Local leads Vic Country to silver medal

Buckets: Ben Waller dunks for Victoria Country. Photograph supplied




BEING able to represent your state can be seen as quite the achievement in the sporting world.

This was a reality for Traralgon local Ben Waller, who not only played for Victoria Country, but captained the side as well.

“It was an honour, the position was team picked, to so think that my teammates thought so highly of me, I was extremely grateful,” Waller said.

“Personally I dedicated many, many hours during the week in my own time making sure that I was prepared and in peak form.

“We did a lot of work on building values in which we felt would best represent who we wanted to be at the championship.”

Waller has just recently returned from state duties, where he led Vic Country to a silver medal in the Under 18 National Championships.

Up in Brisbane, the National Championships brings the best U18 players from around the country to compete, the format is popular in most sports.

This was the third time that Waller had been selected to represent Vic Country, his first call up in 2021 was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.

After a successful preliminary stage of the competition, Vic Country recorded four wins and two losses, enough to progress to the knockout stages.

Their first task in the knockout phase was against New South Wales Country, in a game that stretched down to the wire.

Waller recorded the equal-most points for Vic Country, 14, along with two assists and four blocks, as they completed a nine-point win over NSW Country, 69-60.

As they progressed to the semi-final, Vic Country discovered they would have to play tournament favourites and reigning champions, Queensland South.

Waller featured with 13 points, four assists and two blocks, as Vic Country did the unimaginable to progress to the Grand Final – defeating QLD South 92-89, for a chance at a gold medal.

In a nail-biting finish, Vic Country held a three-point lead at the final buzzer, after a period of overtime was needed.

It was the first time in 20 years that Vic Country U18s made a Grand Final at the Championships, sparking interest throughout the competition.

The Grand Final didn’t go as planned, as Vic Country went down heavily to Victoria Metro, 90-51, but nonetheless plenty of experience was gained by the squad.

Their efforts did not go unwatched, as they received messages from around the country, including a video message from NBL side, Melbourne United’s coach, Dean Vickerman.

At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with silver.

“The championships went great, we had the strong ability to learn from our losses which would further build us toward our earned silver medal,” Waller said.

“We definitely exceeded expectations. Vic Country is always seen as less of a threat compared to other teams, so to prove people wrong was a terrific experience.”

Friendship appeared to work well within the team, according to Waller, as he believes “it made all the other stuff easy”.

Earlier in 2023, Waller won gold at the Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup, so I’m sure that memory hasn’t dispersed.

Waller is continuing to grow as a basketballer, doing so by attending Talent Identification and Australia Selection Camps in order to prosper as an athlete.

“My next step is to focus on having a successful Under 18 and youth league season … with the hopes of getting involved with the association’s NBL1 team,” Waller said.

He is solely focussing on working with the Casey Cavaliers U18 and U23 teams, with that NBL1 team goal in mind.

Waller’s aspirations don’t end there.

“My biggest goal is to represent Australia for the Olympic Boomers and make an impact in the NBL,” he said.