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SEABL'S all-time best are back

THE SEABL’S most successful club – Melbourne Tigers – will resume its place in Australia’s premier winter interstate competition this weekend, under the guidance of rookie coach Andrew Gaze.

The irony there is that Gaze’s father Lindsay back in 1965 was instrumental in forming the South Eastern Conference competition which grew into the SEABL.

BOUNCE BACK: Andrew Gaze is back where it began for Melbourne Tigers.

The Tigers won the first six SEC championships before the league went into recess from 1971-80 when the Australian Club Championship – featuring up to 24 of the best teams from around the nation slugging out the annual tournament – became the premier outlet for interstate competition.

The ACC ran from 1970-79 – Melbourne winning the inaugural back-to-back titles in 1970-71 ahead of arch rival St Kilda securing the 1972 series - before the tournament fell by the wayside with the advent of the NBL in 1979.

The 10-team NBL launched as the National Invitation Basketball League that year, with Melbourne conspicuous in its absence. That was because the club largely was one of the drivers against any plans for an NBL competition, and in 1981 was instrumental in the rebirth of the SEC as the South Eastern Basketball League, or SEBL.

The new South East Australian Basketball League name was introduced in 1988 but only retained for four years before another competition name change to Continental Basketball Association, or CBA.

That lasted seven years, then it became the Australian Basketball Association (ABA) before the name eventually and ultimately found its way back to the SEABL. Another name change is in the offing for 2017 too but that’s a story for another day.

Geelong won the SEBL in 1981 and used that to springboard into the 1982 NBL where the Cats, under playing-coach Cal Bruton, made it all the way to the Grand Final in their debut.

ALMOST ALL THE WAY: Geelong made it to the 1982 NBL Grand Final, beaten by West Adelaide.

Melbourne then used the same route, winning the SEBL in 1983 to be admitted into the NBL in 1984.

Andrew Gaze won Rookie of the Year that year, Melbourne going on to win four NBL championships before the name change two seasons ago to Melbourne United left Tigers fans lamenting their identity disappearing from elite competition.

DARYL CORLETTO: Back as a Melbourne Tiger again.

Now it is back, the seven-time SEABL champs also with dual-Tigers NBL championship winner Daryl Corletto back to lead from the front and another big-league name in Rhys Carter to handle ball-carrying chores.

RHYS CARTER: Will be running the Tigers' SEABL backcourt.

The Tigers, formerly Melbourne Church (of England), also have secured the SEABL’s first Chinese import in Bo Liu, a 205cm big man with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Dongguan Leopards.

Three years ago Liu represented China at the FIBA World Youth Championship where Dante Exum and Ben Simmons led Australia to a semi final elimination of China.

Melbourne’s seven titles has it well ahead as the SEABL’s premier club – Geelong has won four, Ballarat, Cairns and Mount Gambier three – so its return is a watershed moment for the second-tier competition.

THE SEABL tips off its 2016 season Friday. Go to the league website to see where your favourite team is playing.

Mar 28

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