Straight shooter back in game after toxic relationship
WHEN it comes to bouncing back in the face of a challenge Ipswich Force boom forward Amanda Johnson walks the walk.
"AJ", as she is better known, hopes to give inspiration for other women in abusive, toxic relationships after one led to her walking away from the game she has loved since age six.
Coming into the 10th round of her debut QBL season, the Californian native is laying it all on the line while also on a mission to get people talking and getting the message out that the time for shame and silence is over.
"Coming back to basketball has been about claiming my life back for myself," she said.
"The feeling I have of coming home has been super monumental in my healing journey.
"To be able to come back to the sport I love; I don't think I can put that feeling into words.
"To say how meaningful, it has been in terms of my life and my story."
The 28-year-old found her love of the game at the early age of six, encouraged by her parents who both played.
She went on to play for the University of Oregon, where the Suns traded their pick in the 2012 WNBA draft and she was recruited by the Phoenix Mercury.
Her career at Phoenix only lasted three weeks, after suffering a bad concussion which led to her being waived.
She bounced back to pursue a European professional career in Bulgaria and Switzerland - where she was named League MVP.
But she walked away from the game in 2014 in the wake of what she described as a toxic relationship that left her unable to enjoy the game she loved. Her exile from the game would last four long years, until November last year.
"I was coaching when I reached out to a few people and said 'hey I think I can still do this' and set my mind to it and started training again - with no idea where I would end up," she explained.
The opportunity to play for Ipswich came after the she sent some old tape to Brad George, the current coach of the Ipswich Force women's side, who disregarded the fact she had not played competitively for a long period.
The team is in transition and the American has made herself an integral piece of the side in its quest to move further into the playoffs after being bundled out in the 2017 quarterfinals. The Ipswich women's side plays a fast-paced brand of basketball that showcases how they have clicked this season.
Entering the season, her name came with growing whispers surrounding MVP favouritism even before hitting the court. Statistics show she has averaged 15.75 rebounds per game, totalling 150 for the season so far. AJ has found a home in Ipswich and feels passionate about how greatly the city has embraced her.
"I hope to be involved in Ipswich as much as possible. I coach a team on Mondays, I run a clinic for primary school kids and have so many other opportunities around basketball here also," she said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, phone DV Connect on 1800 811 811.
Ipswich double-header bursting with Opals talent
ROUND 10 will be massive for Ipswich basketball, with the women's squad hosting a double-header at Booval.
On Saturday at 5pm, they host the Sunshine Coast Phoenix, who sit third on the ladder and boast formidable former Opals combination Abby Bishop and Nat Hurst.
On Sunday at noon, they clash with the South West Metro Pirates, who sit fourth on the ladder and whose squad includes current Opal Nicole Seekamp and former Tall Ferns star Nat Taylor.
"The back end of the season comes with some challenges for us when we will be up against teams who have done things that we haven't had to face before,'' Amanda Johnson said of the clashes. "It is competitive challenges like that which we are really looking forward to.''
A return to Europe could be on the cards at season's end but the star is motivated to pursue possibilities that keep her in Australia.
"I really love this country and if I can convince a WNBA side to let me hang around and show them what I've got I would love to do that.
"To be able to show that I have still got it and can still play like that is very empowering. I feel rejuvenated being able to step back onto the court and compete."