Hawthorn Magic’s high-performance program is exceptionally fortunate to have four Olympians in its coaching ranks.
Robyn Maher (Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Atlanta 1996) (Magic Assistant Coach 16.1Gs), Michelle Brogan (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000) (Magic coach 12.1Gs) and Jason Smith (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004) (Magic coach 18.2Gs) all played for Australia. Tom Maher (Magic coach 16.1Gs) has coached Australia (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000), New Zealand (Athens 2004) China (Beijing 2008 and Rio de Janeiro 2016) and Great Britain (London 2012). How very fortunate Magic athletes are to have such coaching experience and depth in the Hawthorn program.
We spoke to Robyn and Tom about their Olympic experience and what keeps them still in the sport after all these years.
Robyn grew up in Ballarat. Her father and brother played league football for South Melbourne and at an early age, she transitioned from Netball to Basketball and immediately loved the sport. Naturally talented, and inherently competitive, she was identified as an emerging talent through her selection in the Victorian state under 16s team. Robyn loved that she could play basketball all year round and once identified, she started travelling to Melbourne regularly to play Basketball whilst living in Ballarat. “At one point I was catching the train from Ballarat to Spencer Street station, then switching to the Dandenong line, then walking from the Dandenong station to the old Dandenong Market stadium”. Robyn loved the game, she was committed, driven and just desperate to play as much basketball as she could.
Around this time she came across a young Tom Maher, coaching with Ray Tomlinson at the old Albert Park basketball stadium. Robyn explained the team were all very close, very social and often had dinner out after training and matches. Robyn describes ‘speaking the same basketball language’ as Tom. There were a lot of similarities between them, they both loved the game and a relationship between them blossomed. Robyn and Tom experienced a lot of success together in the National (and then International) competitions. Robyn mentioned that she and Tom never argued, perhaps just once, but it was quickly sorted out and resolved.
Tom grew up in Melbourne but travelled for a couple of years and spent some time in the Top End where he accidentally fell into coaching, and realised that he was good at it, and loved the thrill of the game, and especially the win. On his return to Melbourne, he started coaching with Southern Districts (Sandringham). Whilst at Teachers College he begged Lindsay Gaze for a role at Albert Park and ended up being offered an initial cleaning role at the old stadium which he happily accepted, ultimately transitioning to the Stadium Maintenance role before taking on a coaching role with Melbourne Telstars and then the Nunawading Spectres.
Robyn was selected to play for the Australian Women’s team in Los Angeles in 1984, in Seoul in 1988 and in Atlanta in 1996. The women’s team missed out on a spot for the 1980 Moscow and the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Robyn describes each of these teams as culturally strong, deeply talented and very close. Robyn emphasised she was lucky to play with so many other great players with some stand-outs including Michelle Timms, Maree Jackson (Lauren’s mum), Shelley Gorman, Jenny Cheesman, Karen Marr and Jan Smithwick.
Robyn describes her style of play as a little ‘white-line’ fever – she was tough, hated to lose (but accepted it when the team was outplayed). Tom describes Robyn as the ‘best player in Australia when I married her’. ‘Robyn used every ounce of her ability. She was naturally talented, she worked hard, an unbelievable passer, with a huge IQ. She was tough, tenacious and a fierce competitor’.
Winning bronze in Atlanta in 1996 is described by both Robyn and Tom as a stand-out moment in their careers. Tom as head coach and Robyn as captain, this was the first basketball international medal Australia had won. It was a clear turning point for Basketball in Australia. “The women had not qualified for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and narrowly missed a medal at the 1994 World Champs in Australia. To finally win a medal at Atlanta was a massive moment for all of us. The team was very competitive, played for each other and were very close. It was a hugely satisfying moment for us both”.
Having been to eight of the last nine Olympic Games (as either a player, administrator or spectator), missing out on this year’s Games due to the pandemic is really disappointing however both Robyn and Tom will be tuning in to see both teams in action throughout the Games. Tom has coached in the last six Olympics Games and is really looking to watching the teams compete. Both teams have the chance to bring home a medal. Both teams appear to be culturally strong, balanced and competitive. It wouldn’t surprise me if both teams bring home a medal. They have the talent.
Tom and Robyn have been involved in the Hawthorn Magic 16.1Gs program for the past couple of years. They love remaining involved in the sport but reflect on the difficulty of being able to impact meaningfully with the time available. They would love to do more and have more time with athletes but the pandemic and court availability has limited these opportunities.
Tom describes the key quality for an Olympic basketballer as ‘doing their best’. ‘Often coaches can be blinded by physical talent’ but the game requires much more than that. It needs basketball intelligence and mental toughness. An athlete needs to use every ounce of their talent to progress. That was Robyn, she used everything she had to compete and she was so defensively strong and that’s what kept her at the top of her game for so long. She was an unbelievable competitor. Rarely made mistakes and never turned the ball over.
Whilst with the Opals, Tom devised his Opal Themes of success as being:
- Optimum Physical Shape
- An Assertive Mindset
- Able to Handle Adversity
- Relentless Persistence
- Flexibility within the team (multi-faceted and multi-skilled)
- A great defensive team
- A great ‘WE’ team
Tom loved his chance to coach other countries, never taking for granted that each Country would have its own culture, values and way of doing things. He always tried to adapt accordingly, just as he tried to ensure that the teams he coached mimicked that same flexibility in terms of being multi-faceted and multi-skilled. That flexible mindset sets good teams apart. If the team can all dribble, defend and pop out for a three as well as a lay-up, that sets you in good stead for success.
Tom and Robyn love staying involved in the Hawthorn Magic. They applaud the professionalism of the program and look forward to remaining involved for years to come.
Group Phase Schedule
Sunday 25/07: Australia vs Nigeria, 6:20pm AEST
Wednesday 28/07: Australia vs Italy, 6:20pm AEST
Saturday 31/07: Australia vs Germany, 6:20pm AEST
Tuesday 27/07: Australia vs Belgium, 6:20pm AEST
Friday 30/07: Australia vs China, 10:00pm AEST
Monday 02/08: Australia vs Puerto Rico, 10:00pm AEST