Super SEABL not so Crazy after all

Australia’s summer basketball league may be tarnished by negative headlines, but its premier winter competition, the South East Australian Basketball League, is experiencing no such problems.

In fact, a recent trip to Geelong to watch the Supercats play the Mount Gambier Pioneers showed how the NBL could learn a few things from its semi-professional counterpart.

The on-court standard was obviously inferior to the big league, but the Supercats’ game-night presentation was almost of a comparable standard. While The Arena is no oil painting from the outside, the interior redevelopments make it a first-class venue which must be the envy of other SEABL clubs. There’s food and bar amenities, an audible sound-system hanging from the roof, two thousand numbered seats and a big screen which purports to be “Geelong’s first 16:9 projector screen.”

Supercats management were clearly taking notes at the South Dragons’ home games, with the player introductions seeing the lights go out, and there were also cheerleaders (albeit adolescents), a mascot imaginatively known as “Supercat”, and competitions including a half-court shot for five thousand dollars.

The game was exciting, too, with some hot shooting from the likes of Dallas Jeffree and Tariq Naqqash seeing the Pioneers come back from a hefty deficit and almost snare an unlikely victory. The Supercats regularly draw around the 1500 mark, and every single one of them would have gone home satisfied.

The moral of the story is that basketball clubs do not have to spend millions of dollars on world-class players to put bums on seats. There are critics who oppose the prospect of a rigid salary cap in the NBL, fearing it would dilute its on-court appeal, but money guzzling ex-NBA players are not fundamental to a successful league. A professional game-night presentation, strong community attachment, off-court stability and a positive public perception are the basics that the NBL should be striving for.

The SEABL, and other winter leagues, has achieved stability because many of its clubs are owned by local associations financed by registration fees, rather than a perilous reliance on gate-takings and benevolence from private owners.

The league has certainly found its niche this season. It has secured Crazy John’s as its naming-rights sponsor, it promotes itself through mainstream media such as WIN, 1116 SEN and a weekly wrap-up on the Herald Sun website, and it’s trialling a live streaming service.

It is moving forward. Let’s hope the NBL can do the same.

"Geelong's first 16:9 projector screen"

"Geelong's first 16:9 projector screen"



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