Whatever happened to former Australian basketball star Carla Boyd?

By her own admission, Carla Boyd was a long way from playing for her country as she spent most of her early teenage years at the Wynyard Basketball Stadium.

But Boyd not only represented Australia, she did it with distinction by collecting medals at both junior and senior world championship level, and at two Olympic Games.

WILD ABOUT WYNYARD

At Wynyard during the 1980s, sport was a key ingredient for kids growing up - as it was for many Tasmanian kids. The basketball stadium in Austin Street was Boyd's home away from home and the memories are still vivid.

"As a kid in Wynyard, the basketball club was so much fun and we had such a cool environment there," Boyd recalled.

"From about the age of nine, I was at the basketball stadium every day after school playing basketball, netball or volleyball.

"I remember the fantastic times at training - when I was older I hated training but when I was younger I wasn't very good and could barely catch the ball but I had some very patient coaches."

Drive to succeed: Carla Boyd in action for Australia during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she won a silver medal to go with her bronze medal from Atlanta four years earlier. Picture: Getty Images

Drive to succeed: Carla Boyd in action for Australia during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she won a silver medal to go with her bronze medal from Atlanta four years earlier. Picture: Getty Images

THE DREAM

As a nine-year-old, Boyd remembers watching the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984 and deciding that one day she wanted to represent her country as well.

Playing netball wasn't going to realise that ambition, so Boyd focused all her energies on basketball. To help her cause she decided that she had to get to the Australian Institute of Sport.

"We had a great Tasmanian under 16 team and I applied to go to the AIS in my first year of that age group," Boyd said.

"I got letter back to say my application was reviewed and I wasn't accepted, which left me very upset."

But just 12 months later, Boyd was able to turn that disappointment into happiness.

"We went to Mackay for the national championships and we happened to have a great team that was winning games," Boyd said.

"I had filled the application in for the AIS but just hadn't sent it, so I rang mum and told her to send it.

"Phil Brown from the AIS called me on my 15th birthday to make me an offer and I was over the moon.

I got letter back to say my application was reviewed and I wasn't accepted, which left me very upset.

Carla Boyd after her initial application to the AIS was rejected

"Mum and Dad weren't home at the time, but I told Phil that I would be coming and he asked if I wanted to talk to my parents and I said, 'no, they'll be fine'.

"Mum and Dad walked in the door and I was at the top of the stairs and told them I just got a phone call to go to the AIS and I accepted it.

"Mum was like, 'hang on a second', and I was like 'no, you knew this is what I wanted to do, you sent the form for me'. It was kind of funny."

NATIONAL HONOURS

Life at the AIS was far from smooth for Boyd as she had to adjust to playing in a different position and some physical training sessions.

"It was really a struggle for me and at the end of my first year at the AIS, I rang my parents and said I wanted to come home," Boyd said.

"Dad told me that I had made a commitment for three years and that I needed to suck it up see it out.

"That was probably the best thing that ever happened to me."

Boyd began to grow into the player she would eventually become, making her first national senior squad at 17 and earning a spot on the Australian team that won gold at the World Junior Championships in 1993.

Then came her maiden Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, where Boyd was the youngest member of the team.

Carla Boyd with her bronze medal from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics

Carla Boyd with her bronze medal from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics

"If I didn't stay at the AIS, going to the Olympics would have never happened," Boyd said.

"We won a bronze, the first medal for Australia in women's basketball, and even though I was the junior in the team and didn't get to play much, it was amazing just to be a part of it.

"I remember the first game we played in front of 30,000 people and we couldn't hear each other on the court so we had to rely on hand signals."

A SHOCK CALL-UP

While playing for Australia at the 1998 world championships in Germany, Boyd received an offer out of the blue from her agent to play for the Detroit Shock in the WNBA.

The opportunity to play with the best players in the world was too good to pass up, even it did mean some frantic organisation.

"I quickly rang my husband back in Australia and explained the situation, and asked him to pack some clothes for me and give to Rachael Sporn's husband who was heading to Germany, and told him I would see him in America," Boyd said.

Boyd takes in a domestic cricket game at the Devonport Oval in 2002 while back back home for a visit.

