For reasons both heartbreaking and incredible, last week will stand out forever for Wodonga’s Sienna Harvey and those who supported her every step of the way.
Steadily rising through the basketball ranks – now with her beloved Wolves under-12 girls team – Harvey has built up amazing respect around the community on and off the court.
She’s the hard-working, good-natured guard who is willing to do anything just to play with her mates.
Her team came back from the La Trobe University Invitational Basketball Tournament on the Border with the title. Sienna was named the Grand Final MVP following a sensational gold medal clash, including a three-pointer – an achievement rarely sighted in under-12 girls basketball.
But her on-court success over the weekend was in spite of the fact she was facing the greatest tragedy that could befall a child – the loss of a parent.
After a long battle with recurring brain tumours, Sienna’s father John Kelly passed away Monday last week.
From taking Sienna to her basketball tournaments, fishing, gold detecting and generally embracing every second of the time he had left with his children … John Kelly died only days before his 49th birthday.
His funeral was held on Friday – his birthday itself – with well-wishers from across the community turning out to personally give the family their condolences … including Sienna’s whole team.
All of the girls wore their basketball tops in support of Sienna in the same way she shows them in the middle of a match.
Many people would’ve taken the week off and skipped basketball under the same circumstances – especially with the tournament starting the same day as her father’s funeral – but Sienna knew there was something bigger to play for.
She wanted to get out there and honour her father the best way possible.
“He would come out the front with me and play and he loved coming to watch me play,” Sienna said about her Dad. “There were some games where Dad was really proud of me because I played well and people would come up and say good things about me and he was really proud of me.
“It (the tournament) was good – I wanted to play in it because I like playing basketball and I wouldn’t want to miss out on playing and dad would’ve wanted me to play.
“I liked playing with my whole family coming to watch me and I liked when I shot the three-pointer.”
Sienna’s mother Rachel Harvey said there was no second thought from her about playing – she wanted to get out there and play for him.
“His funeral was on Friday just gone – it was his birthday as well and would’ve turned 49 – so we also honoured his memory on the day,” Harvey said.
“Sienna really loves her basketball, so all the family who came to the funeral went to the tournament as well and we had a lot of spectators there over the weekend too … just to cheer the team on.
“She wanted to win for her dad and make him proud of her, which he always did.
“She tries so hard all the time and it’s just lovely to watch her play – my oldest son played rep basketball as well, but Sienna … that’s all she ever does.
“She wants to see the WNBA and wants to play at a high level.”
The second last shot of the tournament was Sienna’s monster three – set up by a brilliant screen by her friend Ellie – and to top it off the last shot of the tournament also belonged to Sienna.
Further adding to the amazing weekend, she nailed the last bucket to give her Wodonga side a 40-14 win over Bendigo and she was immediately mobbed by her team-mates and a roar of excitement swept across the stadium.
“She’s an enormous talent,” Sienna’s coach Nick Conway said.
“Pretty significant that she got the MVP and everyone loves watching her and she’s the nicest kid you’ll ever meet.
“She’s so obsessed with basketball and it helps to clear her head as well.
“Our kids have learned a really valuable life lesson as to what it means to be in a team sport – they’re a big part of the reason she played as well as she did as they all got around her and supported her through the tough times.
“When things aren’t going well, we’ve got all this support around her and making sure you’re in such a good space – it was a lesson for our under-12 kids and we sat them down and talked to them about helping out Sienna.
“My daughter’s in the age group and I think they got it … they all knew to get around her.
“Whenever she did something they made sure to give her a pat on the back and help her out.
“Sienna scored on the final siren and everyone cheered and I know it was because she scored, not because we won it.”
After the tournament Sienna received her MVP accolade and it capped off life-defining week with better bonds to her basketball team-mates and coaches than ever before.
“They’re all beautiful girls and Nick has been so beautiful towards our whole family and John for supporting us,” Rachel Harvey said.
“It’s blown us away how much love and support Nick, the team, Trent and Julie have given Sienna.
“Couldn’t talk highly enough about the whole team, especially Nick – he helped get her into her new school and helped out throughout the last few months and he’s such a good coach.”
Some things are just ordained by higher powers and for Sienna to star the way she did, in spite of the obstacles thrown at her that week, it stands testament to her resilience and the amazing support she received from friends, team mates and family.
“I have an awesome coach and I’m thankful for all my friends supporting me,” Sienna said. “We won our basketball tournament and we played good and I happy to have everyone cheering for us.”
The lines distinguishing those three separate aspects – friends, team mates and family – are growing fainter the longer Sienna suits up for Wodonga and her mum couldn’t be more grateful for everyone in the ’Wolfpack’ uniting behind her family.
“All the family were in there – we didn’t even think of that (Sienna winning MVP) and we were so shocked when it happened,” Rachel Harvey said.
“Brought a lot of tears to the family’s eyes and it was amazing when that happened.
“Pretty emotional and I said that to Nick ‘thanks for tearing us up’ – I couldn’t even say what I wanted to say as I teared up a fair bit as well.
“I love her to death and I’m always proud of her – no matter what Sienna does – but it was lovely that it all worked out and was meant to be.
“They all played hard for John and wore the bands on their arms which was a beautiful tribute.
“It’s just amazing to see people in the community stand by you.”