WNBL: Amelia Todhunter on 3v3 World Cup, dogged defence and her dog Louie.
Third in season 2015/16 and second last year, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Dandenong Rangers are slowly but surely building to something special. They recently re-signed tireless point guard Amelia Todhunter, whose relentless defensive work gives the side much of its identity. The 29-year-old says the team’s recent second place finish will be front of mind when they return to training. “We’ll embrace it for sure and use it as motivation” she says.
“There’s the three of us coming back (with Sara Blicavs and Steph Blicavs [nee Cumming]), but we’ve recruited really well. Getting Kayla (Pedersen) back is really exciting”. As Todhunter says, the Rangers will have something of a new look squad next season, but it’s not like the group are complete strangers. Blicavs, Carley Mijovic and new signing Tessa Lavey all came up together at the Australian Institute of Sport and are looking forward to reuniting on court.
Todhunter is currently playing for the Dandenong Rangers SEABL team, where she is putting up her best three-point shooting numbers (48%), making her more of an off the ball threat.
The Rangers SEABL side often plays Todhunter alongside fellow point guard and outgoing co-captain Aimie Clydesdale. Come the WNBL season, she expects to often share the court with Opals floor general Tessa Lavey in similar small ball two point guard lineups.
“It’ll be really good working with Tessa” she says. “I think we can play that way where whoever gets the ball is the one (for that play) and the other one can run up the court. I think playing together will work well and will improve both our games”.
A smart, unselfish player on the offensive end, Todhunter is best known as a tenacious, pesky lock-down defender. Last year's campaign, her tenth, was her best season as she racked up steals, snaffled rebounds from the clutches of larger opponents and pursued opponents up and down court and through mazes of screens, pushing herself into the discussion for WNBL defensive player of the year.
Not blessed with any great size or height, Todhunter instead relies on hard work and basketball smarts to negate opposing scorers. Every week, Rangers assistant coach Reece Potter compiles a video of her coming assignment, and then Todhunter starts scheming. “I try to see what (her opponent)’s go-to move is, and I try to take that away” she explains.
In the mould of celebrated on-ball stoppers like Shane Battier and Briann January, Todhunter studies the tapes of her opponents long and hard and draws on every minute of her experience, which has given her an extensive knowledge of players tendencies and habits. “I’ve been in the league for a while now, so I know a lot of players games really well” she says.
Not only does she know some opponents better than they know themselves, she also has a strong grasp of her own game and sticks to a well-defined role. “I’m definitely more of a hard-worker than a finesse player” she says. “I pride myself on hustling and working really hard”.
Asked who her toughest defensive assignment has been, Todhunter says there are a number of very difficult covers. “The league is full of amazing players” she says. “I would say Leilani Mitchell, she is a bit smaller than me, which is hard to find, but she’s really tough and has so much experience”. Sami Whitcomb also rates highly, while she is glad she no longer has to guard new teammate Tessa Lavey in games and is expecting some tough battles against Adelaide-bound Aimie Clydesdale.
Before those matchups, however, Todhunter will be part of Australia’s 3v3 team in the FIBA World Cup, which kicks off in Nantes, France on June 17. She will represent Australia alongside new Rangers recruit Mijovic, Bendigo’s Nadeen Payne and Boomer Bec Cole.
Todhunter says the preparation has involved the squad upping their aerobic fitness to even greater levels. “A lot of the training has just been sprinting for ten minutes straight. It’s very physical and it’s a lot more fast-paced. In three on three, you’ve just got to be going and going and going”.
Australia are relatively inexperienced in the format and will enter the tournament seeded 19th, but Todhunter says they have the nucleus of a successful team. “We’re working hard to be ready. (The format) is new to us, but I think we’ll pretty competitive. The games are going to be really physical, but being smaller, it’ll be nice to have a bit more space. Bec Cole and I will be looking to penetrate a lot and then kick the ball out”.
Finally, here at The Evening Game, we take a strong interest in the WNBL’s top doggos and had to ask Todhunter about her King Charles Cavalier, Louie, whose listed interests include exploring, cuddles and "the ladies".
Her beloved pet is already something of a celebrity; he has his own Instagram account and even appeared with Amelia in the Rangers 2017 calendar. Todhunter says she has plans for an international-themed Louie post to tie in with her 3v3 campaign.
“I’m going to get him a little Australian jersey!” she laughs. “I just have to find something small enough. It’s funny (the attention Louie gets), because I find him pretty adorable”.
Amelia Todhunter 2016/17 Stats:
Points per game: 4.89
Assists per game: 1.96 (5th on Rangers)
Steals: 46 (3rd in league)