December 19, 2023 | Perth Lynx news

At the start of 2023 Alex Ciabattoni had no idea if she’d ever play basketball again, but the new mother has not only returned to the WNBL, but is playing a significant role with Perth Lynx and will forever be thankful to her teammates and coach.

It’s been quite the wild past 24 months for Ciabattoni. Two seasons ago she was an important member of a Lynx team that went to the WNBL grand final where she was sharing a backcourt with the likes of Marina Mabrey and Jackie Young.

Life then took a dramatic turn as she became a mother in January of this year as her and partner James welcomed their first child, Elijah into the world and Ciabattoni had no idea what that meant for her playing future.

Ciabattoni had plenty of things to focus her life on before thinking about playing again with motherhood, working and then taking on the head coaching role in the NBL1 West at the South West Slammers for the first time.

However, that playing bug returned as the NBL1 season rolled on and she was a playing-coach at times for the Slammers. That’s when the conversations began with Lynx coach Ryan Petrik about a potential return to the WNBL.

Petrik was fully aware of what Ciabattoni brings in terms of leadership, basketball smarts and that extra quality ball handler and defender. He also had some idea of what it would be like coming back as a mother with his wife, Chelsea, having attempted the same with Rockingham in the NBL1.

Chelsea was championship winning teammates at the Flames with Ciabattoni back in 2019 but still returning to becoming a professional basketballer once again to add to an already hectic life was something she wasn’t quite sure about.

Returning to the WNBL

It certainly hasn’t been without its hurdles since either and every day can seem endless at times, but Ciabattoni is now starting to feel comfortable back in the WNBL and she showed that in last Wednesday’s 40-point win against the Sydney Flames.

She finished with a season-best 10 points, four rebounds and two assists, and she has her teammates largely to thank for helping her through the tough days, and to find her playing groove again.

“I really wasn’t sure when I got pregnant and I thought I was done. To come back now it’s definitely a challenge but I’m enjoying it and am putting a lot less pressure on myself which is helping at the moment,” Ciabattoni said.

“But it’s just the mental adjustment and the first few games I just struggled to find my rhythm back even though we played well as a team. I was just in a heap but our team has just been so helpful and I’m not sure they even realise that.

“They’ve lifted me and helped me play through all that, and to now finally start finding some form again it’s just refreshing and it’s making it all feel worth it. There’s been a lot of long nights and really long days so to come out and actually feel like I’m contributing to the game is just huge for me right now.”

Connection with coach Petrik

Not only is Ciabattoni thankful to her teammates for helping her successful return with the Lynx, but she doesn’t know if she would have been able to do it with any other coach than Petrik.

They’ve always had a great connection in a basketball sense, but now with both new parents as well, they have that life bond on top of it and that natural understanding. Ciabattoni can’t thank Petrik enough for the way he’s supported her return.

“Honestly I don’t even think I would have been able to transition as well without Ryan. A few years ago it might have been different, but he has a young daughter now and might have been more prepared than I was for what it would be like,” she said.

“His wife, Chelsea, played with me at NBL1 and came back after a baby, and he saw how much work went into that and how frustrated she got with her body and everything. He knew somewhat what to expect, but I just thought I’d be fine and would come back no problem.

“But just having his support and having him even when I’m down, he is great at understanding I’ve got a lot going on and it’s been huge. Without his support, I don’t even think I would have been able to come back.”

Big win against Sydney

As for last Wednesday night’s win against the Flames at Bendat Basketball Centre for the Lynx by 40 points, Ciabattoni just felt it showed the depth in the team and the faith they had that their three-point shooting would come good.

They went 16/32 as a team from behind the three-point line with Ciabattoni herself going 2/3.

“It just shows you the depth of our team and how when we come to play how good we can be. We’ve had a few down games and a tough stretch here, so to bounce back like before a bit of a break is huge for us and it’s a super important win,” Ciabattoni said.

“It’s been long time coming a shooting performance like that and I think before this game we had the worst shooting percentage in the league, which is something we’re reminded of a lot.

“So I think it just shows that we’re in the gym every day and everyone’s getting up extra shots, and eventually something had to fall. Other teams have done it to us like Melbourne came here last week and in the second half couldn’t miss on our floor so it’s obviously a great feeling when we’re able to do it back to someone else.”

Four quarter showing from the team

The other key part to that 40-point win last Wednesday night was that it was a complete 40-minute performance from the Lynx.

Throughout the opening eight games of the season, there had been good first halves from the Lynx, good second halves and often lapses in games that were proving costly.

However, that was a complete four quarter effort and now Ciabattoni hopes they can keep it going this Saturday afternoon back at home in the Christmas game against the Southside Flyers.

“Honestly it’s been a goal of ours from after the first few games when we realised quickly that we can play great for like 20 minutes or great for 25 and it really has been a focus at training over the last three, four weeks to play that full game,” Ciabattoni said.

“It’s been constantly making sure we don’t have those lapses at practice and not shutting down, trying to huddle more and little team things to try to keep each other going.

“I think even just having everyone invested even from the bench it gives you a boost on the court to play through those lulls.

“One of our biggest focuses has been trying to have shorter goals and having just a one minute bad patch, but then being able to catch it and regroup before giving up 20 in four minutes. That’s been our aim to try to get to that point.”