Boyd takes in a domestic cricket game at the Devonport Oval in 2002 while back back home for a visit.

"I flew to Detroit the day after the world championships finished, and the day after that was confronted with a seven-hour pre-season training session from our coach Nancy Lieberman.

"Training got easier after that, but we played 32 games in 60 days and were flying around the country.

"It was an emotional rollercoaster and by the end of it you are exhausted.

"I then went back to Germany to play for Wuppertal and turned around again to play another season in Detroit.

"It was full-on and I got to see the world doing something I love, but after all that travelling, Tasmania is still the most beautiful place in the world - I truly believe that."

HOME GAMES

When the Olympic Games are in your own country, everyone wants to make the team, and that led to all Australian players deciding not to play in the WNBA in the lead-up to Sydney.

Amid the joy of the overall experience, Boyd still wonders about the gold-medal playoff game against the US, which went the way of the visitors.

"We were the better team for the whole fortnight and we should have got gold - I think every person in the team will agree with that," Boyd said.

"I quite often think about the final - I was starting on Sheryl Swoopes in the opening minutes and my role was to force her right because all she ever did was go left.

"I don't know what I was doing but she went left on me three times and if you let her get her eye in she is on for the rest of the game.

We were the better team for the whole fortnight and we should have got gold - I think every person in the team will agree with that.

Boyd on the team Australia assembled for the Sydney Olympics in 2000

"Tom (Maher, coach) called a time out and Michelle Timms came up and asked in no uncertain terms what I was doing.

"Maybe nerves took over, but I felt like that set the standard for the rest of the game.

"A silver medal at an Olympics is still impressive, but after the game we all cried a lot because we were sure we could have won the gold with the team we had."

Boyd signs an autograph for a young fan at the Devonport Recreation Centre in 2003 where the Opals were playing New Zealand.

Boyd signs an autograph for a young fan at the Devonport Recreation Centre in 2003 where the Opals were playing New Zealand.

THE LAST QUARTER

Boyd and fellow player Michelle Brogan sat out the selection process for the 2004 Olympics in Athens after receiving no support as single parents at the time to help look after their young children.

Despite a last-ditch attempt by coach Jan Stirling to get her to play, Boyd stood by her decision.

"It would have been unfair on the players who had put in all the hard work at training," she said.

Following a short WNBL stint in Townsville, Boyd took up an offer to return to her club team in France, where she had been playing before falling pregnant with her first child, Isabella.

But the physical toll of playing began to emerge for Boyd, with knee issues forcing her to retire in 2005.

She moved back to South Australia and accepted an administration job at the Adelaide Lightning, a team she won four WNBL titles with in the 1990s, but resigned after a year-and-a-half due to off-court politics that put her offside with coaches and players.

Boyd then went back to one of her first loves outside of basketball, nursing, and finished her degree which allowed to work casually while she gave birth to two more children.

Now living in Austria, Boyd is enjoying life, and hopes to get back to Australia to see her eldest daughter when the coronavirus pandemic eases.

"The original plan was to come back in May to watch my daughter play at the Nunawading basketball tournament, but it's not that easy to get into the country at the moment," Boyd said.

"My two other kids will grow up here in Europe - I think it opens doors up to them in terms of culture and languages.

"I came back home a couple of years ago to speak at a Wynyard reunion which was great, and to be quite frank I probably haven't done enough to put back into the community from what it gave me."

Boyd dropped into the Wynyard Basketball Stadium in 2002 while on a visit to he home town to watch the under 13 boys inter-town team train.

Boyd dropped into the Wynyard Basketball Stadium in 2002 while on a visit to he home town to watch the under 13 boys inter-town team train.

LIFE ADVICE

The majority of Boyd's basketball journey was built on determination, and it's a message she is eager to give the teenagers of today coming through the system.

"I was the kid who was picked last in the team and didn't have many skills, but I just persisted and set myself a goal, which I wanted to achieve," she said.

"It doesn't matter where you start off from, it's about how much work you put in, and ultimately you will get to where you want to be if you care about it enough."

This story Whatever happened to former Australian basketball star Carla Boyd? first appeared on The Advocate.