Australian Junior Championships
Written by Jaylee Ismay
4 April, 2024

With the U18 & Junior Wheelchair Footlocker National Championships fast approaching, the spotlight falls on the coaching staff of the five NSW State Teams as they prepare to showcase their skills on the national stage. 

The 2024 Foot Locker Under 18 & Junior Wheelchair National Championships will be held at South Pine Sports Complex, 620 S Pine Rd, Brendale QLD 4500 and held from Sunday 7th – Sunday 14th April.

U18 Metro Boys:
Head Coach – Will Hill
Assistant Coach – Lachlan Clark
Assistant Coach – Rowan Choi
Manager – Yoppy Suwanto

Leading the charge for the U18 Metro Boys is Head Coach Will Hill, whose extensive experience and dedication to the sport have set the team on a path to success. Hill’s journey to the Nationals has been marked by years of commitment and passion for the game. This year marks his fourth consecutive appearance at the championships, despite the setback of the cancelled 2020 tournament due to the pandemic. His tenure as Assistant Coach for the U18 Metro Men’s teams from 2020 to 2023 has provided invaluable insights and preparation, culminating in his current role as Head Coach of the team. Hill currently head coaches the Sydney Comets U18 Boys Junior Premier League team and is the Head of Boys Basketball at St. Andrews Cathedral School, a position he has held for nine years.

Assisting Hill is Lachlan Clark, a seasoned coach with a wealth of experience in high-performance basketball. Clark’s involvement with Basketball NSW and Manly Warringah Basketball Association highlights his dedication to nurturing talent and fostering strategic game development. He currently is the Head Coach of Manly’s U16 Boys Junior Premier League team and recently returned from a Basketball Australia National Performance Camp earlier in the year. This will be Clark’s second Nationals, after joining the team last year as an AC.

Rounding out the coaching staff is Hornsby’s Rowan Choi, bringing fresh perspectives and expertise to the team. Despite being a newcomer to the Nationals scene, Choi’s impressive track record as Head Coach for various youth teams demonstrates his potential to make a significant impact. With his experience at the U14 Club Championships in 2023 and his current coaching roles with Hornsby and Knox Grammar School, Choi adds depth to the coaching lineup, promising a well-rounded approach to player development and team dynamics.

Hailing from the Hills Hornets, Manager Yoppy Suwanto brings invaluable support and strategic insight to the table. Despite being a first-time attendee at the Nationals, Suwanto has previously tenured as a manager for NBL1 and is currently the Head Coach of the U16 Girls Division 1 team and Assistant for Waratah Youth Men. Suwanto’s past achievements as Head Coach and Assistant Coach in various leagues underscore his capacity to navigate high-stakes competitions and lead teams to success.

U18 Metro Girls:
– Head Coach: Tim Hill
– Assistant Coach: Michele Austin 
– Assistant Coach: Lauryn Curtin 
– Manager: Natalie Donnelly

Led by Head Coach Tim Hill, along with a talented ensemble of coaches and support staff, the U18 Metro Girls team is primed to make waves in the upcoming tournament.

Tim Hill’s illustrious career in coaching is punctuated by a string of successes at National Championships. With a rich history of podium finishes, including a gold medal triumph in 2022 with the U16 Metro Girls plus in 2017 he collected Silver, and in 2018 Bronze, Hill brings a wealth of experience and strategic acumen to the team. His association with Manly and current coaching engagements with NBL1 Men and Head Coach of Manly’s U18 Junior Premier League Girls team underscore his deep-rooted commitment to basketball development at all levels. Hill will hope to take this side on a run to the finals again in Brisbane. 

Joining Hill is Lauryn Curtin, whose coaching pedigree and extensive experience add layers of expertise to the coaching lineup. Curtin’s current tenure as Head Coach for Bankstown Bruins U18 Girls Junior Premier League side and NBL1 Assistant Coach reflects her commitment to nurturing talent and fostering excellence. Curtin is no stranger to the National Championships, as this is her ninth appearance, three times as a HC and five as an AC. Noteworthy is Curtin’s remarkable journey through the BNSW coaches pathway, showcasing her dedication to continuous improvement and professional development in the realm of basketball coaching through many years of dedication and hardwork.

