Back in the Day: Autumn 1986

Back in the Day: Autumn 1986

This week, the BA time machine sets down in the autumn of 1986...

Winter Season Week Seven: A burden, to be sure.

-The lead story of the week and one of the biggest stories of the year is the continuing fall-out (figuratively and literally) from the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the former Soviet Union. With plumes of radioactive fall-out drifting across most of Europe, the Soviet government takes days to admit to an ‘incident’ despite U.S. satellite photographs showing the extent of the destruction at ‘Ground Zero’.

-High Court Justice Lionel Murphy is acquitted following a re-trial into charges that he had perverted the course of justice. As friends and supporters celebrate the verdict, a Royal Commission investigating the tapes from which the charges sprang reports that police have been tapping phones illegally for almost two decades and that they should be given wider powers to conduct electronic surveillance.

-The ABC is rocked by the sudden resignation of its chairman, Ken Myer; fellow Board member Wendy McCarthy is soon named Acting Chairman.

-On May 3rd, 1986, 204 cases of AIDS had been diagnosed in Australia. Of that 204, over 100 were now dead.

-In football, Liverpool player-manager Kenny Dalglish scores the winner against Chelsea to give the Reds the First Division title on a dramatic last day of the season. Liverpool’s attention now turns to the F.A. Cup Final, where they will face Everton and have a chance to claim only the third ‘Double’ of the 20th century.

-The Duchess of Windsor, formerly Wallis Warfield-Simpson, is buried at Frogmore alongside her late husband, the Duke, formerly King Edward VIII.

-In entertainment news, Crocodile Dundee opens in Australia and makes Paul Hogan a global film star. In Bergen, Norway, meanwhile, 13 year old Belgian Sandra Kim becomes the youngest ever winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.

- ‘Addicted to Love’, ‘A Different Corner’ and ‘Chain Reaction’ were at the top of the music charts.

While the NBA play-offs had reached the second round, the NBL and WNBL seasons had just begun. This was surprising, considering that it was a World Championship year and there would be a two-week break in the middle of the season. In any case, competition was fierce for spots on the Opals and Boomers teams, with Boomers coach Dr. Adrian Hurley saying that ‘We are in the unusual situation where we are going to have to leave some outstanding players out.’ The Opals were busy playing a three-test series against the Hungarian club side Tungsram, which they won by 2-1. It was a busy fortnight for their coach Robbie Cadee, who not only was on Opals duty, but was also the head coach of the NBL’s West Sydney Westars. The Westars, who had recently become the property of flamboyant Sydney Swans owner Dr. Geoffrey Edelsten, would have a tough task in their next clash, facing the Brisbane Bullets. Speaking of the games...

Friday 2nd May 1986

Three NBL Games, One WNBL Game

NBL Game One: Hobart Devils @ Perth Wildcats

Final score: Wildcats 103-Devils 89

The Devils begin their ‘Doomsday Double” road-trip by visiting the Wildcats. In a game that was fairly even for the first three periods, a hip injury to Hobart import Steve Carfino in the final quarter was the crucial shift in the game. Perth came over the top to win with centre Dan Clausen the star for the Wildcats with 26 points and 16 rebounds.

NBL Game Two: Brisbane Bullets @ Newcastle Falcons

Final score: Bullets 93-Falcons 88

It was the ‘Leroy Loggins Show’ at Broadmeadow as the defending champions eked out their second win of the young season. With 39 points at 67% from the field (including 11/12 from the line), 14 rebounds, 3 steals and a blocked shot, Loggins earned his pay on this night. One Falcons official was heard to say that this Bullets team ‘was the most complete he had ever seen.’ The 1586 people in attendance agreed with him.

NBL Game Three: St. Kilda Saints @ Sydney Supersonics

Final score: Sonics 94-Saints 82

In a scrappy game, a 12-0 run by the Supersonics at the start of the fourth quarter was enough to get them the win. Sydney’s new centre Derick ‘The Pot’ Polk was the star of the game with 23 points and 12 rebounds, along with 2 blocked shots.

WNBL Game One: Coburg Cougars @ West Adelaide Bearcats

Final score: Bearcats 79-Cougars 61

In something of a surprise, the Cougars’ trip to Adelaide starts poorly as ‘youngster’ Rachael Sporn racks up 17 points and 19 rebounds in her fifth League game to give the Bearcats the win. For Coburg, future scoring champ Karin Maar scored 20 points. As a side note, 1986 was the first WNBL season in which all 13 teams would play a full home and away schedule (a total of 24 games).

Saturday 3rd May, 1986

Five NBL Games, Four WNBL Games

NBL Game One: Hobart Devils @ Adelaide 36ers

Final score: 36ers 108-Devils 72

Ken Cole’s 36ers made it two out of two at home as they demolished the weakened Devils (who were without Steve Carfino following his injury against Perth). Mark Davis top-scored for Adelaide with 20, while Jeff Acres top-scored for Hobart with 33 points while shooting 11/33 from the field. The 3000 spectators who squeezed into Apollo went home happy.

