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There's magic in the South East


YES. Yes. And yes. The NBL was and is 100 per cent correct to place its ninth club in Victoria’s basketball heartland in the south east of Melbourne.

The moment Tommy Greer was appointed general manager of the new franchise purchased by the Los Angeles-based co-owner of EFL Championship club Swansea City, Romie Chaudhari, the chances of the club starting up as a long-overdue derby rival for defending champion Melbourne United rose exponentially.

If re-elected at Victoria’s state election on November 24, the Labor Government has committed $82 million in funding for the State Basketball Centre at Wantirna, with Knox City Council also tipping in $25 million to the project – and the SBC will be where the new franchise is based.

The new club – let’s call it South East Melbourne for ease of identification – will play its home games at Melbourne Arena (formerly Hisense Arena), sharing the venue with United. (You know, like the Lakers and Clippers share Staples Center in Los Angeles).

In more positive news, the Victorian Government also has pledged $13 million to upgrade Melbourne Arena – if re-elected.

TODAY'S ANNOUNCEMENT: NBL basketball is returning to the south east of Melbourne.

“We are delighted to have chosen South East Melbourne as the location for our club,” Greer said.

“I want to thank the Victorian Government for its investment in the State Basketball Centre which will become the headquarters for the team.

“We are also excited about the opportunity to play at an upgraded Melbourne Arena.

“We look forward to working with the community to build a great club they can be proud of.

“It’s important the community feels like it is a part of the team right from the beginning of this exciting journey.”

To make sure that community investment is genuine, South East Melbourne’s final club name, colours, nickname all are up in the air, awaiting the area’s recommendations.

“That includes having a say in the team’s name and colours and building a real and lasting connection to the club,” Greer said of community expectations.

“Melbourne United has done a tremendous job to grow basketball in Victoria and we applaud them of being supportive and welcoming of a local rival.

“We now want to work with them to take the game to more people than ever and build a huge rivalry in this very exciting growth phase for Australian basketball and the NBL.”

The original South East Melbourne Magic club debuted in the 1992 NBL season after a merger between Eastside Melbourne Spectres (formerly Nunawading), and South Melbourne Saints (originally St Kilda Saints).

The club beat Melbourne Tigers (now United) 2-1 in the best-of-three Grand Final Series, completing a remarkable first year.

Four years later, SEM Magic again beat Melbourne 2-1 for the championship before losing to the Tigers 1-2 in the 1997 Grand Finals. 

FATHER'S DAY: Bruce Bolden, left, celebrates SEM's title, Dave Simmons battling SEM's John Dorge

Swept 2-0 by Adelaide 36ers for the 1998 championship, that was the club’s swansong, merging with North Melbourne Giants to form Victoria Titans ahead of the 1999 season.

It was a golden period in the game and for the NBL. Having a second Melbourne team based in the city’s south east makes such good sense it always has appeared by far the best new option.

“Melbourne’s south east has long been the stronghold of basketball participation in Australia with about 100,000 of Victoria’s 240,000 total registered participants and it has a rich history in elite and community basketball,” NBL chief executive officer Jeremy Loeliger said.

“Melbourne United now has a strong foothold in the market, having won the NBL Championship last season and attracting sell-out crowds at Melbourne Arena.

“The time is right for the introduction of a second team in Melbourne and to rebuild the NBL rivalries that the city was known for in the 80s and 90s.”

Could not agree more.

“We said when we granted the licence for a ninth team that its location would depend on having access to first class training, administrative and playing facilities,” Loeliger said.

“The investment in the State Basketball Centre and Melbourne Arena makes South East Melbourne the ideal location for the next NBL team.

“It was unquestionably the deciding factor amongst a number of compelling propositions, and I applaud the Victorian Government and Knox City Council for their recognition of the importance of basketball in the Australian sporting landscape.”

The new South East Melbourne club will tip off in the NBL’s 2019-20 season and surely now the positive work being done in Tasmania by the proposed Southern Huskies franchise will make the league take particular notice and look favourably at jumping from an eight to a 10-team league.

Meanwhile, those fans wanting to register their interest in South East Melbourne can go to www.southeastmelbourne.com.au

Sep 2

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