Timely recovery: Key Ipswich player back after fever scare
BASKETBALL: Having endured the torrid time she has, Rachel Mate is happy to be back in time for the state league finals.
She welcomes a pre-playoffs hit-out with the competition pacesetters for the team and herself after being sidelined for more than a month with glandular fever.
"It's been a bit rough but I'm a lot better than what I was,'' Mate said.
She was happy to get 30 minutes of managed game time in last weekend's loss to USC Rip on the Sunshine Coast.
"Brad (head coach Brad George) was really good how he used me and made sure he was checking up on me,'' Mate, 20, said.
"I really appreciated that. I made it through, only just.''
Before the game, it was the longest time she'd had off court during a season since missing six weeks a few years ago. That was after dislocating her shoulder at the nationals.
Preparing for her third Queensland Basketball League final series with Ipswich, Mate had mixed thoughts on having an extended break due to illness.
"It's tough when you're sick,'' she said. "You feel a bit stressed out and worried about when you're going to get better and things like that.
"You don't get that much of a break but it was good to have that time to get better.''
As one of Ipswich's most dependable players, Mate is keen to face the pacesetting Southern Districts Spartans at Llewellyn Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"It's good to finish the (regular) season with a real challenge,'' the former Queensland junior captain said.
"I think it's good to have that form-building game before we get there.''
In her third year studying psychology at the University of Queensland, Mate is enjoying her time at Force.
"I love playing at Ipswich,'' she said. "It's a great club to be with.
"I've been really lucky that I've played with such good people that have become friends. That makes it easier to come to practise after a full day at uni.''
After being tempted briefly to rest some players, George is taking the opposite approach.
He wants his finals-bound team to release the pressure valve and try to upset the run-away QBL leaders.
It's a difficult assignment even returning to Ipswich's home court after a spate of away matches.
However, George wants his side to see what they can achieve having secured seventh spot for the QBL playoffs.
"We've decided we're going to go for another hit-out,'' George said, keen to adjust his line-up having lost import Kaili McLaren for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
"It will be basically just trying to get some combinations and get some confidence (for the finals).
"The pressure is off them a little bit so hopefully they'll respond and play hard for each other.
"It's our last home game of the year and hopefully cause an upset.''
The Spartans women's team features eight players with women's national league or international experience.
"They are the best team in the comp,'' George said.
"They're not smashing teams. They just know how to get it done.''
The Force coach will have young guns Grace Ellis and Catherine MacGregor available for the Spartans clash on Saturday before losing them for the quarter-finals due to other commitments.
However he's pleased Mate is feeling stronger having played her first game back in last weekend's loss to USC Rip.
"She'll be better for it (playing last week),'' George said.
Valuable Force recruit Amy Lewis was also expected to quickly her regain her rhythm after being overseas for a few weeks before returning against the Rip.
QBL: Saturday - Ipswich Force v Southern Districts Spartans at Llewellyn Stadium. Women's game at 5pm with men playing at 7pm.