Local basketballer Ella Tofaeono almost gave it all away, that was until a serious knee injury changed her perspective on life and the game.
The 17-year-old Penrith Panthers basketballer underwent major knee surgery last year and was forced to spend a number of months on the sideline contemplating her future in the game.
Whilst in rehab Ella learnt to appreciate the game more which, in turn, saw her selected to represent NSW at the 2016 U20’s National Championships, to be held in Brisbane next month.
While this isn’t the first time the talented 187cm centre has represented her state at a national tournament, it is certainly her most rewarding selection to date.
“Last year I had a knee operation and my rehab wasn’t quite working, so to make this 20’s team is a really big deal to me,” Ella told the Weekender.
“I got the injury playing basketball, over time my knee started to give out.”
Before her injury, Ella made multiple state teams with her first being at the tender age of 14 when she represented NSW at the U16’s National Championships.
Ella admitted she’s changed a lot since her first representative appearance.
“My first state selection at 14 was pretty daunting and I think I really struggled that first year because I was so premature both mentally and emotionally,” she said.
“I think last year was a real eye opener and something I really needed, I really needed that break. In a weird way, I’m glad I got injured… because coming back I appreciate the game a lot more.”
Ella said she always knew she had the skills and physical capabilities to be great but didn’t quite know how to unlock her potential until she got injured.
“I’m one of these athletes who is naturally gifted but I don’t work hard enough and that’s something I realised after,” she said.
“Since I got injured I appreciate the game a lot more and I work harder. It really tested me last year but I’ve come back better and stronger and hopefully that will shine this season.”
The Year 12 student said she’ll bring plenty of points as well as a touch of maturity to her team when the competition gets underway in Ipswich in mid-February.
“I plan to bring a great sense of sportsmanship and encouragement to the team while also being assertive in my position,” Ella said.
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.