IT’S said that when one door closes, another one opens – and it sums up the sporting pursuits of Bendigo’s Bree Mellberg.
Mellberg recently returned from a European tour with the Australian Gilders wheelchair basketball team.
Yet four years ago she never would have envisaged representing her country on the basketball court given diving had been her passion.
And she was good at it, too, making it all the way to the Junior World Championships in 2008 and diving for Australia on the 10m platform before retiring in 2010 to concentrate on her studies and “get in the swing of a career”.
However, three years later in 2013 Mellberg, then 22, endured a life-changing moment when in an accident on a trampoline she suffered a broken neck, leaving her wheelchair-bound.
But she hasn’t let that stop her from pursuing her sporting dreams, and while it may have been diving in the past, it’s now basketball where Mellberg is making her mark in a sport that she says she knew very little about just over two years ago.
“I started playing wheelchair basketball at the beginning of 2015, so it has been two-and-a-half years now,” Mellberg said this week.
“I had never played basketball before because I’m quite short.
“I remember my first game when I got on the court and didn’t know any of the rules, so it has been a really big learning curve to learn the rules, learn how to use a basketball chair and be able to piece it all together.
“But having done elite sport before it has helped me progress through the sport quickly because I know how to train, work hard and I have a really good attitude towards sport. That has helped me through all my sporting career.”
Mellberg’s path to her selection with the Gliders began in a 2015 tournament in Tasmania where she was convinced by a friend to “jump in a chair and give it a go”, which was followed by the annual Women’s Festival event in Sydney.
It was at that Sydney tournament where Mellberg – who has recently had to deal with another hurdle after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis – first caught the attention of Australian selectors by winning the up-and-coming Glider Award.
Mellberg continued her development with Bendigo’s wheelchair basketball team – formerly the Bendigo Gold, now the Bendigo Wheelchair Braves – while also joining the Kilsyth Cobras in the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League, where she has played the past two seasons.
All that experience helped Mellberg earn her berth in the Gliders squad for their European tour where they won a pair of bronze medals in the two tournaments they contested – the World Super Cup and Continental Clash.
“It’s an amazing environment to be part of and I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Europe,” Mellberg, 27 said.
“I was able to get court time in most of the games, which was very exciting and I loved every minute of it.”
Next on the agenda for Mellberg are training camps in Brisbane and Canberra and striving to maintain her position in the Gliders’ squad for the upcoming World Championships qualifying tournament to be held in China in October.
Mellberg’s ultimate goal is to represent the Gliders at the Paralympics and it’s clear she has the attitude and mindset to achieve it – one step at a time.
“Out of the most horrible experience of my life when I had my accident, I’ve always said I’m not going to let it defeat me,” Mellberg said.
“I really struggled to come to terms with what happened for quite a while, but sport has really helped me.
“It has given me a lot more energy and I’d like to think I’ve been able to make the most of a pretty crappy situation.
“I’m taking it step by step and just focusing on what’s coming up next, which is a training camp in Brisbane later this month, but there’s no doubt going to the Paralympics would be the icing on the cake.”