Backyard battles behind Canberra Capitals guard Maddison Rocci's WNBL rise

Canberra Capitals guard Maddison Rocci is poised to play a bigger role this season. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Canberra Capitals guard Maddison Rocci is poised to play a bigger role this season. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Maddison Rocci struggles to contain her laughter when she thinks about her siblings calling her "the golden child".

The would-be Canberra Capitals guard didn't mind it because it meant she usually stayed in the good books - and that's not always easy when you grow up as one of five kids.

Look no further than the basketball games with her younger brother Lucas in the backyard of the family's Werribee home that would inevitably end in tears.

"He was littler than me so I tried to be the big bully, but he would punch me and I would go and cry to dad," Rocci laughed.

"Dad always had my back and they always called me the golden child, so that's probably why I got away with a few things.

"I would probably be the one to go inside and cry to them. But my little brother got away with it a fair bit.

"We did have that competitiveness all the time in the backyard, there was a few fights in there."

She may not have known it at the time, but those backyard battles laid the platform for Rocci to become a budding basketball star.

Now the 21-year-old is set to enter her third WNBL season - as a reigning champion, no less - with the Capitals ahead of their round one clash with the Adelaide Lightning at the AIS Arena on Sunday.

Rocci looks set to be catapulted into a starting role alongside French point guard Olivia Epoupa as the depleted Capitals look to set the tone against the competition favourites.

Is she nervous? No way.

Canberra coach Paul Goriss has already backed her to emerge as an elite WNBL player and many see her as an Opal-in-waiting.

Maryanne and Marco Rocci were on hand to see the Capitals win a title last season.

Maryanne and Marco Rocci were on hand to see the Capitals win a title last season.

So that's Rocci. But what did those backyard scraps do for her brother?

"My little brother was a really good basketballer, but he never really got the opportunity to go that one step further," Rocci said.

"But now he has gone on to football. He played for the Western Jets and he also won the Morrish Medal, which is the best and fairest player for the [Victorian under 19s representative] league.

"I'm very excited for him. He works hard and he didn't really get rewarded with basketball which was disappointing.

"But to see how far he has come in football, and to win that Morrish Medal, it really did prove the hard work he did to get to where he was was really worth it.

"Now it's his draft year this year, so we're hoping he gets drafted."

Then what? "Then he will probably be better than me," Rocci said with her tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Rocci always seemed destined to achieve something special in sport. Her mother Maryanne played netball, her father Marco was a footballer.

But it didn't always seem as though basketball was her calling. She dabbled in netball and dancing before following her older brother Julian onto the court.

She knew then, if Kristian, Monique or Lucas were busy, she had someone to latch onto.

Lucas and Maddison Rocci have come a long way.

Lucas and Maddison Rocci have come a long way.

"I would always have someone to go and do something with or just hang around with," Rocci said.

"My brother Julian, he is a few years older than me, he always used to come and rebound for me at the rec centre.

"I used to love going home because he was always like 'I'll come and rebound for you', and I hated rebounding for myself. He would always do that for me."

And he was there alongside their parents to watch his sister become a WNBL champion last summer.

Seeing each other for the first time after the final buzzer went off gave the Rocci family a moment they will never forget.

Maddison Rocci is set to collide with Adelaide again on Sunday. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Maddison Rocci is set to collide with Adelaide again on Sunday. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"It was very special. It's hard because they never really got to watch me play especially when we didn't really have many TV games," Rocci said.

"For them to come down during the finals series was very special. Especially mum, dad, and my older brother being here for the grand final, it was a huge moment to go up to them after the game and give them a big hug.

"Dad had a few tears in his eyes, it was a really special moment to have them by my side through that whole finals series."

Now the road to the finals begins again, and Rocci will do everything she possibly can to replicate that moment.