Loyal captain's final shot at state title glory
AFTER 15 seasons representing Ipswich, Marney "Marnz'' George has a final goal before retiring as a state league player.
She wants to help Ipswich reach this season's Queensland Basketball League women's grand final, having been there once before.
On that occasion in 2013, the Ipswich Force lost 76-59 to Mackay after an inspired 78-60 playoff victory against Gladstone.
Having finished sixth this season, Force are underdogs again for Saturday night's latest rematch against third-placed opponents Mackay.
With more than a thousand tickets already sold for the playoff, George expects a massive atmosphere at Candlestick Park.
However, that's where George's experience and team support are invaluable.
Having made her state league debut as a 15-year-old in 2002, the Force co-captain has been the backbone of the women's side, which was previously the Ipswich Eagles before a name change in 2007.
George has worked with quality coaches including Olympian Trish Cockrem, Brisbane Bullets supremo Brian Kerle, Ipswich stalwart Terry Lindeberg and Ross Doolan.
But it's been alongside husband and current head coach Brad that she's enjoyed the most success.
Saturday night will be Ipswich born and bred Marney's eighth final series, the past six since Brad took over.
The loyal and dependable basketball couple married in 2012. They are proud parents of Ryder, 3, and Nash, 1, who are already shooting hoops.
Marney is working at Bremer State High School as a teacher's aide and in the office. Brad also teaches at the school.
When Brad was asked after last Saturday night's game if Marney was really retiring as a player, he answered: "She says that every year''.
But Marney was adamant about her decision. "This is it,'' she said. "I wanted to make 15 seasons and this is my 15th.''
Marney, 30, said she was looking at a coaching role after finishing her playing career.
"I definitely want to stay involved in basketball,'' she said.
As for Saturday night's final, Marney is excited to see her team uniting so well when it counts.
When Ipswich lost 84-64 to Mackay in May, American import Shenita Landry had just hopped off the plane and had one training session with her new team.
"Brad and I watched the game back last night and we have definitely improved from that game,'' Marney said.
That is reflected in Ipswich's late charge. After winning just four of its first 10 games, Force head into the finals with a 10-7 win-loss record.
"We had a bit of a rough start because it just took a few weeks for us to get all the team members in,'' Marney said.
"Once everyone was in, we gelled really well and I think our results speak to that.''
American imports Landry and Markel Walker have stepped up, led well by co-captain Bree Farley and with great energy from players like Georgia Williams, Rachel Mate, Lauren O'Sullivan, Ashton Eaton and Bianca Abbott.
The Force women are flying to Mackay on Friday to settle in before Saturday night's 6pm showdown.