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Mt Gambier can 'jump in the lake'


FOUR-time SEABL men's champion Mount Gambier Pioneers effectively have been told to 'go jump in the lake' by Basketball SA's Premier League competition, leaving the future of one of the nation's best-run basketball clubs in limbo.

The Pioneers, winners of SEABL championships in 2003, 2014, 2015 and 2017 were the one club left out in the cold when Basketball Australia wound up the interstate competition which first launched in 1965.

With the new Victorian Senior Elite League accommodating the state's former SEABL teams plus clubs from Tasmania, the Pioneers hoped to continue in that competition as well.

But having been a one-team club (men's team only) and a difficult location for teams to get in-and-out of easily, Mount Gambier was not invited, wanted or required by the new elite Vic-run league.

BA having promised every ex-SEABL club would have a lifeline elsewhere, the obvious place for the Pioneers to turn was to Basketball SA's Premier League.

Initially though, the Pioneers were vehement they would not play in the BSA competition and even instituted legal action against Basketball Australia for apparently leaving the club stranded.

All of Mount Gambier's overtures to the new Vic super league were rejected and only this month, the Pioneers swung their attention to SA's Premier League.

Understandably, SA's 10 elite clubs initially were reticent to accept the Pioneers because, with the backing and corporate support of the state's second largest town, they operate on a budget more than 10 times that of Adelaide's local teams.

In simpler terms, some feared admitting Mount Gambier meant handing it the next five PL men's championships.

Again, understandably, to enlarge the Premier League to 11 clubs, then the 10 which mostly are based in-and-around Adelaide would need some protection.

Clearly, Mount Gambier also needs to field a women's team, as do the other 10 clubs.

Tick.

To travel down to the South-East to play Mount Gambier at the Icehouse - that's one trip annually per club - teams would seek compensation.

The Pioneers, with, I believe, some additional financial assistance from BA, offered $4,000 toward expenses per club, that's $40,000 toward travel costs.

Tick.

If Mount Gambier made the playoffs, thereby requiring any additional games to be played in the South-East, the club offered to cover all costs of the visiting team.

Tick.

BSA clubs - and remember, this was only dropped on them this month - want to protect their competition's integrity, so the Pioneers would follow the same eligibility requirements, meaning two restricted players (imports or prominent NBLers) and only a couple of additional ring-ins. Brad Hill (Eastern), Tom Daly (Sturt) and Erik Burdon (North) have been long-time Pioneers.

So to bring their team back to the field, there is a likely requirement Mount Gambier suits the bulk of its players from its region.

(This is a win-win for the game really. It helps Mount Gambier develop its own players who can see their pathway, costs the club less by not needing to bring in PL players or interstate players to compete at that higher SEABL level. And it also should satisfy BSA teams.)

Tick.

So, all boxes ticked and ... tick tock - Mount Gambier loses the vote at BSA level.

Bear in mind too, the Pioneers only are asking for admission to the Premier League for 2019 before again making a case to join the elite Victorian comp in 2020.

David Spear, who captained Adelaide Buffalos to the 1987 SEBL championship, was an NBL champion with the 36ers' 1986 Invincibles, and a long-time West Adelaide stalwart, resigned his position from the BSA Commission when the vote came back.

The founder of the basketball charity Free Throw Foundation also immediately stepped down as Chairman of Basketball Adelaide, the BSA constituent which is comprised of the 10 Adelaide-based Premier League clubs.

Basically, the Basketball SA Premier League clubs had an opportunity to act in the best interests of the sport in South Australia, and chose not to.

Not all, just four. And that was just enough to leave Mount Gambier out in the cold.

That is, for now. BSA only needs one of those four clubs to recognise the game is bigger than they are and maybe, who knows, sanity may yet prevail.

Dec 19

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