Sheffield Hatters land top Euro duo as bid for survival goes on

Hatters star Steph Gandy with founder and chairman  Betty Codona. Photo: Ian Anderson
Hatters star Steph Gandy with founder and chairman Betty Codona. Photo: Ian Anderson

Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters have turned to Europe to fuel their bid for a second Womens Britsh Basketball Championship title after securing the services of Debora Rodriguez and Sara Lauria.

The pair were team-mates last season at Italian club Intrepid Basket Brindisi, with 6ft 2in centre Rodriguez averaging 22 minutes per game for the A2 side.

The Spaniard had played the bulk of her career with Celta Vigo in Liga Femenina and LF2 in her homeland, but also spent some brief time playing in Ireland with Waterford Wildcats during the 2014-15 campaign.

The 25-year-old Lauria is a power forward who also has A2 court time to her name at Calabra Maceri Rende who were her previous club. She also played briefly in the top tier of Italian basketball and in EuroCup Women with Levoni Taranto when she was a teenager.

Meanwhile Hatters, who won the inaugural WBBL title two years ago, report an encouraing start to their appeal for financial support to keep the highly-successful club afloat.

Hatters, founded by Betty Codona in 1961, became the most successful women’s sports club in the country.

And three weeks ago they launched an appeal for £5,000 through £5 individual donations after club chairman Betty said they didn’t have the funds to ensure they could field a team for the new season.

She said: “The league has become more competitive as more teams are finding financial backing which means they can recruit foreign and EU players.

“Five teams are funded by universities, two run their own facilities - which leaves two (including us) who are self funded. And the other one of the two self funded teams has a very rich backer. This means that clubs are able to recruit up to six foreign or EU players.

“We survive - just! - from a combination of sponsorship, donations, grants and some very hard work on fundraising events organised and run by a small hard working group of unpaid volunteers.

“This all becomes more difficult each year, but we hope we can retain our reputation as the country’stop sports team - which we have achieved by winning over 60 titles over a period of 25 years.

“We have been going for over 50 but we had to work hard in the early years to move gradually to the top in 1990. So we will be trying really hard to find the funding for us to continue.”

The club are aiming for 1000 £5.00 donations. You can donate £5 by BACS to: Sheffield Hatters 40-41-08 21247239 or post a cheque to 225 The Wheel, Ecclesfield, Sheffield S35 9ZA.