Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
ABC News
ABC News

Canberra Capitals player Nicole Munger showcases the value of the 'ageing rookie' in WNBL

Nicole Munger sees the funny side of the "ageing rookie" label she's been given.

"Jade [Melbourne] and I always laugh, because she's obviously 20 [years old] and it's her third season here," the Canberra Capitals import said.

"I always say, 'I'm the rookie, you're the vet!' but I have five years on her! so, it's definitely funny.

"But, at the end of the day, it's just about how can I really expedite my learning and my growth in a short amount of time to keep up with the vets that have been playing in this league for 10 years?"

That positive attitude, and perspective, helped Munger make the most of a series of sliding doors moments and, ultimately, make her WNBL debut against the Adelaide Lightning on November 30.

"I was playing in Spain last year, which was an unbelievable experience, but the level was a bit lower," she said.

"After that season, I came to Australia to play NBL1 with Chyra Evans — she's now at [the University of] Michigan, which is my alma mater.

"So, I was like, 'Oh, I'll go play NBL1 and then maybe go back to Spain'," Munger said.

"Some things happened with that team at the same time I started hearing, 'Hey, you can play at this level', so I decided to stay in Australia — and then, on the last week of my visa, [Capitals] coach [Kristen Veal] called me."

Veal offered Munger a training contract but, just days after she moved to Canberra and three weeks into the season, fate intervened again.

One player Dekeiya Cohen quit, "effective immediately", and Munger was told to suit up for Round 4.

"A spot opened up and it was just magic," she said.

Munger has been on the court as a starter for Canberra in every game since.

She leads the team on average minutes played and is ranked among the Caps' best on for everything from points to rebounds.

"A lot of people get to a point and they say 'I did it' and then that's it — where I wanted to say, 'Okay, I did it. Now, let's do it again' and prove it."

But at 25 years of age, Munger is neither a traditional rookie nor a veteran.

She's young, but not young enough to be an "emerging talent", and has professional experience, but not in the Women's National Basketball League (WNBL) or Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).

Coach Veal didn't care.

"Munger's age wasn't a factor in her recruitment," she said.

"What we saw in her was her quality as a person and a player, and that she could help the team."

'Getting a little bit old!'

The Canberra Capitals have other ageing rookie players, such as 25-year-old Elizabeth Tonks.

This talent-over-age sentiment is shared by two other WNBL teams: the Perth Lynx and the Sydney Flames.

Perth's team has included 25-year-old Robbi Ryan and 28-year-old former development player Emma Gandini.

Sydney offered Maddy Allen her baller break at 28, four years after her one-year stint on Townsville's development squad.

In an introductory Flames video in October, Allen admitted she thought her opportunity to join the sport had passed her by.

"I didn't really think that WNBL was on the cards for me anymore," she said.

"[I'm] getting a little bit old."

Allen's Flames teammate, Rachel Maenpaa, has a stronger claim after making her WNBL debut last month at 38 years of age.

The 185cm American — who graduated from Indiana State University in 2007 and played in first divisions in Portugal, Switzerland and Slovakia, as well as in Australia's NBL1 a decade ago — started the season as an assistant coach but played the final minute in the Flames' Round 7 clash with Canberra, and double that a week later.

Lauren Jackson — known colloquially as the GOAT (greatest of all time) — was 41 when she debuted for Southside Flyers but came out of an 8-year retirement to do it.

"Every single day, there's been apprehension," Jackson admitted in December.

"I've questioned myself a lot over the past year, but it really has been an exercise in process."

Munger is hoping for her own league longevity but, right now, her focus is helping Canberra get a win.

 "It's fun for me," she said.

"I get to come here, this is my job. I'm getting paid to do what I love.

"I couldn't ask for anything more in life."

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.