JARRYD MCGUANE THE ADVOCATE Cracks in the so-called strengthened relationship between the North-West Thunder and the NWBU are already appearing after young Tasmanian star Sejr Deans was blocked from playing for the NBL1 side.
The Thunder wanted NWBU clubs to allow the Launceston’s Deans to represent them without playing in the Coastal competition because of his studies, which was rejected.
The NWBU rule states that if a player wants to play with the Thunder, which is the representative team for the competition, they have to play at least 40 per cent of games during the NWBU season.
NWBU president Kim Robinson said the clubs were unwilling to make an exception to the rule to guarantee the strength of their competition.
“It is a requirement if you play for the Thunder, which is our team because it is owned by the NWBU and the eight member clubs, you must play in the NWBU,” she said
“The rule is there and the clubs were not willing to break the rule because it sets a precedent (and) if you allow it for one player, how many more don’t want to play NWBU and just play Thunder.”
Basketball Tasmania development manager Mark Radford was vehemently opposed to the NWBU’s rule, believing it was working against the goal of strengthening basketball in the region.
“Are the Thunder and the NWBU working together for the best outcome for basketball because don’t you want the best young juniors being able to play?” he said.
“It is like saying you can’t play for the Boomers because you don’t play in the NBL.
“We are in a changing environment from the one where that rule was made, the rule needs to be updated and cater for kids,” he said.
“You can set a precedent to be a good one for basketball (by allow Deans to play Thunder) or you can set a bad one.”
Radford said the double standard of the NWBU to not allow Launceston men to play for the Thunder if they don’t play for the competition, but women on the Coast can play for the Tornadoes was frustrating
“You can see it with the Tornadoes, the young girls from the Coast don’t have to play in the Launceston league,” he said.
“The NWBU rule is archaic and should be there to cater for the athletes that are totally committed to basketball.”
Robinson said Deans had played in the NWBU before, so it wouldn’t be different to his previous arrangements.
“This kid has played under 22s and he has played seniors with the NWBU the year before, so it is not like he is new to the competition,” she said.
“It is an hour up the road and we are not prepared to set a precedent with him.”
But Radford said Deans’ commitments had been forced to change because of an increased workload following a successful 2019 season at junior international level.
“It is because of the load because study, Australian junior duties, state teams, domestic basketball and the Thunder, which he didn’t have the Thunder last year, it would be hard to add NWBU basketball into that,” he said.
There was a grey area in the rule that was exploited in 2019 when Kai Woodfall played for Thunder in the second half of the season without featuring for a NWBU club as a replacement for college-bound sharpshooter Tre Armstrong.
Although Robinson said she was unsure if the Thunder had put in a request for Woodfall, she believed he was allowed to play because it was after the NWBU season had finished.
“Kai would not have been able to qualify for 40 per cent of the games, when he came in there was only about six games left (for The Thunder) and he would have needed to play nine (in the NWBU),” she said.
Radford said he felt that exception showed there was a double standard in the ruling between the Deans and Woodfall.
Thunder chairman Tony Barker was contacted for comment.