New NBL: Big League, Small Sense


November 8th 2008


It’s the date that will determine the future of Australian basketball, as Basketball Australia, the National Basketball League and its stakeholders vote on the recommendations of a review from Dynamic Sports & Entertainment Group Pty Ltd.


On what we know so far, we can only hope the board doesn’t act as a mere rubber stamp.


That’s if they even manage to pick themselves up from the floor after laughing at some of the names the report has suggested for the men’s league set to replace the NBL. One of them is “Big League.” Apparently they deemed “AFL Record” and “Inside Football” inappropriate. 


Making matters worse, it seems the report has predictably gone down the “follow the A-league” route and recommended the “Big League” consist of just 8 teams. And not just any 8 teams; they want a team in each state and territory. No doubt there is a myriad of potential major sponsors on tenterhooks right now, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to throw money at a league which will be 37.5% comprised of teams in the booming markets of Darwin, Canberra and Tasmania. Although, it is then recommended that the league be increased to 10 teams by its third season. This follows the same kind of logic as the Victorian Government and its new rectangular stadium being built in the Melbourne Park precinct, which will have an initial capacity of 31,000 with the ‘potential to be increased to 40,000.’ Bugger the inevitable bureaucratic procrastinating and make the damn “bubble” its rightful capacity now. And bugger the change-for-the-sake-of-change and make the “Big League” 10 teams from its inception.



What is most disturbing about an 8-team league is the already-mooted possibility that it will be the death knell for a Melbourne team. Considering Tigers owner Seamus McPeake will be on the Interim Board and is a known power-wielder, the victim would most likely be the South Dragons. Melbourne needs two teams. This will again be proven on October 18th – just seven days after the sport’s watershed vote – when coaches Brian Goorjian and Al Westover cast aside their off-court friendship and seek to rekindle the magic of the league’s halcyon days at Hisense Arena. It is sure to be a packed Hisense Arena too, for a strong cross-town rivalry is a proven interest booster. When the Tigers had Melbourne to themselves the average sports nut wouldn’t have known the league existed, such was their miserly approach to marketing. In fact, the Tigers didn’t even employ a Media Manager until the South Dragons entered the league and schooled them on how to attract free publicity.


Rather than excessive rationalisation and nationalisation, the overarching necessity for basketball is stability. One only needs to take a train trip to an AFL game on a Saturday afternoon to see that sport in Australia is generational. It is what brings families together on weekends, as team allegiances are passed down with more pride than the longevity of a surname. This has not been possible in the NBL. Too many teams have barely lived long enough to outlast a AA battery, let alone long enough for Little Johnny to grow up, procreate, and buy Little Johnny Jnr his club’s jersey. If the three consortia that can best guarantee such stability all happen to be from the same state, so be it. Let them in. If there are 10 strong consortia that can guarantee such stability, 10 teams it is.


If there is any positive that can be taken from the report, it’s that the Sydney Spirit (formerly West Sydney Razorbacks) are likely to be put out of their misery.


This is the club that, when deciding on a new name to embrace grieving Kings fans, got in touch with their feminine side and came up with something better suited to Liz Ellis’ lexicon than Steve Carfino’s.


This is the club that spent an entire lunch break in Microsoft Paint designing their new logo, coming up with something better suited to the local ballroom dancing club.


This is the club that, despite being owned by media company Trimedia, forgot to invite the media to its season launch.


This is the club that has at least confirmed a long held academic notion: You can never polish a turd.


Get in touch with your feminine side...

Get in touch with your feminine side...