Opinion: Great ANBL launch, wrong city
Fri, 21 Sep 2012 12:31p.m.
Opinion by Huw Beynon, in Melbourne
All eight National Basketball League teams have descended on the Melbourne satellite city of Dandenong for this year’s season launch and tournament.
Great for the fans, the few who have come to watch, great for the media; easy access to players and coaches, but great for the clubs themselves? Not so much.
Don't get me wrong, I love it. It’s great seeing the chemistry between the teams as they sit metres apart having breakfast at the hotel or as they warm up next to each other at the stadium.
There’s even a battle to get out the car park and into the mini vans first.
Former players are catching up with old teammates, roommates and friends.
The Breakers, back to back champions, may not command the respect they deserve from the Aussie fans or even the league (Adam Gibson of the Adelaide 36ers held the trophy for the pre season photo shoot comprising of one player from each team, Tom Abercrombie of the back to back champions stood empty handed), but they certainly do from the other teams. They are the team to beat, and the other players know that.
The Perth Wildcats slink around the stadium under a sinister cloud you'd expect over a group of Disney villains; 26 consecutive playoff appearances - they know they're no ones favourite team but they are feared.
As are the new look Adelaide 36ers, the inevitable question "How can they afford that team?" has been bandied around but all are excited to see them play.
Then the popular figures of the leagues like former Breaker Oscar Forman now of the Wollongong Hawks makes all smile who come in contact with him.
The same can be said for Cam Tragardh of the Cairns Taipans and Russel 'Rusty' Hinder of the Townsville Crocs. The atmosphere is wonderful to be around and be a part of, but the event itself has to be questioned.
One of the main reasons of the launch and pre season tournament is publicity. Journalists, myself included, are flown from all NBL centres at the expense of the league to cover the weekend festivities and create a buzz around the start of a new season.
Why then, I ask, are we in Melbourne?
The back fourteen pages of the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne this morning were dedicated to the AFL finals.
It was then three or four pages of NRL - the small matter of the Melbourne Storm v Manly Sea Eagles preliminary final tonight.
"Go and watch the footy, make sure you go and watch the footy" one NBL head coach told me.
The pre season tournament isn't even a blip on the radar.
It costs AUS $2.50 to get into Dandenong stadium this weekend and watch every team in the league play against each other and be close enough to hear them call the plays and smack talk on court - what an opportunity!
Not even five hundred fans would have been present on day one. One journalist pointed out that if it were held in Auckland amid the popularity boom basketball is enjoying right now, any basketball stadium would be packed. I'm sure the same could be said of Cairns and Townsville.
Then there's the effect it has on the players themselves.
All teams have to play three games in three days. That means insufficient recovery time at a period in the season when the body is still acclimatising to the physical anguish it will be put through from now until April.
"It's just common sense, we should play one game, have a day off, play another. It's just common sense," a coach of one of the Australian based teams complained when I asked about the benefits of a tournament like this.
"Hell no," was the response of Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis when asked if the results of the games matter.
In fact every coach and assistant coach I spoke to on day one shared similar sentiments, "Why are we here?"
On the court all teams are keeping their cards close to their chest.
They’re just testing out combinations and things that could be done at respective homes with one off friendlies where teams could manage their own player’s diets.
Clubs pay people to ensure that the players eat what they should eat - the right mix of proteins and nutrients that allows them the greatest chance of a quick recovery before the next game.
The murmurings almost turned to shouting when the 'post-game' meal was discovered.
I enjoyed it - the baked potato, pizza and bread went down a treat for me but for players who can get fined if their body fat content exceeds their clubs set limit, it was far from ideal.
So while the rest of Melbourne settles in to watch one of two types of footy tonight, all eight NBL teams will do battle again in Dandenong stadium.
It's a basketball love-in, all are invited, but no one is here, and the ones who are don't really want to be. Except me. I'm having a great time.
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