Butterflies, recovery and fresh starts – Melita Emanuel-Carr discusses the Queens’ WBBL bow

By Jamie Thomas

Arise, the WBBL’s newest franchise! Yes, the moment is nearly here, where the Gloucester City Queens will take to the court for the first time ever and Commonwealth medallist Melita Emanuel-Carr will be among those leading them into battle.

We caught up with the 26-year-old guard ahead of what is a landmark year for her and the franchise she’s eager to represent in the 2021/22 season.

“I am very excited, especially the idea of playing a full season, and I’m really looking forward to building a bond with a new team and a new coach. After my injury it feels like a fresh start for me, so where better to do that than a completely new club?

“To be a part of something completely different and new as a brand-new franchise is not something you always get to do, so I’m really looking forward to that, and working with Jay Marriott who is a very good coach, down to earth and someone who has made me feel very comfortable.

“I’m definitely going to have butterflies in that first game, 100%, and I know that first minute is going to be so tough, with everybody having our hands on our knees feeling it, but it is going to be super fun and I won’t be disappointed if we’re all over the place – I just can’t wait to get out there, improve every game and do the best that we can.”

“With so many people supporting me, and it has all meant so much to me.”

At the time of writing, just over a year has passed since Emanuel-Carr underwent surgery following a major injury – one which has curtailed the careers of many in the past, so the 26-year-old’s recovery is remarkable, with her best years on the court still ahead of her.

With that milestone in mind in our conversation, the Queens’ third signing of this summer reflected on the journey of the last 12 months, the ‘little wins’ she’s had to get to this point where she hopes to have even bigger victories to look forward to in the coming season, and how vital the support she’s received has been to get her back on the court.

“A year ago I had my surgery, and I think mentally I’ve always been ok with the process of recovery because I’ve been surrounded by people who care for me and I can trust, but the challenge has been trying not to rush to get back and be patient and celebrate every little win I have.

“Just being able to walk again … I was excited I was able to ride a bike again, so it has been fun really because it is amazing that your body can go through so much trauma and bounce back, but I’ve had a strict schedule to stick to – even if it is just spending a day resting – to get me back ready to play.

“I train at the University of East London and because there’s a wide range of athletes who train with DoTraining, and it is just so energising and has been throughout my recovery, and social media has been so big for me too, with so many people supporting me, and it has all meant so much to me.”

“I’m so grateful to Oaklands.”

Joining Oaklands Wolves midway through last season was a vital experience for the talented guard in her return to the court, as she contributed to help Lee Ryan’s side find their way to May Madness.

Aggravating her injury six games into her return, Emanuel-Carr cut her return short to resume her recovery, but she speaks glowingly of the experiences she had last season with the Wolves.

“I’m so grateful to Oaklands because when I was ready to test out my knee they were so happy to have me and help me by getting me back in the game, and I’ll never forget that, especially because the group of girls were brilliant – we just had a really great connection.

“I went to see where my knee was at and Lee Ryan shoved me right into the games so it was great, but in the sixth game against Newcastle, a miscommunication by me had me running all over the place and my knee caved in a little bit, so I rested and after having more problems decided to end the season there.

“I wouldn’t say I want them to succeed too much this year, ha, because we’ll be playing against them, but they’re a great, talented bunch of girls who can shoot, who are fit enough to get up and down the court, but I’d love to play against them again because it’ll be great to see them and a great competition.”

“It is very exciting to think what we could achieve together.”

With the race for the final playoff places going down to the wire last season, the Queens will fancy their chances of getting in on the season-ending showpiece action if they can live up to their potential this season, as Emanuel-Carr details when assessing the challenge of the league for the coming season.

“I always try to set goals, but we’ll definitely be taking it game-by-game. Playoffs are the aim, for sure, and I’ll be gutted if we don’t get there as will everybody else, I’m sure. We’ve got a great group of players being built here and it is very exciting to think what we could achieve together.

“I think the biggest thing I can bring to this group is just experience, to be honest, and actually my injury has helped my game a lot in terms of building my IQ and knowing how to slow the game down a bit more, knowing what my coaches want more, what my teammates need more, so I’m excited to see how that all comes together.

“The level of competition is going to be brilliant, and having a lot of GB players in the league is great all-round – it’ll certainly help inspire the future generations to know that there are Olympians playing in the WBBL – and I hope London can do well in the EuroCup too which is only going to be good for us.”