A day on the inside: behind the scenes at the FIBA Women's World Cup
Qudos Bank Arena: FIBA Women's World Cup 2022 post-game press conference room (photo by Lukas Petridis)
4:00am: Bolt up, shave, shower, eat, brush my teeth.
6:09am: Dad texts me ‘leaving now.’
6:14am: I go downstairs.
6:15am: Dad calls me and says ‘I’m here.’ I reply saying, ‘no you’re not.’
6:16am: Dad’s here.
6:38am: Surprisingly, arrive at the airport sooner than I anticipated.
6:44am: Surprisingly, get through airport security sooner than I anticipated.
7:15am: Run into my mate Hannah, surprisingly.
8:00am: Get on my flight to Sydney.
9:21am: Touch down in Sydney.
9:47am: Get in the Uber, driver is anti-government and anti-private ‘enterprises’, not listening to a word I’m saying, just waiting for his turn to speak.
10:11am: Arrive at the hotel.
10:26am: Have a little lie down ‘til I realise I’m G’d up to be covering the fuckin FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
11:06am: Cop a latte.
12:58pm: Arrive at the fuckin FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
2:00pm: USA and Bosnia & Herzegovina tip off. MC asks the crowd who they’re here to see and Bosnians mixed with the Herzegovinians outroar the Americans by a noticeable margin. There is seriously nothing like being at a basketball game. What you saw was a 62-point blowout. What I felt was perfection. Watching the US play that basketball game was the peak of what basketball should be. They had three empty possessions for the entirety of the first quarter. Three. When Michael Jordan cried at the end of episode seven of The Last Dance, performances like the US’s in this game were what he was talking about. A 60-point blowout is something you tune out of at halftime, but in person I was entranced. They didn’t cheat the game at any point, they didn’t stop taking it seriously, they were true to what basketball is supposed to be. They’re a team with one goal in mind and they aren’t taking shortcuts until that gold is around their neck.
3:36pm: Leave the Qudos Bank Arena and ask for directions to Sydney Olympic Park. A kind fellow replies to me ‘oh it’s just down the road.’ What he didn’t mention was that it was over a kilometre away, so I’m sweating profusely before I arrived at the next destination.
4:00pm: Mali and Canada tip off following Mali’s tunnel tiff. Similar vibe to the US v B&H game, the Canadians finished the first quarter up 33-16 and it was already game over. Bridget Carleton started the term with back to back three balls, Aislinn Konig closed the term with back to back three balls. Carleton started the second quarter with another pair of triples and a missed midi, but that miss signified how much she was feeling herself: she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. A little cause for concern before the half as Carleton was testing out her finger, but finishing with 27 points on 7/8 from three puts any worry to bed.
4:48pm: Leave Sydney Olympic Park to go back to the Qudos Bank Arena.
5:30pm: France and Serbia tip off. A hotly contested affair sees all of the Aussie fans cheering on Serbia as a Serbia win would give the Opals a chance to win the group. Yvonne Anderson and Gabby Williams lead their nations with performances that may be used as patriotic propaganda after their stellar first quarters. From a 24-10 Serbia lead near the end of the first term, the French turned the game on its head, going on a 22-2 run. For the rest of the game there was a pattern of Serbia finding a 10-point lead and France finding a way to tie it up. With 25 seconds left and the score 62-60 in favour of Serbia, Sasa Cado hits her first basket for the game – a quarter court heave at the end of the shot clock that goes off glass, and that’s all she wrote for this one.
7:14pm: Watch the tunnel interviews after the game, feel as though I could get the hang of it but for now I’m a viewer, seriously nervous about approaching any players.
7:31pm: Suss out the presser for France v Serbia. Similar vibe to the tunnel but so much more daunting, if I fuck up my question it’s only on the internet forever, also everyone in the room is listening to the question I would ask. Ahh well, may need to suck eggs on this one.
8:30pm: Australia and Japan tip off. It’s absolutely bumpin’ in the ‘Dos. If this is what it sounds like for a late tip off during the last night of the group stage in a half-filled stadium on a weeknight, a Tuesday at that, then I don’t think patrons are going to be ready for the finals. Japan are hot out of the gates with a play that sets up Ramu Tokashiki on her way to the cup for a layup. This would set the tone for most of the first quarter and the single-win Japan squad had an unlikely lead going into the second quarter. Australia worked to regain control of the game in the second quarter and although their lead was only two going into the half, the feel of the game was comfortably in Australia’s hands. The Aussies built on this lead gradually in the third, and after outscoring Japan 35-20 after the half, the hosts won, securing their place atop Group B heading into the finals.
10:26pm: That’s a wrap! Only decision left is if I should pay around $15 for an hour and a half trip that includes three separate methods of transport on a rainy Sydney night or should I bite the bullet and spend $65 on an Uber that will take halfas and drop me at my doorstep…