Wollongong remedial therapist Kerry Lawrence almost had to pinch herself when international basketball superstar Lauren Jackson stretched her 196cm frame out on the massage table.
One day Lawrence is rubbing down Fit Freddy from Fernhill – the next day she is working her magic on the hamstring of one of the world’s top athletes.
A massage therapist with the Wollongong Hawks for the past 14 years, Lawrence has been appointed to fill the same role with the Australian Opals.
She made her ‘‘debut’’ with the Opals in the recent Oceania qualifying series win over New Zealand and is contracted at least until the end of next year’s world championships in Turkey.
‘‘I never imagined I’d have such an opportunity. It’s a real honour and a privilege and I’m very grateful,’’ she said.
‘‘Obviously all my years of work with the Hawks gave me that stepping stone, so it’s great.
‘‘It was really good working on the elite athletes and I had some success with Lauren Jackson. She’s coming back from a nine-month break and I worked on her quite a lot. She was rapt in the treatment.’’
Lawrence has 30 years’ experience as a remedial therapist and has run All Natural Therapies at Corrimal for the past 25 years.
Her commitments with the Opals include trips to Spain, Italy, Poland and the USA leading up to the world titles.
‘‘I was needing a bit of a challenge and the women are fantastic,’’ Lawrence said of her brief time with the national team.
‘‘In the past they haven’t had enough finances, but with Kristina Keneally now the head of Basketball Australia, they’ve really got good funding for the women. This is the first time they’ve had the support of a sports massage therapist.
‘‘I’ll be running the sports massage program, pre-event and post-event, management of injuries, with rehab massage in between.
‘‘There’s a wonderful team camaraderie and they said I fitted in quite well, so it’s great.’’
Lawrence has been re-united with former Hawks coach Brendan Joyce, who was appointed Opals coach in May.
‘‘We’ve remained friends and kept in touch,’’ she said.
‘‘He’s done a fantastic job in a very short period of time.’’
Joyce believes Lawrence will play a critical part in the Opals’ quest for success in Turkey.
‘‘I looked at my staff structure and felt we’re good at fixing injuries, but we had no real injury prevention program,’’ Joyce said.
‘‘Having had Kerry for 11 years at Wollongong, I knew how good she was. She loves being involved and worked her heart and soul out.
‘‘She came in for the Oceania camp and the girls were rapt with her. Players like Lauren Jackson coming back from injury, it was fantastic to have Kerry there to help her recover.
‘‘Hopefully everything goes well in Turkey and Kerry will be on her way to Rio with me in a few years [for the 2016 Olympics].’’
Lawrence’s job with the Australian side won’t stop her working with the Hawks throughout the 2013-14 NBL season.
‘‘I’m still very dedicated to the Hawks,’’ she said.
‘‘I talked to [coach] Gordie [McLeod]. He said that Brendan was a very good coach and they want to surround themselves with the best people.’’