Inducted into the ABHF as a Contributor in 2006, Watson is just the fourth Hall of Famer to be elevated to Legend status – sitting alongside Lindsay Gaze, Alistair Ramsay and John Raschke.
After first being exposed to the game while serving as a nurse in the Second World War, Betty became a tireless champion for the game.
Watson fought the fight to demand respect from the male-dominated administrations of her era, while also stamping a mark of difference between basketball and netball (then known as ‘women’s basketball’).
Working alongside her late husband Ken – who was himself a massive figure in the game for more than 40 years – Watson was instrumental in establishing the first Australian Junior Championships played in Tasmania in 1954.
Among her litany of achievements in the game, Watson was the head of delegation of the first basketball team from a Western country to enter China in 1963.
She was also the founding President of the Women’s Basketball Council in Victoria, and served as President of the Women’s Council of the Australian Basketball Union.
Upon accepting her award tonight, Watson said she was honoured and privileged to be recognised in the company of those who have done so much to promote the game.
“Basketball isn’t just a sport; it really is a way of life,” Ms Watson said.
“There are women here tonight – Jan Crosswhite, Faye Campbell, Elaine Hardwick – those women still play as a team, over 60, just recently winning a gold medal in Italy at the World Games. That is such a wonderful sense of team spirit.
“The camaraderie and humour you experience on a basketball team will stay with me forever. There’s a certain degree of intelligence that it takes to play basketball; with that intelligence comes a very witty humour, and the repartee between teams is really something to enjoy.
“It would be remiss of me not to remember Ken tonight – he was really an instigator of many, many wonderful things that happened in basketball.
“At times controversial, but that was the way he got his point through. He was a truly great man, and I know his spirit is among the team spirit of us here tonight.
“I’m incredibly proud of what women in basketball have achieved – not just playing – but so many women have helped the game come up from being amateur to a truly great sport, giving so much pleasure to so many players. I hope it lives and grows as the years go by.”
In 1976, Watson lobbied strongly to have the Australian women’s team compete in the Pre-Olympics Qualification Tournament for the Montreal Games. While unsuccessful, Watson persevered and saw the women travel to Varna in Bulgaria in 1980 in an effort to qualify for their first ever appearance at an Olympics Games.
In 1997, Watson received a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the development of women’s basketball in Australia, particularly as an administrator with the Australian Women’s Basketball Council and the Victorian Women’s Basketball Association.
A life member of Basketball Australia, the WNBL and Basketball Victoria, Watson’s name today adorns the WNBL Rookie of the Year trophy as well as Basketball Victoria’s medal for Female Player of the Year.
Basketball Australia Chief Executive Officer said it was fitting to see the founding mother of women’s basketball in Australia also become the first female to be elevated to the status of Legend in the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame.
“If ever a sport owed a debt, it is basketball’s to Betty Watson – her contribution to our game has been truly ground-breaking,” Ms Keneally said.
“Generations of aspiring players across the country have Betty to thank for the Australian Junior Championships – tournaments which have gone on to become a launching pad for some of the biggest names in our sport including Lauren Jackson, Patty Mills, Kristi Harrower and Mark Worthington.
“The face of women’s basketball in Australia, Betty showed incredible passion for the game in its formative years.
“She never took a backwards step in working towards equal opportunity and recognition for women in the sport; and as we continue to strive for equality today, we remain thankful for the foundations laid for us by Betty.
“The basketball community is fortunate to boast a leader as inspiring as Betty, eternally grateful for the contribution she has made to the development of our game, and extremely proud to recognise her as a Legend of the sport in the ABHF.”
Background – Betty Watson
• The face of women's basketball in Australia during its formative years, working to ensure women received equal opportunity and recognition
• Australian head of delegation for the first ever visit by a western team to China in 1963
• Australian Team Manager – 1963, 1974 and 1975
• Founding President of the Women’s Basketball Council in Victoria
• President of the Women’s Council of the Australian Basketball Union
• Instrumental in launching the first Australian Junior Championships played in Tasmania in 1954
• Lobbied strongly in 1976 to have the Australian women’s team compete in the Pre Olympics qualification for the Montreal Olympics and saw the Australian women travel to Varna in Bulgaria in 1980
• WNBL Rookie of the Year award named in her honour in 1995
• Recipient of a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997
• Life Member of Basketball Australia, Basketball Victoria and the WNBL
• Inducted into the ABHF as a Contributor in 2006