Hurst rises to the challenge time and time again

Canberra Capitals star Natalie Hurst has been playing top-level basketball since the age of 16.
Canberra Capitals star Natalie Hurst has been playing top-level basketball since the age of 16.

Sports Wizard®’s very own Natalie Hurst has again been a prominent figure for the Canberra Capitals in season 2013/2014.

An ever-present in the Capitals’ lineup, Hurst was recently interviewed by the WNBL, looking back on her glorious career, which has taken her around the world.

It’s great to see our Basketball Ambassador again making headlines with this story on the WNBL website – check it out below.

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Canberra Capitals star Nat Hurst has an interesting perspective on what it takes to excel at the sport she loves.

“Basketball is 80 per cent mental and 20 per cent physical, so once you’ve got the physical side it’s all about your head,” she said.

That’s a lesson she learned from her very first day on a basketball court.

“My first game I was only five, my sister coached an under-10 team and she only had four players show up. They couldn’t start the game until they put a fifth on the court, so she put a singlet on me and pushed me on,” she laughed.

“I think I cried for the first 20 minutes and then after that I had a ball. I turned up the next week and I played under-10s for about four years after that.”

From the outside, it seems like it was just a case of onwards and upwards from there for Hurst.

The pocket rocket debuted for her hometown Capitals at 16, was a part of six WNBL championships and claimed the Grand Final MVP in 2009, helped the Australian World University Games team to gold in 2007, and got a taste of senior international basketball in 2009 and 2011.

But Hurst talks of the mental battle basketball presents for a reason, she has had her own demons of self-belief to overcome the entire way, never more so than in 2010 when she moved to play with Aix-en-Provence in southern France.

“You’re thrown in the deep end when you go overseas, and you pretty much float by yourself or you’re going to sink,” she said.

“It’s not easy, you’re away from family for eight months, away from friends, there’s the time difference, that makes it hard.”

The sport is also treated much more as a business in Europe, even by the players, and Hurst said the lack of camaraderie compared to Australia meant self-discipline was a must.

“There’s not a whole lot of motivation to go and do extra stuff, so you have to be disciplined in that way. I tried to take the individual stuff from what we do over here, did the team stuff with them and got my own in,” she said.

“I’m proud of myself being able to go over there by myself, go to different countries and handle that. You grow a lot, it helps you grow up a lot quicker.”

Though she stands just 163cm, Hurst plays the game in an infectious way that takes her teams with her, something even the usually methodical style of French and Hungarian basketball couldn’t resist.

“I was lucky, the teams I played in were happy to adjust to my kind of style, they were happy to play a faster style. I’m not sure I would have lasted three seasons if that wasn’t the case,” she laughed.

Hurst arrived back in Australia last year and headed for Opals camp, and with Olympic point guards Kristi Harrower, Sam Richards and Kath Macleod all absent, new coach Brendan Joyce soon earmarked the Caps guard for higher duties, something she had wanted for a long time.

“I don’t remember saying it, but my nan tells me when I was younger I said, ‘One day I want to play for Australia’,” she revealed.

“Obviously that’s always been a thing for me.”

Hurst said “for the first time I really enjoyed being a part of that group”, believing “it just felt right”, and she responded with a classy tour or China and a tenacious performance against the Kiwis.

The test now is to make the point guard spot her own for this year’s FIBA World Championship in Turkey and beyond. A huge part of that equation is believing she can do it, and perhaps for the first time that isn’t an issue for the 30-year-old.

“That’s kind of something I’ve always struggled with, wondering if this was really for me and what skills can I offer,” she said.

“That’s taken me a while and I’m just coming into that now, thinking I am actually pretty good at what I do.”

This story originally appeared on the WNBL website, titled ‘Hurst rises to the challenge time and time again‘, on 9 January, 2014.