Complementing the coaching staff is Michele Austin, whose recent stint as Assistant Coach for NSW Metro Under 16 Girls in 2023 underscores her growing prominence in the coaching arena. Austin currently coaches the Bankstown Bruins U14 Girls in the Junior Premier League and the U18 Girls Division 2. A former WNBL Flames Champion, Austin brings a blend of experience and expertise to the team promising to bolster player development and team cohesion.

Guiding the team behind the scenes is Manager Natalie Donnelly, a seasoned veteran with a proven track record in team management. Donnelly’s championship-winning tenure with Sydney Uni Flames and her managerial roles with various NSW State Teams including managing the same age group last year highlight her organisational prowess and commitment to NSW.

U18 Country Boys:
 – Head Coach: Cal Wade 
– Assistant Coach: Alvin Caoyonan 
– Assistant Coach: Eric Hackett
– Manager: Andris Jaunalksnis

With a dynamic coaching staff and a talented roster of players, the U18 Country Boys are poised to make a mark on the national stage.

Cal Wade, in his second year as Head Coach, brings a wealth of experience and passion to the role. As the Director of Coaching for Maitland Mustangs, Youth men Head Coach and NBL1 Men’s Assistant Coach, Wade’s leadership has been instrumental in shaping the team’s preparation and instilling a sense of pride in representing NSW Country. With seven campaigns as an assistant coach for NSW Country and extensive involvement in high-performance programs, Wade is committed to upholding the rich legacy of NSW Country basketball.

Assisting Wade is the formidable Alvin Caoyonan who will be attending his third National Championships. Caoyonan previously served as an AC for the U16 Country Boys in 2022 & 2023. Caoyonan has been a staple within the High Performance coaching ranks, spending the past few years coaching at various BNSW tournaments including as Head Coach of the second placed U18 Country Boys at this year’s Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup. With his experience as a coach and mentor in the North Coast Academy of Sport, and current Head Coach of the Byron Beez U18 Boys & U16 Boys, Caoyonan adds depth to the coaching lineup and trust. 

Assistant Coach Eric Hackett stands as a pillar of support within the coaching staff. With his second Nationals experience, serving as the U18 Assistant Coach following his role as the U16 Development Coach in 2023, Hackett brings a valuable understanding of the dynamics and demands of national-level competition. He has been a part of the BNSW High Performance program since 2018 and his affiliation with the Illawarra Basketball Association, coupled with his coaching roles in Youth League Men Division 1 as HC and NBL1 Men as an AC, underscores his commitment to guiding young athletes towards success.

Joining the team from the sidelines is Manager Andris Jaunalksnis, whose first Nationals experience with the U18 Country Boys promises to be a memorable one. Jaunalksnis’ association with Maitland Mustangs and his current role as Head Coach of Maitlands U16 Boys & Youth League Men’s Division 2 side reflect his dedication to nurturing talent. He has also managed at the Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup in 2023 and 2024 and will be the perfect fit for an already strong staff for the Country Boys.

U18 Country Girls:
– Head Coach: Shelley Bates 
– Assistant Coach: Brodey Fruean 
– Assistant Coach: Andrew Williams 
– Manager: Dhana Davidson

Wollondilly’s very own Shelley Bates is set to take the reins as the Head Coach for the U18 Country Girls team, marking a significant milestone in her coaching career. Despite a brief hiatus since her last Nationals appearance in 2021, Bates’s dedication to the sport has remained unwavering. With a history of serving as both an Assistant Coach and Head Coach for various Country Girls teams in recent years, Bates has honed her coaching skills and developed a keen understanding of what it takes to excel at the highest level of competition. Bates’s journey in basketball coaching has been shaped by her active participation in numerous Australian Junior Country Basketball Cups and various Basketball NSW High-Performance Programs.  Currently, Bates channels her passion for coaching by leading her home association’s U14 Girls Division 2 team, where she continues to nurture young talent and foster a culture of excellence. 

