• As Professor Tim Flannery enters his year of duties as Australian of the Year, Prime Minister John Howard unveils a courageous plan to revive the Murray-Darling river system. The $10 billion plan would see the Federal Government take control of the maintenance of the two rivers from the affected states (Victoria, NSW and South Australia), buy back the rights to water owned by farmers and irrigators and pump that water back into the river system. There is cautious support from the state Premiers, as Malcolm Turnbull is handed the task of bringing the plan to fruition as the new Minister for Environment and Water Resources.
• A notable day for justice in Queensland as an independent inquiry headed by former NSW Chief Justice Sir Lawrence Street recommends that manslaughter charges be laid against a police officer in relation to the death in custody of an Indigenous man on Palm Island in 2004. As Queensland’s police union prepares a campaign of protest, Premier Peter Beattie defies calls on him to sack the Director of Public Prosecutions, who had decided to drop her investigation the previous November.
• The Northern Ireland peace process take another major step forward with Sinn Fein agreeing to recognise the status of law and order agencies in the troubled province. Hope is growing that a power-sharing agreement may be in place by the time of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s formal retirement from office in June.
• The Australian Open tennis comes to its climax at Flinders Park in Melbourne. The women’s singles final sees an unseeded Serena Williams eviscerate Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-2 in the most lop-sided final in over a decade. The following day, Roger Federer claims the men’s singles title with a thumping 7-6 6-4 6-4 victory over Fernando Gonzalez. It is Federer’s tenth Grand Slam singles title and during the two weeks of the tournament he did not lose a single set.
• The notable deaths of the week included former Wallaby captain and ABC broadcaster Trevor Allan (at the age of 80), former U.S. Congressman and priest Robert F. Drianan (at the age of 86) and novelist, screenwriter and creator of legendary TV programs such as I Dream of Jeannie and Hart to Hart Sidney Shelton (at the age of 89).
• Irreplaceable, Grace Kelly and Lips of an Angel sat atop the pop music charts.
Two small items of basketball news:
• The Perth Wildcats announce that Ricky Grace’s No. 15 jersey will be retired in a ceremony held before their final home game on February 11. Grace becomes the fifth Wildcat to receive such an honour behind Scott Fenton, Mike Ellis, James Crawford and Andrew Vlahov.
• Lauren Jackson spends her Australia Day at the Australian Embassy in Seoul, helping to promote trade ties between Australia and South Korea. Her WKBL team, Yongin Bichumi, is in mid-table after six matches. It was clear that expectations were high on Jackson’s arrival: The Korea Times printed the headline “Lauren Jackson fails to impress” after she produced 22 points and 10 rebounds.
NBL Round 19, WNBL Round 17
Friday 26 January 2007
WNBL Game One: Sydney Uni Flames @Canberra Capitals
Final score: Flames 77-Capitals 52
There was more spice than usual to this traditional rivalry match. At stake was the minor premiership and home-court advantage through the play-offs. The contest was also expected to be a preview of the Grand Final, to be held in three weeks.
In what turned out to be a tough and physical encounter, Canberra suffered an early setback when veteran Kellie Abrams received an elbow to her lip that forced her from the court. Sydney piled on the physicality and Canberra shot only 30 per cent from the field in the first half. A 38-23 half-time lead would be more than enough as the Flames extended their record at the A.I.S Arena to 9-3. Michelle Musselwhite led all scorers with 25 points as Sydney cemented top spot and a home semi-final.
Saturday 27 January 2007
NBL Game One: Brisbane Bullets @Adelaide 36ers
Final score: Bullets 131-36ers 99
Any concerns that the ladder-leading Bullets would simply coast into the play-offs were snuffed out by half-time in this match. Brisbane led 66-51, shot 16/16 from the free-throw line and warhorse Mark Bradtke, in his final visit to Adelaide as a player, racked up 15 points in 11 minutes. From there, it became embarrassing as “arguably the worst defensive unit Adelaide has put on an NBL court in its 25 year history” allowed the Bullets to run riot in the paint. Dusty Rychart poured in 31 points and 10 rebounds as Ebi Ere and Bradtke added 25 and 20 respectively. It was Adelaide’s fifth loss in a row and for Coach Phil Smyth the days of “Title Town” seemed a long way away.
Milestone Alert: Adelaide’s Lanard Copeland plays his 500th NBL game, becoming only the eighth man to reach that plateau. Adelaide’s David Cooper plays his 200th NBL game
NBL Game Two: Singapore Slingers @Melbourne Tigers
Final score: Tigers 125-Slingers 114
The Slingers started off in a hurry, scoring the first eight points before Al Westover had a chance to sit down. From then on, the Tigers took control and held Singapore at bay. Chris Anstey deployed some MVP-calibre numbers (33 points, 12 rebounds) with the Slingers’ Ben Knight almost matching him in a great duel (33 points, nine rebounds). Unfortunately for the visitors, in the words of their coach Gordie McLeod “You can’t give a team like the Tigers so many turnovers.” With their sixth straight win, Melbourne’s title defence was starting to pick up steam as they headed north to face the old enemy.
