BRAD COLE THE ADVOCATE The four days between September 19-22 shapes as a judgment period for not only the sport of basketball in Tasmania, but maybe sport in general.
A sporting public that cries out for top-level Australian sporting teams to visit our shores will get its wish when the National Basketball League’s Blitz arrives. Every one of the league’s nine teams, including new franchise South-East Melbourne Phoenix, will be here to finalise its pre-season campaign.
It’s the kind of opportunity that the AFL or the A-League can never provide. With the NBL’s owner, Larry Kestelman, poised with his finger on the trigger of handing the state its own team, his decision in the affirmative can be made a lot easier with plenty of bums on seats across the four venues.
Empty stadiums in Devonport, Ulverstone, Launceston and Hobart may just make Kestelman consider investing elsewhere. Much has been made of the Southern Huskies’ demise last week and whether it would scare the NBL off from re-establishing a base here. In short the answer is no. Kestelman worked out the Huskies weren’t going to be the vehicle for his vision in Tasmania, especially when he learned of the debts that were piling up.
The Huskies’ problem was they bit off more than they could chew, and some of what they were trying to devour wasn’t that tasty in the first place. After arriving with a bang and the ambition of an NBL team, they quickly turned into a club with no team. The decision to join the New Zealand NBL seemed sound to start with to at least get the ball bouncing, but there was one issue – the casual basketball fan lost interest.
The NZNBL teams may have been handy but they had no profile here in Tasmania. Who were the Taylor Hawks? Where were the 2 Cheap Cars Supercity Rangers from?
Then with the Hobart Chargers leaving, the Huskies felt somewhat obliged to pick up the pieces and give Hobart a much-needed NBL1 presence. It proved to be a costly obligation as rumours circulated that the women’s team alone cost $70,000 to assemble and then went on to win just six of its 20 games. But back to the NBL Blitz and what it will bring to Tasmania.
The NBL’s standing in world basketball has taken an almighty jump in recent months with Americans RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball signing up with New Zealand and Illawarra respectively.
If you’re prepared to get out of your chair and go to a game or two to thank the NBL for bringing top-level basketball to your region, they just might reward you with an even greater prize very soon.