Watching from the bench for big chunks of last WNBL season tested Chantella Perera’s love for basketball.
With a lack of court time for the Bulleen Boomers, Perera’s confidence nosedived and she considered giving her WNBL career away, despite only being in her mid-20s.
How quickly things can change.
After the Boomers lost last season’s grand final, the 176cm guard returned to captain Kilsyth Lady Cobras and had an outstanding SEABL season.
Perera averaged 17.9 points and 3.6 assists per game, despite battling a back injury which kept her from playing for two months and still requires management.
Her form earned her selection in the SEABL All-Star team, while also catching Bendigo Bank Spirit coach Bernie Harrower’s attention.
“Bernie had a spot open and told me what they were all about and how he thought I could fit in and help the team,” Perera said.
“I’ve spent the last few seasons low on confidence. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep playing, but after playing SEABL I was going pretty well and thought that I wanted to give it one more chance.”
Set for more opportunities in Bendigo, the 26-year-old is confident she can bring some firepower to the Spirit’s backcourt which has seen the departure of two-time MVP Tess Madgen and Deanna Smith.
Perera made a promising start during the WNBL pre-season tournament last weekend by sinking 30 points against Sydney, helping the Spirit to the final and its first trophy.
“I think over the weekend I proved I can score a lot as well, so (I can) bring that extra scoring punch off the bench,” Perera said.
“I want to be an impact player in the WNBL, just to play to the potential I think I can. If I can help the Spirit win a championship along my way that would be really great.”
The change of scenery in Bendigo seems to have revitalised Perera, who is at her fourth WNBL club after beginning at Dandenong before going on to win a championship with Canberra.
With a blossoming career away from basketball and her partner in Melbourne, she commutes to Bendigo for training, but she feels refreshed escaping the city.
“It’s just a really nice breath of fresh air – quite literally – in the country coming from Melbourne,” she said.
“I think it’s a club I would stay with for a long time, it just feels like a nice place. It’s a big commitment for me commuting from Melbourne and everyone keeps asking me ‘how are you going to do it?’, but the last three weeks have been easy.”
The Spirit’s sixth season in the WNBL season begins next Friday night in Adelaide.