-The nations of New Zealand and Nepal enter into a period of deep mourning following the passing of the conqueror of Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, at the age of 88. Within hours of the announcement of Sir Edmund’s death, the Hillary family gratefully accepts an offer by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark of a full state funeral.
-The rolling shockwaves of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis strike the Australian stock market with Centro Properties Group reportedly on the verge of collapse, as chief executive Andrew Scott resigns to escape the carnage. Meanwhile on Wall Street, Citigroup announces a fourth-quarter loss of $US 9.8 billion (one of the biggest quarterly deficits in U.S. corporate history) and unveils plans to slash 4200 workers, fuelling growing fears for the future of the global economy.
-The U.S. Presidential horse race (Republican division) throws up another surprise as Mitt Romney, previously the front runner, wins his first primary in Michigan. All eyes now turn to South Carolina, with Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama preparing their forces for what promises to be a long and hard struggle. Republican Senator John McCain conveys his hopes of improving on his disastrous performance in the Palmetto State eight years previously. With three separate Republican candidates having won the contests held so far (former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in Iowa, McCain in New Hampshire and Romney in Michigan) the race to replace President George W. Bush is anybody’s to win.
- A thrilling victory by Australia in the second cricket Test against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground is overshadowed by a roiling controversy concerning umpiring decisions and reported racial comments. India threatens to return home if umpire Steve Buckner is not dropped immediately and Harbhajan Singh is not cleared of directing a racial insult at an Australian player. The International Cricket Council eventually bows to the demands and the series goes on.
-Disgraced Olympic champion Marion Jones is sentenced to six months imprisonment for lying to U.S. Federal investigators about her role in the “BALCO scandal”. Jones’ tearful plea to be spared time in prison was ignored by the judge.
-Notable deaths during the week included the celebrated Sunday Times sports journalist Dudley Doust (at the age of 77), the last original tenant of the Empire State Building Jack Brod (at the age of 98) and Richard Knerr, the co-founder of the company that created the Frisbee and the Hula Hoop (at the age of 82).
-“Now You’re Gone”, “Low” and “Apologise” are the biggest selling singles of the week.
Two quick basketball notices:
-Shane Heal announced that he had played his last game for the South Dragons and would spend the rest of his team’s campaign coach from the bench. Published reports that his career was over proved to be somewhat premature.
- Jan Stirling announced that the Beijing Olympics would be her last hurrah as Opals coach. Since taking over the job after the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Stirling had become Australia’s most successful national coach ever, winning bronze at the 2002 World Championships, silver at the 2004 Olympics and the career-defining gold medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and World Championships (subject of a two article series to be written later this year).
Saturday 12 January, 2008
NBL Game One: Cairns Taipans @Brisbane Bullets
Final score: Bullets 101-Taipans 79
A sell-out crowd of 3800 (the biggest since the Bullets moved to the Convention Centre in 1998) saw the home side keep in touch in the race for a semi-final berth with a comprehensive victory over Cairns. Ebi Ere and Adam Gibson each scored 20 points for Brisbane while a strong defensive effort kept future NBA prospect Nathan Jawai to only 15 points for Cairns. Stephen Black’s return to Brisbane was not a success: three points on 1/4 shooting and no assists.
NBL Game Two: West Sydney Razorbacks @Melbourne Tigers
Final score: Tigers 111-Razors 108
Razors coach Rob Beveridge summed up the game this way: “It’s a Holden versus a Ferrari...Then the Ferrari got out of 3rd gear.” Chris Anstey made the key plays while scoring 22 points and grabbing 20 rebounds including 10 and 8 respectively in the crucial third quarter. It was a significant night as well for 43 year old Darryl McDonald (see below) whom Grantley Bernard of The Herald Sun described as “The only guy to come out of Harlem with more than 1200 thefts to his name and not go to jail.”
Milestone Alert: Darryl McDonald becomes the greatest thief in NBL history with his 1222nd steal late in the first quarter. McDonald passes Leroy Loggins who had previously held the record.
NBL Game Three: Sydney Kings @Adelaide 36ers
Final score: 36ers 115-Kings 93
5797 of the most knowledgeable basketball fans in Australia went home from the Dome overjoyed as their 36ers sent Sydney's seven game winning streak into the ether. A series of disputed refereeing decisions combined with the passionate support of Adelaide’s knowledgeable fans saw the 36ers take a match-winning 59-49 lead at the main break. As Adam Ballinger tore the Kings to shreds while scoring 35 points (and capturing the Player of the Week award), Julius Hodge put on a show for the city he had described as “Pleasantville” with 24 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and an ‘emphatic” dunk to close the game (In a foretelling of what was to come, Hodge also had seven turnovers). It was the worst loss suffered by the Kings so far that season and their coach Brian Goorjian was matter-of-fact about the defeat: “We had a team playing finals basketball and with a finals intensity and we didn’t go there”.
NBL Game Four: New Zealand Breakers @Townsville Crocodiles
Final score: Crocs 108-Breakers 88
Back-to-back three-pointers by John Rillie set the seal on this vital encounter as Townsville kept their hand in the NBL’s final eight logjam. 4500 persons bore witness as the Crocs controlled the game from wire-to wire and condemned the Breakers into a tie for seventh place on the ladder. New Zealand, suffering a letdown after thumping the Blaze by 33 earlier in the week (then the biggest win in club history), were paced by Kirk Penney’s 26 points. Rillie had 27 for Townsville and got strong support from Corey Williams with 22.