NBL Game Two: Canberra Cannons @ Nunawading Spectres

Final score: Cannons 117-Spectres 94

This traditional rivalry game turned into a laugher as the Cannons kept pace with the front-runners. Seven Canberra players scored in double-figures, with Simon Cottrell scoring all of his 20 points in the second half. Joe Carrabino played a lone hand for Nunawading, scoring 26 points.

Milestone Alert: Bob Turner becomes the third coach in NBL history to win 100 games (behind only Brian Kerle and Barry Barnes)

NBL Game Three: Coburg Giants @ Geelong Cats

Final score: Cats 123-Giants 103

 Geelong’s new import Dane Suttle (formerly of the NBA’s Kansas City Kings) makes a strong bid for Player of the Week honours, piling up 48 points in their big win over the Giants. 32 of Suttle’s 48 points were scored in the first half as the Cats remained undefeated.

NBL Game Four: Brisbane Bullets @ West Sydney Westars

Final score: Bullets 93- Westars 63

Dr. Edelsten was probably regretting his decision to purchase a controlling stake in the Westars (following Mike Wrublewski and Basil Sellers into private ownership of NBL clubs) after this game. One stat sums the game up: the Bullets shot 51% from the field, the Westars 29%. Oh well, at least the Swans had won their first six games to lead the VFL competition!

NBL Game Five: St. Kilda Saints @ Illawarra Hawks

Final score: Hawks 118-Saints 88

A 14-0 run by the Hawks to open the game set the tone for the rest of the night. The fans that crowded the Snakepit for Illawarra’s first home game of 1986 saw Jim Bateman score 28 points on 72% shooting from the field. New Hawks import Alphonse Hammond celebrated his 23rd birthday with 25 points at 77% shooting from the field. 1985 League MVP Ray Borner had a quiet game, amassing only 10 points.

WNBL Game One: Coburg Cougars @ North Adelaide Rockets

Final score: Cougars 50-Rockets 49

This curtain-raiser to the 36ers-Devils clash sees Coburg come back to win after being behind by 13 points in the second half. This sets the stage for a torrid tussle between the Cougars and the Noarlunga Tigers.

WNBL Game Two: Tassie Islanders vs. Geelong Cats

Final score: Islanders 66-Cats 63

WNBL Game Three: Nunawading Spectres @ Canberra Capitals

Final score: Spectres 50-Capitals 48

The Spectres become the first team in 1986 to beat Canberra at home. When you have a team that includes Robyn Maher, Shelley Gorman, Michelle Timms, Lynda Palmer, Tracey Browning, Carrie Graf, Gaylene McKay and have Tom Maher as your coach, you won’t lose too many games!

WNBL Game Four: Brisbane Blazers @ Bankstown Bruins

Final score: Blazers 75-Bruins 64

Sunday 4th May, 1986

One NBL Game, Four WNBL Games

NBL Game: Canberra Cannons @ Melbourne Tigers

Final score: Cannons 106-Tigers 89

With Melbourne having an 11 point lead at half-time, Cannons coach Bob Turner decided to roll the dice and told his players to play a zone defence. The Tigers fell in a heap and by the start of the fourth quarter they were wobbly. A 7-0 run sparked by Canberra centre Andy Campbell rocked Melbourne to sleep. The Tigers’ scoring duo of Paul Stanley and Andrew Gaze were able to score only 3 of their combined 50 points for the game in the fourth quarter.

WNBL Game One: Brisbane Blazers @ Sutherland Sharks

Final score: Blazers 90-Sharks 46

WNBL Game Two: Geelong Cats @ Bulleen Melbourne Boomers

Final score: Cats 63- Boomers 60

WNBL Game Three: Nunawading Spectres @ Australian Institute of Sport

Final score: A.I.S. 76-Spectres 68

The Students maintained their undefeated record at the Training Hall in 1986 with this surprise win.

WNBL Game Four: Coburg Cougars @ Noarlunga Tigers

Final score: Cougars 63-Tigers 59 (OT).

The biggest game of the round: a re-match of the 1985 Grand Final when Coburg came from 20 points down to pip Noarlunga by two points. The Tigers’ thirst for revenge would not be slaked on this day as it was Noarlunga who had to come from behind (33-27 at the half) to force overtime (55-55 at the end of regulation). In the end it was the 33% shooting from the field as well as 20 turnovers that sealed Noarlunga’s fate.

NBL Ladder

Top Six                                                                  Bottom Eight

Brisbane     3 and 0                                               Coburg          1 and 1

Canberra    3 and 0                                               Nunawading    1 and 1

Adelaide     2 and 0                                               West Sydney    1 and 1

Geelong     2 and 0                                               Illawarra           1 and 2

Sydney      2 and 1                                               St. Kilda           1 and 3

Perth         1 and 1                                               Newcastle         0 and 2

                                                                          Melbourne         0 and 2

                                                                           Hobart             0 and 4

There was no WNBL ladder available by the time we went to press.

Next week, we’ll be stopping off in May of 1987, where there’s reason to believe that members of the Reagan Administration have been subverting the Constitution...

This is another in a regular series of articles that will take note of the historic events of the modern era of Australian basketball (1979-today). If you have memories to share, or topics that should be discussed, send an email to and put in the subject line ‘Back in the Day’.