New Zealand Hoops – Q&A With Melony Wealleans

What is your full name and where are you from?

Melony Wealleans from Wanganui.  I’ve lived in Wellington for all my adult years, but it was Wanganui that introduced me to basketball and helped me love the sport.

Why did you choose refereeing?

I was a part of the era when you refereed and did score-bench for duty as a player.  In addition to this I was fortunate to be a member of the Vogue Basketball Club at a young age, who ran Summer basketball in Wanganui to fundraise  for international trips.  This also entailed refereeing.  At the age of 14 I had my refereeing qualification ‘badge’.  At the time my sister and I were the youngest referees in the Association and got a number of opportunities to referee games not only locally, but at the adult tournaments we also played at.  We got to take time off school to ref for tournaments such as  the annual Wanganui Boys College tournament that Church College of NZ and other top teams attended prior to School Nationals.  We loved being a part of this.  

What school did you attend and did you play basketball?

I attended Wanganui Girls College and was fortunate to be a part of all the Age-group representative teams when Wanganui basketball was on a high.  My playing claim to fame was that our U18 team bet Church College Girls in the final.  They were allowed to play as a team at the representative tournament in Waikato.  The final was played on their home court and so was a very memorable experience for me. 

You are role model for young women, what advice do you have for them getting into basketball or refereeing?

Having originally played netball, I generally played the Goal Keep position.  When I began playing basketball , I loved the fact that you play both offense and defence.  Understandably I didn’t return to netball.  

Refereeing gave me a lot of personal growth as a teen.  I was generally not very confident and refereeing does often push you out of your comfort zone which over time definitely aided my development.  There are many skills that I have unknowingly developed through refereeing that has helped me over time, especially learning how to work with people.

In addition to this I think it’s important to understand the rules of any sport that you play.  This is advantageous to your game.  I am sometimes surprised at the number of players that don’t have very good rule knowledge, yet they love to debate the rules. So helping people to learn the rules and clarify areas of uncertainty is something helpful and rewarding, which comes from refereeing and my role with Basketball New Zealand.

What has been the highlight of your career?

There have been a couple of coaches throughout the 35 plus years that I have referred, who have been well known for their very  ‘fiery’ nature.  Whilst I’m not prepared to name coaches,  I have had a number of times when some of  these coaches have commended me after a game.  When this has also been after their team has lost, I have found this to be very rewarding – when your harshest critics acknowledge a job well done, you must be doing something right.  

Who has been your biggest influence in basketball and why?

Generally with basketball I was lucky to be raised in Wanganui in the ‘heydays’ of basketball. I’m part a basketball loving family, fantastic coaches mainly from Wanganui’s Ashworth family, saw Wanganui Wolfpack playing in full stadiums when the Second Division was vibrant (and I got to mop the floor at their games). I refereed and played at age group and numerous adult tournaments as a teen, and got to travel and play overseas with Vogue club. Socially basketball was also fantastic – which as a teen I got to be around social situations that most wouldn’t.  How could I not love the sport!?

As a new  referee I was fortunate to have Marcia Paurini residing in Wanganui at the time and she  helped and inspired me to referee.

I came from a refereeing era where Ian Goodwin from Taranaki  had a large influence on referees.  We respected Ian as a humble man, who is down to earth and relates well to everyone.  Whilst he was helpful in developing me and other referees on court, it was his off-court values that influenced me a lot.  He showed us all how essential it is to be of good character and being a good person both on and off the court.  In addition to that, he helped make me enjoy refereeing as a whole, which is important.

Do you follow the WNBA?

I have to admit I don’t follow the NBA and WNBA.  I work in basketball, ref and still try to play (I am smart enough at my age to play with younger players now).  My partner and son also play and enjoy watching and talking basketball – so I certainly get more than enough reward from New Zealand basketball without looking abroad.  I also prefer to watch people who I know play.

What is your profession and how long have you been doing it?

 Referee Development Manager Basketball New Zealand – 7 years.  As the name suggests I’m responsible for development of referees nationally.  The Trainers at Associations (who BBNZ work with) do a lot of the initial work with the young referees helping to nurture and develop them. BBNZ then takes the referees through our National Pathway.

We have had a lot of opportunities open up for FIBA officials since NZ has moved into the Asia Zone, so this is something we hope to see flourish in time. We want to open up the international pathway and hopefully see more Kiwis officiating in the big events, as well as here at home.

Who is the ultimate women’s basketball player in New Zealand?

I think we have had so many great female players over my life time.  With opportunities outside of NZ reasonably abundant in this era and I think this encourages many players and coaches into working hard to take advantage of these opportunities. 

We know there is so much more growth that can happen in women’s basketball and there are good people trying to get more opportunities for the women’s game here in New Zealand. I also think as females we need to all work hard to keep playing beyond college.

I have watched four decades of basketball and sadly living in a small town in my teens, limited my watching of women’s basketball.  But I did get to see my sister play WNBL for a number of years and see the top players over that time.   What I do love about the women’s competition, is they play with passion and heart for the entire duration of the game.  I’ve walked into stadiums without seeing scores, thinking it was a two point game, to find in fact there was a 20 point margin.   I don’t see this so often in the male game.

I’d have to say someone who epitomises the great character of our top NZ players is Carolyn Grey. She is fiercely competitive, has a great work ethic and I love how her style of play seemed simple and fundamental without being showy.  I think she demonstrates how you can be successful as a player, without having to put the ball behind your back, or through your legs! You also have to admire someone who played at our top level for so long.  That’s inspirational for any female player.  I have encountered her in recent years at the NZ Masters where she often played in both the men’s and women’s competition. She really is a legend, which is one of the reasons Basketball New Zealand has named one of the Awards after her – the Female Coach of the Year Award.


Published by Jesse Wallis

Basketball Journalist

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