Tessa Lavey is living the dual-sport athlete dream
By Hayley Wildes | The Pick and Roll
Tessa Lavey is back on deck with the Bendigo Spirit, after another season of AFLW with the Richmond Tigers. As the currently undefeated Spirit forges through the season, Lavey adds yet another weapon to an already loaded arsenal.
With Bendigo flying and Lavey having made her season debut last week in Round 4 —with the team picking up wins against Townsville and Sydney— it’s certainly a good time to be around this Spirit squad.
“It’s been really good to be back, and that’s a credit to my teammates and coaching staff,” Lavey shared. “They’ve made it easy and I’m just super excited to contribute where I can.
“For our group it’s not just all about the wins, but obviously we’re all very competitive and we want to have some fun along the way. I think that’s key – if you’re having fun, you’re going to win basketball games and Kennedy [Kereama] is always about having a laugh off the court, but when it’s game time, we get down to it and we work really hard.”
Having represented her country as an Opal on the biggest stages at World Cup and Olympic tournaments, Lavey made the decision to become a dual-sport athlete when she signed with Richmond —where she plays alongside Southside’s Monique Conti— for the 2021 AFLW season.
“It wasn’t something that I took lightly and I thought about it for a long time,” she said. “Since the AFLW came about, I’d really thought about it, and then Richmond got a team. Sometimes things happen in your life, and you sort of think about what you want to do in life and I wanted to play AFLW.
“I don’t want to leave any stone unturned, and I did it and love it.”
Lavey has made being a dual-sport athlete look easy, but juggling WNBL and AFLW commitments is far from that. As she explains, it’s all about communication and ensuring she’s doing what needs to be done for both sports.
“I focus on footy in preseason and during the season, then when basketball preseason comes around, that’s where we sort of have to monitor load and get into both sessions during the week,” she said. “It’s a conversation we have between both teams on what we can get done and just making sure that I’m not overloaded, but everyone sort of gets what they need from me. It’s a lot of communication.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of both clubs. They’ve been really amazing – I couldn’t have been a part of two better organisations in the Bendigo Spirit and the Richmond Tigers.
“I thank them for allowing it to happen and I know it’s not easy on everyone, it is really hard work for everybody involved, but I’m very thankful that I’m able to live out my dream.”
Lavey’s commitment to football and basketball is crystal clear, whether you’re watching her slice through packs on the field or driving past opponents on the court. Her work rate and speed in both sports is undeniable, and she believes playing football has made her a better basketball player, and vice versa.
“I think it works both ways – basketball has really helped me with footy; being in tight, making decisions really quickly, and I think with footy the aerobic capacity is just something you build over time,” she said.
“I’m lucky that I’ve had three AFLW preseasons now and that’s helped me with my basketball – both complement each other really well.”
The Spirit currently boast a 5-0 record and sit on top of the ladder, chalking up impressive win after impressive win, but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Bendigo in recent times, and Lavey knows that better than almost anyone.
Lavey has been in Bendigo through the good times (winning a championship in 2014) and the not so good times (a winless 2020 hub season), but the Spirit is back in the upper echelon and look capable of making plenty of noise this season.
“It’s a credit to the organisation for sticking with some of the players, then getting some really elite calibre players to come in and help out,” she said. “Obviously a new coach is on board now with Kennedy and he’s doing an amazing job with the group.
“It was a real grind for a couple of years, but we just tried our hearts out. Obviously, we couldn’t get a win [in 2020], and to finally get some reward now is really nice.”
Despite not having an import, the Spirit have one of the most well-rounded squads in the league. The headliner is reigning WNBL MVP Anneli Maley, but she has plenty of help, surrounded by the likes of Kelsey Griffin, Kelly Wilson, Abigail Wehrung, Alicia Froling, Alex Wilson, Megan McKay and of course, now Lavey.
Kennedy Kereama has come in as coach and had an immediate impact. He has this Spirit squad playing the right way and they’re a joy to watch with their relentless defence. Averaging just 66.8 points against per game is proof that their defence is locked in, and when you consider Townsville has the second-best points against average at 74, it shows Bendigo is currently on another level.
“Kennedy is great and has been awesome to work with,” she said. “He’s one of the most organised coaches I’ve ever met and he’s just really clear with his communication, both on the court and off the court, and as a player and athlete, you really appreciate that.
“I can’t wait to see what we can do as a group moving forward.”