NBL Game Three: New Zealand Breakers @Wollongong Hawks
Final score: Breakers 99-Hawks 80
The Breakers won only their second road game of the season and dented Wollongong’s chances of collapsing into the eighth and final play-off spot. Carlos Powell tore the home side to shreds with 33 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a stand-out display. The game was decided in the second quarter which New Zealand won by 35-11. The Hawks hit only 11 field goals in the first half while committing nine turnovers. Wollongong interim head coach Eric Cooks and his squad had now lost their last four games and needed a miracle (and a few useful results) to delay their end of season trip.
NBL Game Four: Townsville Crocodiles @Cairns Taipans
Final score: Crocodiles 93-Taipans 92 (OT)
Townsville comes from behind to sneak a victory against their North Queensland rivals. Martin Cattalini produces one of the best efforts of his career in scoring 34 points for the Taipans, while Larry Abney puts 27 on the board for the Crocs. With the victory, Townsville ends a three-game losing skid and now have a slight chance of escaping the first set of elimination finals and reaching the top four.
WNBL Game Two: Dandenong Rangers @Adelaide Lightning
Final score: Rangers 72-Lightning 69
Having comfortably defeated Perth the previous Thursday, Dandenong was now in control of its own destiny. Win and they were in the play-offs: Lose and their post-season function could be moved up a week. Gary Fox’s “great group of girls” got off to a slow start with Adelaide taking a 20-14 lead at the first change. Then Shelley Hammonds exploded for 12 of her 17 points in the second term and all was set fair for the Rangers. The Lightning, struggling to recover from the loss of their inspirational leader Erin Phillips to a serious knee injury the previous week, seemed lost. With 5:17 remaining Emily McInerny made the lead 71-57 with a three-point play.
Then Adelaide took the game back by ripping off a 12-0 run so that with 1:48 to go the lead was 71-69. After a couple of missed shots by the Rangers, the Lightning’s Cherie Smith was called for travelling, a decision which drew the ire of both their fans and the local media. Dandenong then steadied and having won five of their last six would face Adelaide again the following week.
WNBL Game Three: Canberra Capitals @Townsville Fire
Final score: Fire 92-Caps 73
This game turned out to be irrelevant with the thriller in Adelaide. With that in mind, Capitals coach Carrie Graf took the opportunity to run her bench through the game and get some practice in before the Major Semi-Final. Rohanee Cox’s 27 points ensured that Claudia Brassard was sent out a winner (Brassard finished with 14 points). Canberra shot a far better percentage than they had against Sydney Uni (48 per cent).
Milestone Alert: Kellie Abrams becomes the longest-serving Capital player, playing her 178th game for the club. She passes Eleanor Sharp and Kate Patterson who each played 177 matches for Canberra. Claudia Brassard, Townsville’s captain, retires after playing 106 games for the Fire.
Sunday 28 January 2007
NBL Game Five: Melbourne Tigers @Sydney Kings
Final score: Kings 82-Tigers 81
In what was termed “a major boost for the stuttering Kings”, Sydney led from wire-to-wire against a tough Tigers line-up playing their third game in five days. After leading by as many as 16 in the second quarter the Kings had to fight off a determined Tigers fight back to gain the victory. In the final Grand Final re-match of the season, there was some niggle; the teams had to be separated late in the second quarter.
NBL Game Six: South Dragons @Perth Wildcats
Final score: Wildcats 100-Dragons 98
The traditionally fiery atmosphere inside Challenge Stadium was added to before the game when the air-conditioning failed. With Perth suffering through a brain-frying 40 degree day outside the building, little imagination is needed as to how it felt inside. Despite the conditions the two teams put on a hell of a battle which was not decided until Shane Heal’s game winning three-point shot clanged off iron with one second remaining to play. The Wildcats had now won their last six matches and were the only team who seemingly had a prayer of stopping the Bullets.
WNBL Game Four: A.I.S @Bulleen Boomers
Final score: Boomers 74-A.I.S 64
With their hopes of play-off basketball crushed the previous evening, Bulleen showed a great deal of professionalism to complete their season and efficiently dispatch the A.I.S at The Veneto Club. A “MVP calibre performance” by Hollie Grima of 22 points and 11 rebounds brought little consolation to a team that had worked so hard and come so close to the brass ring. When asked how the team felt, Bulleen veteran Desiree Glaubitz had a one word response: “Shattered.”
Top Eight: Bottom Four:
Brisbane (24-5) Wollongong (10-19)
Perth (22-7) New Zealand (10-19)
Melbourne (22-8) Adelaide (10-19)
Sydney (18-12) West Sydney (4-25)
WNBL Ladder (at end of regular season)
Top Four: Bottom Four:
Sydney Uni (16-5) Bulleen (12-9)
Canberra (15-6) Townsville (10-11)
Adelaide (15-6) Perth (3-18)
Dandenong (12-9*) A.I.S (1-20)
*Reached play-offs by virtue of 2-1 record in head-to-head clashes.
Finals schedule: February 2 2007
Major Semi-Final: Canberra Capitals @Sydney Uni Flames-Winner to Grand Final: Loser to Preliminary Final
Minor Semi-Final: Dandenong Rangers @Adelaide Lightning-Winner to Preliminary Final: Loser is eliminated.
Next week, in Back in the Day: there is change in the air in Canada. In Washington, tans from a bottle are now in style while in Detroit, a man with a big chin shows his best cheesy grin. That’s all happening next week in Back in the Day.
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 Nicholas.Way@Basketball.net.au and put in the subject line ‘Back in the Day.’