selected in the All Star Five.
Looking forward to the upcoming WNBL season, she believes her role will change slightly with the talented recruits the club has managed to sign.
“My role will certainly change this year as we have some really talented girls that have come to the team” Hodges explains
“I’m really looking forward to playing with two new players in particular Alex Bunton and Carly Mijovic.
“They have got so much talent and if I can try and teach them and get them playing at their best then I probably won’t have to play as much game time.
“As much as you want to be out there on the court, I know from my body that playing 30 or 35 minutes a game isn’t probably the best thing for a basketball team so if they (Bunton and Mijovic) can sort of step up and keep improving “I believe they should be striving to try and make the next Opals team.
“If I can help them and be a mentor like Rachel Sporn did for me back in the day then I think that will be a really good opportunity for me to help out.
“It could be a catalyst to appear in another finals series”.