• Washington Mystics Aussie guard Leilani Mitchell (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Opals veteran Leilani Mitchell has opened up about life in the “Wubble” – the Florida hub where the WNBA has set up camp to contest the 2020 season.
By
Megan Hustwaite

19 Aug 2020 - 4:52 PM  UPDATED 19 Aug 2020 - 4:52 PM

WATCH 10 WNBA games in 24 days - starting tomorrow from 9am (AEST) - LIVE on SBS VICELAND and live streamed via SBS On Demand.

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Mitchell, 35, was one of reigning champion Washington Mystics’ new additions this season and the 11-year WNBA veteran said it’s been a campaign like no other.

The star point guard made the tough decision to leave partner Mikaela and two-year-old son Kash in Australia to compete in the league and by the time she flies back to Sydney, will have spent the most time ever away from her family.

“The toughest decision originally was to come because it meant leaving my family,’’ Mitchell told SBS.

“The risk of Covid-19 - at the time when I was back in Australia I’d look up the cases in Florida and it was going up 5000, 6000, 7000, 10,000 cases a day.

"They (the WNBA) promised it was going to be safe, we had calls with the doctors, we were tested in the week leading up to the bubble and we’re still getting tested every day and lucky nobody has caught it here.

“It is hard. Being here, having no escape from your team or the whole league really, pending how the games go - that’s another thing that weighs on your mind as the games keep coming at you.

We don’t really have the time to practice and fix things because of the schedule, it’s quite stressful.”

And while the work load on court has been physically exhausting the mental aspect has also been trying.

“It is really hard mentally. We’re so busy with games every other day, we can’t go anywhere, we can’t leave,’’ Mitchell explains.

“At first it felt kind of like you were at a World Championships, in terms of all the teams being together and you’re playing every few days.It doesn’t stop.

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"It’s really exhausting especially because our team has been hit by a lot of injuries, so a lot of us have been playing more minutes, and we had something like 10 games in 22 days. 

"It’s insane to try and manage recovery in between games while preparing for the next.

“It’s absolutely exhausting to be honest but I’m glad to be here.”

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Some players are staying together in villas while others, like Mitchell, are in individual hotel rooms.
“My team mates are really cool so I go over to their apartment a lot and we hang out – play card games and Spot It and make sure we have some fun, that’s really important too,’’ she says.

“I’ve watched The Voice Australia, I love that show. Looking forward to The Block starting. I watch all the other WNBA games because there’s three each day.”

Teams are able to take the occasional approved excursion and the Mystics enjoyed their first, a visit to a local beach following practice today.

“Oh, it was so good, I was walking in the sand imagining home (Australia). There were dolphins in the water and we were within 15 metres of them, it was amazing.”

The Mystics, ranked fourth in the eastern conference, take on Atlanta Dream (2-9) tomorrow, keen to tip their season record to 4-7.

“We didn’t find out four of the players wouldn’t be coming until a week before the season started, so it’s been different to what the coach expected,’’ Mitchell says.

“We’re definitely inexperienced. Coach (Mike Thibault) is trying to find the balance of winning games right now but also looking towards the future.

“When we play with a lot of energy, we won our first three games and beat Seattle, we play carefree.

After that our energy kind of dropped away, so we know we have the potential to be really good and compete with the top teams if we’re focused and come with the energy we need to.”

Catch all the action as Washington Mystics face-off against Atlanta Dream this Thursday August 19 from 9am (AEST) live on SBS VICELAND and live streamed via SBS On Demand.