Albury’s own Brodey Fruean returns for her second year as Assistant Coach of the U18 Country Girls, bringing with her a wealth of coaching experience within this age group. Currently serving as the Head Coach of the Albury Cougars U18 Girls and CBL team, Fruean’s coaching prowess is evident in her ability to lead and inspire her players to perform at their best. Fruean’s contributions to the coaching pathway extend beyond her local teams, as she has dedicated herself to nurturing talent and sharing her expertise at numerous Talented Athlete Program Camps, Australian Country Junior Cups, and other Basketball NSW events. Furthermore, Fruean’s role as a State Performance Program Network Coach underscores her deep passion for supporting young players.

Next up is Andrew Williams, whose diverse background in coaching adds depth and expertise to the staff. With Nationals experience spanning from his time as an AC for the NSW Country U16 Boys in 2022 & 2023 to now coaching the NSW Country U18 Girls team, Williams brings a unique perspective and strategic insight to the table. Affiliated with the Coffs Harbour Suns, Williams currently coaches the U18 Girls Junior Premier League team, further showcasing leadership and his experience will undoubtedly prove invaluable in guiding the team through the rigours of the championships.

Rounding out the bench is Dhana Davidson, whose extensive experience as manager adds a wealth of knowledge and support to the U18 Country Girls squad. With four Nationals under her belt, including the 2021 Gold medal U20 Women, Davidson’s understanding of the tournament’s dynamics and her dedication to excellence make her a vital component of the team’s success. Davidson’s leadership as the team’s manager will ensure a smooth operation and a supportive environment for the players to thrive on and off the court.

Junior Wheelchair:
– Head Coach: Brodie Palmer
– Assistant Coach: Rhys Baxter 
 – Assistant Coach: Rohan Foy 
 – Manager: Roger Conroy and Clare Conroy

In 2024 Basketball Australia changed the name of the Wheelchair tournament from Kevin Coombs Cup to the Junior Wheelchair National Championships, with the teams vying to win the trophy in honour of the legendary Kevin Coombs. 

This year Basketball NSW has also appointed new coaching staff to the wheelchair team, after the growth & development of the sport from grassroots to elite over the past few years.

As Head Coach, Brodie Palmer has been selected to take the reins of the team after serving as the Manager in last year’s tournament. Hailing from country New South Wales, Palmer’s involvement in wheelchair basketball began in 2017, marking the start of a journey that would see her excel at various levels of the game.  In 2022, Palmer made waves as the captain and coach of the Canberra Gunners in the inaugural wheelchair competition of the Waratah League, leading her team to a silver medal finish. Palmer’s involvement as a player with the Sydney Uni Flames in the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League further solidifies her position as a prominent figure within the sport.

Palmer’s journey is characterised by resilience, passion, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Palmer and her team will be wearing the NSW uniforms with pride as they are poised to make waves and showcase the best of wheelchair basketball talent the state has to offer.

Assisting Palmer is Rohan Foy, who has had various coaching roles at local, state, and national level over the last eight years. In 2023, he led the Canberra Gunners to a Waratah Wheelchair Division 2 League Champions and was awarded Coach of the Year.  

Completing the coaching staff is Rhys Baxter. With sport always being a huge part of Rhys’ life, after acquiring a spinal cord injury at the age of 19, wheelchair basketball quickly became a passion for him. He brings a wealth of playing experience from his time playing in the National Wheelchair Basketball League and is excited about passing this down to the next generation of wheelchair basketball players.

Roger and Clare Conroy will be supporting the team as dual managers. With Roger’s background experience in project management and Clare having managed the Hills Waratah Wheelchair team in 2023 and co-managing again this year, they are sure to keep the group organised and on task at all times.

Together, all our NSW coaching staff and athletes share a sense of purpose and determination as they embark on their journey to the Nationals. With a blend of experience, expertise, and unwavering dedication, the NSW Metro & Country & Junior Wheelchair teams stand poised to make their mark on the court and etch their names in Australian basketball history.

Event Information:

The 2024 Foot Locker Under 18 & Junior Wheelchair National Championships will be held at South Pine Sports Complex, 620 S Pine Rd, Brendale QLD 4500 and held from Sunday 7th – Sunday 14th April.

To purchase tickets, head to Basketball Australia.
Click HERE for the full NSW team lists.
Click HERE for the full NSW State Team Coaching lists.
Click HERE to read about the NSW Referees selected to officiate the tournament.