They say you don’t get to choose your family, but for the Moe basketball community, players’ choices to represent the Meteors in weekly competition make them an association bound by blood and built on kinship.
This weekend, Moe’s Men and Women’s basketball teams will compete in the 2021 Country Basketball League (CBL) Grand Final for a title in the Gippsland conference. It’s a situation they’ve placed themselves in time and time before, which begs the question to those who wish to ponder – where does their success spark?
If you ask Head Coach and long-time Moe ambassador, Matt Demczuk, the Meteors’ strong sense of purpose and achievement as a result of one thing in particular – family.
“If you combine our Men’s and Women’s teams at Moe who compete in the CBL, you’ll learn that 14 of our 24-player squad have a family connection,” Demczuk said.
“Most of the players are siblings and have played together in their respective backyards since they were young, watching each other play as they have gone through the ranks of representative basketball at Moe.”
Brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands and wives. The 2021 Moe Meteors squad is a mix of local faces from the community who have grown up next door to each other.
It is this history of relationships within Moe’s two CBL teams that, in Demczuk’s opinion, speaks to the heart of what competitions like the CBL are in place to do.
“Really, what encapsulates the spirit of Moe Basketball in the CBL is the friendship so evident on and off the court,” Demczuk said.
“Friendship with each other and other teams, enjoying the game at all levels, and the challenge of competing against players from different ages from other towns who have been admired over time, that’s ultimately what country basketball is all about,
“It’s a chance for people to continue to play basketball after juniors have finished or if they have drifted away to play other sports, to then return and play with their friends.”
After the postponement of basketball in 2020 due to Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns, the return of CBL in January reignited much of Moe’s community spirit that surrounds its towns’ sporting teams.
“Over the years Moe has always had strong family ties and this year has seemed to be one of the strongest,” Demczuk explained.
“With Traralgon not entering in CBL this season, it gave brothers Luis and Christian D’Angelo the opportunity to continue playing together which has been great,
“We also got Laura Vannapraseuth to join husband Simon on the team, and Sammy Labros to say yes this season as an assistant coach with her boyfriend Jaden Van Dykplaying in the Men’s team,
“Togetherness is family and having families involved at Moe allows for growth within our association and for people to be included.”
Demczuk’s Women’s side fell short to a conference championship in 2019/20, taking home the Runners Up title. He said as they face Warragul Warriors this Saturday night in the Grand Final, redemption will be the only thing on Moe’s mind.
“This season we’ve played as a team with no great expectations, it’s been about enjoying the opportunity to play together again after the COVID-19 layoff,
“However, now in the big dance, we’ll be concentrating on our defence to keep the pressure up on Warragul and keep patience offensively.
“Sammy Labros has been offensively consistent all season with assistance from Caitlin Demczuk and Ella Cornish, who are beginning to peak at the right time,
“Danielle Davies and our Captain Bree Anderson have been great at both ends of the floor this season but based on her Semi-Final performance, I think Abbey Noblett will be a key player for us.”
Heading up Moe’s Men’s team this season has been Pat Frendo.
Frendo said the way his team has come together this season is a testament to their mental toughness, and should be rewarded with a CBL Grand Final win on the weekend against opponents Maffra Eagles.
“The teamwork and willingness to sacrifice for each other has proven to be a successful remedy in recent years and we have tried our best to stay with it in 2021,” Frendo expressed.
“There’s not a single selfish player on the team, with everyone willing to give up a good shot for a great shot.
Frendo said he has full confidence in his squad to get the job done on Saturday night as he knows they’ll be playing as a family unit.
“Our key playmakers will be two-time CBL finals MVP Steve O’Brien, who always steps up in big games and has been the best big man in the league for quite a few years,
“Liam Fitzpatrick, who is our glue guy and one of the best defenders in the league, will make a mark on O’Brien’s side while Luis and Christian D’Angelo are our fearless scorers who have a phenomenal offensive arsenal.”
While there’s no telling what the outcome for both of Moe’s CBL teams will be come Saturday night, you can bet they’ll have their community and family rallying behind them win or lose.
If a win is in the cards though, you’ll hear it first from Moe’s number one fan Matt Demczuk.