Lifeline for North-West Thunder after being invited to apply to enter Victorian league

Chairman Tony Barker confirmed on Friday that his club, as well as Tasmania’s other now former SEABL outfits Hobart Chargers and Launceston Toarnados, had been asked to apply to be part of Basketball Victoria’s invitation only “Elite League” to give them a home after Basketball Australia elected to withdraw its support of the South-East Australian competition.

The lifeline came among strong rumours late in the week that the Thunder would not have a league to be part of next season, with contact from both Basketball Australia and Basketball Victoria on Thursday night putting Barker’s mind  relatively at ease.

But Barker on Friday warned that just because the Thunder had another option, it wasn’t set in stone that the club would put its hat into the ring, saying the board would not do anything that would leave the club worse off financially.

There is a belief that the Victorian clubs would want their Tasmanian counterparts to fund their travel to this state, an option which Barker said was not feasible for the Thunder.

“We need to apply for it within about a week, but there is still a lot we don’t know about it,’’ he said.

“Some of the costs we do know and some of them are still to be confirmed.

“But we have heard on the sly that the Victorian clubs want Tasmanian clubs to subsidise their travel to come to Tassie to play us and that was part of the message from Paul Maley (Basketball Australia’s general manager of league and competitions) that they would like to offset some of that.

“But the bigger point for us is why should we have to do that at all?

“This is a weight off our shoulders, but we are still not over the line. It is good to have an option and I’m not prepared to sign up for something that will send us broke, so if it is not viable we need to know that.

“But at the moment we are going to put our focus into putting our application in and going back to them and getting more information about it.” 

While happy that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel, he said the whole experience had not been a fun one.

“The frustrating part is that people think that the SEABL is not continuing because BA didn’t want to put any money in, but the SEABL league has been successful and entirely self-funded, so that wasn’t the issue, they just didn’t want to run it,’’ he said.

“But the silly part about that is that SEABL was looking at going back to run it independently, which would take the hassle away from BA, but BA weren’t prepared to sanction that, so that wasn’t an option.”

Basketball Tasmania chief executive Chris McCoy said it was positive that the Tasmanian clubs now had a potential future.

“We have certainly been working very hard with the clubs, and now this new league might work for them,’’ he said.

“They (Basketball Victoria) have had their expressions of interests for their own clubs and have opened it up (for Tasmania) so things are looking more promising.

“There are still some issues and some negotiation to go through and that will play out over the next couple of weeks.

“But it’s good that we have got to this stage, as at one stage there may not have been a league for them to play in.”

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