Townsville Fire season launch. Townsville Fire captain Suzy Batkovic after she announced that she will retire after the 2018/19 ENBL season. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Townsville Fire season launch. Townsville Fire captain Suzy Batkovic after she announced that she will retire after the 2018/19 ENBL season. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Suzy Batkovic determined to bow out a winner

TOWNSVILLE Fire legend Suzy Batkovic insists her competitive drive has not wavered as she looks to finish her decorated basketball career in style with another WNBL championship.

Batkovic revealed this season will be her last at this morning's season launch after 16 seasons, 334 games, and five championships in the WNBL, including three titles in Townsville.

The Fire captain is also a three-time Olympic medallist and spent eight seasons in Europe which delivered a further four titles including the 2003-04 Euroleague championship with Valenciennes.

Batkovic admitted retirement has played on her mind for the past few years, but she found it tough to walk away while she is still at the top of her game with the Fire.

The 37-year-old collected her record sixth WNBL MVP last season along with the Rachael Sporn Medal for the best player in the Fire's 2-1 grand final series win over the Melbourne Boomers.

 

Suzy Batkovic of Townsville Fire celebrates with teammates after winning the 2017/2018 WNBL championship. (AAP Image/Dave Acree)
Suzy Batkovic of Townsville Fire celebrates with teammates after winning the 2017/2018 WNBL championship. (AAP Image/Dave Acree)

Batkovic said it felt surreal to finally make the call on her playing future, but she thought the time was right, adding that she didn't want her farewell to be a distraction for the team.

"It's a tough a decision for any athlete to know when to go and I remember thinking it last year and I wasn't ready. I knew that I still had plenty to give," Batkovic said.

"But now as much as my heart's still in it the old body's not so keen to continue so I'm just going to give everything I've got this year and try and enjoy it.

"I don't want it to be a distraction and I didn't want it to be a bit of a surprise during the season when we're trying to focus on the job at hand.

"I know where I stand and hopefully it gives the girls extra motivation to try and win that championship."

Townsville Fire vs Canberra Capitals. Lauren Jackson, Suzy Batkovic, Jacinta Hamilton. Picture: Lori Neilsen
Townsville Fire vs Canberra Capitals. Lauren Jackson, Suzy Batkovic, Jacinta Hamilton. Picture: Lori Neilsen

Fire coach Claudia Brassard described Batkovic as a "titan of Australian basketball" and said the start centre would be an automatic inclusion into the hall of fame.

"Suzy has been an unbelievable player - one of the greatest WNBL players of all-time if not the greatest," Brassard said.

"Her longevity in the competition - noting she also spent the best part of a decade in Europe in her prime - continues to astound me, but over the years her game has evolved and adapted and throughout that she has remained the consummate professional.

"She knows what it takes to get her body right before each game and is meticulous with her planning, but at the same time, her ferocity to succeed and desire to win cannot be overstated."

Townsville Fire training. Suzy Batkovic. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Townsville Fire training. Suzy Batkovic. Picture: Zak Simmonds

The Fire have assembled an impressive squad as they chase their fourth title in five seasons, with Batkovic singing the praises of young centre Zitina Aokuso and new recruit Casey Samuels.

The skipper was confident they could deliver her a fairytale ending this season.

"That would be the ultimate so I'm going to do everything in my power to try and make that happen," Batkovic said.

"We've recruited an amazing group again so there's no reason why we can't defend our title and keep that trophy up here in Townsville.

"For me, yeah, I'm hanging up the boots at the end of the year, but there's still a big job to do and that's to defend the title.

"I've still got plenty of gas in the tank so I'm going to savour every moment I possibly can this season."