NBL Game Five: Gold Coast Blaze @Perth Wildcats
Final score: Wildcats 103-Blaze 88
Gold Coast’s James Harvey got his team off to a flyer with 11 points off three plays in the opening six minutes of the game. That was the one bright spot for Brendan Joyce’s team as the Wildcats slipped a defensive noose around their opponents and squeezed them out of the contest. Shawn Redhage had a big day on and off the floor: after becoming an Australian citizen in a ceremony prior to tip-off (overseen by Immigration Minister and West Australian Senator Chris Evans) he went on to score 28 points and dish off eight assists.
WNBL Game One: Canberra Capitals @Bendigo Spirit
Final score: Capitals 69-Spirit 62
In a tight contest, the defending champions produce a 24-15 final quarter to ease away from a gusty Spirit outfit. Tully Bevilaqua led Canberra with 14 points and five steals; she was supported by Jessica Bibby (13 points). Bendigo’s Gabrielle Richards was the stand-out of the game with 21 points and 14 rebounds while Karen Ashby garnered 12 points and 10 rebounds for the home side. It had been a big weekend for Canberra’s title defence, having defeated the Flames the previous night at Southern Cross Stadium.
WNBL Game Two: Christchurch Sirens @Bulleen Boomers
Final score: Boomers 90-Sirens 74
The Boomers bounced back from a critical one-point loss to Dandenong and comfortably accounted for the expansion Sirens at the Veneto Club. Emma Randall added to her claims as one of the WNBL’s best players with 21 points and 12 rebounds with teammate Elyse Penaluna adding 16 points and seven rebounds.
WNBL Game Three: A.I.S @Adelaide Lightning
Final score: Lightning 94-A.I.S 77
The Lightning won its tenth game in a row with a demolition of the Students at Wayville. Tracey Gahan led Adelaide with 22 points (8/12 from the field), 11 rebounds and five steals. She received great support from Jenny Whittle (21 points on 8/11 shooting including 5/5 from the perimeter) and Erin Phillips (20 points on 8/13 from the field, 14 rebounds and six assists). Cayla Francis starred for the A.I.S. with her 24 points and eight rebounds. For Lightning coach Vicki Valk the game was far more comfortable than their previous game against the Fire; they had been down four with 49 seconds to go and won by a point.
Sunday 13 January, 2008
NBL Game Six: Wollongong Hawks @Singapore Slingers
Final score: Slingers 113-Hawks 102
Up 47-43 at half-time, Singapore’s 1-2 punch of Rod Grizzard (who finished with 23 points) and former League MVP Mike Helms (who grabbed 28 points) drove their team to a match winning 78-59 lead late in the third quarter. From there on Gordie McLeod’s Slingers sat on the lead and coasted to victory. It was another blow to the Hawks in what had been a miserable season both on and off the floor. It had been announced earlier in the week that the team needed $750,000 by the end of the month or the League’s last foundation franchise would be going out of business.
Wednesday 16 January, 2008
NBL Game Seven: Perth Wildcats @Adelaide 36ers
Final score: Wildcats 101-36ers 82
For the ninth time that season, Perth held their opponents to 85 points or less and sucked the life out of Adelaide’s desperate charge towards the eighth and final play-off spot. As Peter Crawford dropped 27 points (including seven three-pointers) while nursing an injured shoulder at one end, the combination of Paul Rogers (18 points and 17 rebounds, 15 of them defensive) and Alex Loughton won their crucial match-up with Adam Ballinger and held him to only 12 points for the game. Rogers was pumped after the victory, saying that “Personally, I’d prefer to be a better defensive team...because your defence should be there every night.”
NBL Game Eight: West Sydney Razorbacks @South Dragons
Final score: Razorbacks 105-Dragons 103
Darnell Hinson’s game-winning jumper with 43.8 seconds remaining anchored the Dragons to the bottom of the ladder and gave Rob Beveridge ten wins in his first NBL season, a creditable achievement. South led for almost the whole game but scored only 16 points in the final quarter, suggesting that Shane Heal’s men may have choked the game away. While Hinson led all scorers with 28 points (including six three-pointers), the key stat was scoring off the bench: the Razors’ second five scored 47 points with the Dragons second five producing only 28. Hinson also dished off seven assists.
NBL Ladder (After two games of Round 18)
Top Eight: Bottom Five:
Sydney (19-3) Adelaide (10-12)
Melbourne (16-6) West Sydney (10-14)
Brisbane (16-7) Wollongong (6-16)
Perth (13-9) Singapore (5-20)
Cairns (12-10) South (4-18)
Gold Coast (12-11)
New Zealand (12-11)
Top Four: Bottom Six:
Adelaide (15-3) Dandenong (9-8)
Sydney Uni (13-6) Townsville (8-10)
Canberra (11-6) Bulleen (7-9)
Bendigo (10-8) A.I.S (6-12)
Next week in Back in the Day: a man swears an oath in front of millions on a day few thought they would ever see. That’s next week in Back in the Day.