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Written By

Rachelle McCabe


College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

1 June 2024

Related Study Areas

Mixing basketballs and books

Majella Carey may be a force on the basketball court, but she also has one eye firmly on her future. A professional women’s basketball player, Majella is also navigating university life as she completes her second year of a Bachelor of Education (Primary) at JCU.

She credits the university’s flexible study options and being awarded a scholarship through the Townsville Fire as key factors in ensuring her success.

Majella is a WNBL Townsville Fire development player, with the club committing to assisting in her development and progression of her game. She transferred to the North Gold Coast Seahawks at the beginning of 2024, competing with her teammates in the NBL 1, the semi-professional basketball competition run by the National Basketball League.

And while she misses her family, friends and home city, Majella says she's loving living on the Gold Coast. The move saw Majella transition to JCU's online study mode, allowing both her sporting and career ambitions to progress.

Majella Carey on the basketball court when playing for the Townsville Fire.

Practice makes a basketball star

Majella says basketball has been a big part of her life since primary school, although her on court skills were a work in progress.

“We were a sporty family, but we don’t have a basketball background. Dad played rugby and Mum was a really good swimmer and did athletics. But my siblings and I were very tall from a young age, so when a basketball representative came to our primary school, he suggested we sign up,” she says.

Majella’s early basketball career is proof that perseverance is key, and that one should never underestimate the support of a good mentor.

“When I started, I wasn’t very good. I didn’t like contact, but I was tall so I could just stand under the net and end up with the ball. Then one year I had a great coach who taught me a few key moves and that’s when everything changed.”

From then on, Majella says her calendar was filled with basketball club games, carnivals, and travel around the state. She competed in numerous tournaments as she followed the Queensland basketball representative pathways.

After graduating high school, Majella packed up and headed to America to participate in the college basketball program. She played at Lincoln University in Missouri, in the USA’s Midwest, before transferring to Canada’s Simon Fraser University. Here, she built the skills required to balance study with a professional sporting career.

As a college athlete, Majella was able to study an undergraduate degree (she studied communication whilst overseas) and compete in her sport. In 2021, Majella returned to Townsville due to injury after completing three years abroad.

An image of JCU student and basketball player Majella Carey.
Majella Carey on the court when at the Townsville Fire basketball team.
Majella Carey in her North Gold Coast Seahawkes uniform and a basketball.
Left and right: Majella Carey in her North Gold Coast uniform; top right: on the court when playing for Townsville Fire (photograph supplied).

Using flexibility to fire success

After returning to Townsville, Majella was signed to the Townsville Fire as a development player in the WNBL. She played for the Townsville Flames in 2023 before being recruited by the North Gold Coast Seahawks at the beginning of 2024.

She also started studying education at JCU and was awarded a Townsville Fire Scholarship, which is part of JCU's sponsorship of the team and support for its players.

This year’s move away from her home city of Townsville to tourism mecca, the Gold Coast, saw Majella transition to JCU’s online study mode. She says although she was nervous about the move to online study, the transition was seamless, with the online model allowing her the flexibility needed to meet her basketball commitments.

“I was encouraged to apply for the scholarship by the Townsville Fire general manager Sam Pascoe and I’m so grateful to have been awarded it. It allows me the flexibility I need while I am playing basketball and helps out with the costs involved with studying for a university degree,” Majella says.

“JCU helped me transition to studying online, it has made it a lot easier to balance both basketball and study. Last season I was playing in Townsville and attending university on campus which was a lot harder to manage.”

Switching to online study in carousel mode, where students can focus intensively on one subject for a shorter period of time, has been integral to Majella’s study success.

“I felt really stressed when I attended uni on campus because I didn’t have time to do both. If I’m going to do something I want to do it well and I felt I couldn’t do basketball and study well. Now that I’m online, I do one subject every seven weeks, then have a two-week break before starting another block. It’s much easier to manage and I’m way less stressed.”

But Majella admits being a professional sportsperson means missing out on the typical university student experience.

“We play competition basketball every weekend during the season. We train twice a week and do our own individual training on top of that. We also travel all the time and sometimes we have double headers, like last week we played Townsville on the Friday night and Cairns on the Saturday,” Majella says.

“I do get a bit jealous when I think of other students who have time to party and relax in their downtime. I get very little downtime, but in saying that, I wouldn’t trade it.”

Majella Carey, second from left, with some of her new teammates at North Gold Coast Seahawks.

Planning for the future on and off the court

Although her basketball career is Majella’s firm focus short term, she says she wants to keep her options open for the future.

“You want to play your sport as long as you can, whether that is at this elite level or at an amateur level, but I think it’s also good to have something to fall back on,” she says.

“My parents were very big on this and have encouraged me to study. I’ve also injured both my knees in the past, I’ve had two ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) operations and had to sit on the sidelines for a few years, so I also understand the importance of having something else in my life. I want to have a plan for my future after basketball.”

Majella, who works at a local school part time, says she took up coaching junior basketball when recovering from her knee injuries – and loved it.

“I find that education and coaching have similarities. I really looked up to some of the teachers I had in primary and secondary school, so that was an inspiration for me,” she says.

“Although I am studying primary education that will allow me to teach up to year 10 at high school, I’d like to focus on physical education, ideally in a P-12 school so that I can work with some of the older kids as well.

“I think as an athlete my experience will be an asset when it comes to teaching. Athletes understand sport and the commitment needed to be successful in sport, and the kids will hopefully respect me because of my background.”

For now, Majella says she’s focused on playing her part in the Seahawks continued on-court success, whilst chipping away at her university subjects one by one.

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