NEW DP SARAH ALLEN PINCHING HERSELF OVER OPPORTUNITY
No one epitomises hard work more than new Perth Lynx development player Sarah Allen and she’s still a little lost for words that she’s currently in Melbourne with the team with the chance of making her WNBL debut on Wednesday night.
Basketball has been in Allen’s blood since she was younger with her twin brothers and sister Rebecca also playing, and her dad, Craig, going on to become one of Western Australian basketball’s most respected coaches throughout the ranks.
Their life was at Willetton for a long time and Craig was a successful assistant to Simon Parker, but when he got his first head coaching chance at the Perth Redbacks, Sarah joined him there and that’s when her NBL1 career began to take off.
It’s taken nothing but sheer hard work for her to continue to grow and develop ever since, to the point where her season at the East Perth Eagles in 2023 was the best of her career on the back of looking a more comfortable, complete and dangerous player out on the floor.
The hard work has continued since with Allen joining the Lynx as a training player and now her efforts have been rewarded with a development player position, and she could be about to make her debut.
Reaction to the news
Allen is currently with her Lynx teammates in Melbourne preparing for Wednesday night’s clash with the Southside Flyers, and she will be suited up and ready to go to make her debut should coach Ryan Petrik call her number.
It has been quite the dramatic week for her but she can’t hide her excitement even if she can still scarcely believe that it’s real.
“It’s a really good feeling obviously, I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was happy just being there training with the team and it’s the first time at this level that I’ve been even having a foot in the door kind of thing,” Allen said.
“So I was happy just being around the group getting a feel for it all, but Sam had a chat with me a couple of weeks ago saying they wanted to elevate me.
“That came as a bit of a surprise and I didn’t really have words for it at the time, and I still don’t to be honest, but it’s really cool and I will take every opportunity that comes. I obviously wasn’t going to say no to it, I would be a bit stupid if I did so it’s pretty exciting.”
How this week unfolded
While Allen was aware that the Lynx wanted her to become an official development player, the circumstances of this week with the players unavailable have expedited the process.
The last thing she expected when she got to practice on Monday was to find out she was about to fly out with the team to Melbourne the next morning, but she’s not about to complain about the opportunity now in front of her.
“I had a chat to Sam (Devine, operations manager) on my way into training on Monday and she said she wanted to have a chat to me after, and I immediately thought the worst and wondered what I’d done as you kind of do,” she said.
“But then after that we had a quick chat and she asked what I was doing this week and if I wanted to come to Melbourne. Obviously I said yes straight and couldn’t believe it.
“It is unfortunate circumstances with people being out with COVID and injuries, but it’s a hell of an opportunity and even though the first game is away, it’s just so exciting.”
The dream of reaching the WNBL
While Allen’s ultimate dream was to always get a chance to play in the WNBL, it wasn’t until this year where she thought it might actually be a possibility.
“There was a couple of years there where it was my dream to be in the WNBL, but I just didn’t think I was really at the level yet to even have that as a possibility,” she said.
“But I’ve just had a really good NBL1 season this year and then I still wasn’t expecting anything, but just wanted to put my name out there and see what might happen. It’s kind of just taken off since then and here I am.”
Family involvement in basketball
Having played under dad as a coach throughout her teenage years at Willetton, then at NBL1 level both at the Redbacks and now as of 2023, the Eagles, and it’s a special bond that she has with him.
But basketball is a family business for the Allen household and she couldn’t wait to let them all know on Monday once she knew she was officially signed to a WNBL contract, and was about to fly out with the team to Melbourne.
“Mum and dad were the first people I told, I actually put it in the family chat straightaway so my brothers and sister saw it as well right away,” Allen said.
“Then I told my boyfriend pretty quickly and then called my mum on the way home freaking out because I had to pack that night, and leave for Melbourne the next morning. It’s been a crazy couple of days but so exciting too, it’s pretty cool.
“Our family growing up has always been involved in basketball. We’re the two really in the family still involved as a player or coach, and our while family growing up has been really close and basketball is such a big part of our lives. They are such a big part of why he can do this and take it to the next level now.”
Developing and growing as a player
Allen was always a talented junior at Willetton but making that leap to get an opportunity at NBL1 level on a team always contending for a championship wasn’t easy. That meant that when her dad was appointed coach of the Redbacks, it was a no-brainer to join him.
She would spend three seasons at the Redbacks, improving each year along the way, before playing at the Mandurah Magic in 2022, and then teaming up with Craig again at the Eagles in 2023 saw her reach career-best levels.
Allen went on to average 10.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists a game showing an impressive all-round game, and that she could also catch fire with her shooting including a match-winning performance against the Perth Redbacks.
It was the first time she’s been able to play at NBL1 level with the mindset of going out there feeling comfortable and just trying to enjoy her basketball, and it paid off.
“It was a lot of fun and I found myself a lot more comfortable with the role I was playing, and the opportunities I was getting on the court and trying to make the most of every minute I got on court to give my best,” she said.
“I really enjoyed this last season and I felt a lot more comfortable out on court for sure. I was focused more on just playing instead of focusing on doing sets or that kind of thing, and just going out there and playing naturally.
“That came from just feeling more comfortable out there and wanting to have fun without worrying about making a mistake or anything. It seemed to work pretty well.”
What a week to make debut
It’s now quite the huge week for Allen’s first time to officially be part of the Lynx team starting with the road game against Lauren Jackson and the Southside Flyers on Wednesday, and then coming home to face Sami Whitcomb and the defending champion Townsville Fire on Saturday.
“You always think about when you’re lying in bed dreaming about getting out there to play in the WNBL, and especially to do it at home,” Allen said.
“So for that to potentially happen on Saturday, I’m pretty excited for that if it happens, but if it doesn’t then we’ll just see what happens later if there’s any other opportunities. But one thing I’m definitely looking forward to the most is playing in front of family and friends.”