And then there were eight. The Melbourne Tigers have today announced that they are back in the Elite Mens’ Basketball* competition, formerly known as the National Basketball League. After earlier this month deciding not to advance their expression of interest in the new competition, the board today overturned that decision, greatly strengthening the prospects of the new league.
This neatly ties up a 28 game season, as previously announced by Basketball Australia Chief Executive, Larry Sengstock. The other seven teams in the competition will be the Perth Wildcats, New Zealand Breakers, Wollongong Hawks, Townsville Crocodiles, Cairns Taipans, Adelaide 36ers and Gold Coast Blaze.

The Tigers principal owner and CEO Seamus McPeake said yesterday the sudden change of heart was due to a renewed confidence in the rapid gains and changes made by the newly formed League Commission.

“It’s been a big change in the last 48 hours to be quite honest,” McPeake said yesterday.

“We had a briefing session with some directors of Basketball Australia and there’s no doubt my concerns initially were the governance and the TV – and the information I have been given encourages me that basketball Australia has moved in the right direction and certainly given me faith that its worth us entering the competition this year.

“It will be tough this year there is no doubt, from an economical point of view, but with what will be announced soon – and I can’t say anymore – things are looking very positive for the sport.”

The league had previously stated that they would ensure a team from Melbourne would be entered in some capacity, after the withdrawal of the Tigers and the South Dragons left the city with no representation. This late move however removes a lot of uncertainty from the situation. It also ensures that certain talents are not lost from the league, with Chris Anstey previously stating that he would likely retire (with no intention to move his family to another city) and the likelihood that coach Al Westover would be without a job.

Anstey was equally pleased for obvious reasons but quickly pointed out the broader significance of the Tigers’ return.

“The best thing for me – I’ve had a fantastic and long career – its great for the younger guys who were just breaking into this league with all the ability in the world who would have been hurt by a decision not to have a team in Melbourne.

“The step further from that is one of the things the group of our players have really made an effort to do is really get out the young kids and make sure the continue to play basketball, continue to support basketball and to continue to have a dream to be involved at elite level.”

Of course, it’s not only the talent on the basketball court that would have been lost through a Tigers demise, as the amazing videos below show the extra-curricular skills of the Tigers players.
2000/01 Tigers’ rendition of “Stand By Me” featuring the likes of Andrew Gaze, Lanard Copeland and Mark Bradtke
Tigers NBL players Stephen Hoare, Tommy Greer, Daryl Corletto and Nathan Crosswell perform the ‘Evolution of Dance’ at the club’s Dinner Dance event – 14.11.08
(both videos courtesy of Melbourne Tigers via youtube)
It goes without saying that the re-entry of the Tigers does not mean that the competition is back in the clear. There is plenty of work yet to be done on bringing the competition and Basketball Australia back up to a speed that will ensure a re-emergence of the sport. However, we now have eight very solid teams including basketball powerhouses in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Townsville. No doubt there will be future work done to lay inroads to a return of Sydney and Brisbane franchises, however in the meantime, the expectations of basketball fans may have to be adjusted a little. A return to the early days of the league with smaller crowds and less television coverage may have to be accepted, whilst fans enjoy a high standard of play which ultimately will hopefully lead to bigger crowds down the track. Here is hoping that this is one step in the right direction down the long road to recovery of our sport.
As a fan, what can you do to help the recovery of the sport?
  • Start by joining discussions on sites such as Ozhoops, Hoops, JR, On Fire and A Stern Warning.
  • Spread the word to friends that there is a competition that will be starting next season and try to put a positive spin on things, contrary to the doom and gloom that is repetitive in the mainstream media.
  • Use other social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the message.
  • Get involved with your local association and the sport at a grassroots level.
  • Perhaps start a petition, such as this punter did. These don’t always work, but at the minimum they demonstrate that there is support out there.
  • Play the game!
* This isn’t the real name of the competition — we still don’t know what it’s going to be!