Back in the Day: Running on Empty

Back in the Day: Running on Empty

This week, the BA time machine has set down in March of 1980...

-The nation’s airports and road transport systems are slowly grinding to a halt as a strike by petrol tanker drivers in New South Wales sees fuel rationing introduced in several states. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser states that he is determined to uphold the law and will, if necessary, use the powers within Section 45D of the Trade Practices Act, which allow for the imprisonment of union members who engage in secondary boycotts. Despite a deal eventually being negotiated, political leaders across the aisle call for an end to the industrial anarchy that appears to be racking the country.

- Hopes for the release of 52 American hostages held in Iran by militants loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini are dashed when it is announced that the hostages’ fate will be decided by the as-yet unnamed parliament. The announcement by the Ayatollah squashes a possible deal between the United States, the United Nations and government ministers.

- There is some good news for President Carter: his efforts to seek re-election are progressing well as he sweeps three southern primaries, putting further pressure on his arch-rival Senator Edward Kennedy. On the Republican side victory in the South Carolina primary makes it increasingly clear that former California Governor Ronald Reagan is the favourite to win the party’s nomination for President.

- It is the end of an era in the political history of Papua New Guinea as Prime Minister Michael Somare loses a no-confidence motion and is forced to hand over power to Sir Julius Chan. Somare had been in power since his nation was granted self-rule by the Whitlam Government in 1973 as a step towards full independence in 1975.

- The city of Melbourne comes to a standstill for the 26th annual Moomba parade down Swanston Street. Over 100 floats take part in the parade, led by the ‘King of Moomba’ Paul Cronin.

- From the crime files: Dr. Herman Tarnower, author of a best-selling book on the so-called “Scarsdale Diet” is found dead in his New York home with four bullet wounds. When police arrive at the scene, they find a woman sitting in her car, holding a handgun. After being questioned by detectives, 56 year old Jean Harris is charged with Dr. Tarnower’s murder.

- Victoria wins its second successive Sheffield Shield, sealing the achievement by defeating South Australia at the Adelaide Oval by 83 runs. Spinner Jim Higgs is the main destroyer taking 6/53 in South Australia’s second innings. It completes a remarkable domestic campaign for the Victorians and their captain Graham Yallop, having already won the domestic one-day cup earlier in the season.

- Notable deaths during the week included Jay Anson (author of the book The Amityville Horror) at the age of 58 and Nettie Rosenstein (American fashion designer and populariser of ‘the little black dress) at the age of 90.
-“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “Atomic” and “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” sat atop the music charts.

With a successful first season in the books (with the Grand Final broadcast across the nation on the ABC), the NBL decided to expand its horizons for the 1980 season. After winning only three games in 1979, Glenelg was dropped and replaced by the West Torrens Eagles to maintain South Australia’s two team representation. Coburg accepted an invitation to join the competition, becoming Victoria’s third team alongside St. Kilda and Nunawading. Finally, Tasmania had its first team in the NBL with the Launceston Casino City Tigers joining the battle for the NBL title.

Another new wrinkle was that instead of a one-off Grand Final between the top two sides, there would now be a “Final Four” weekend. This would include two semi-finals (1-4 and 2-3) a 3rd-4th playoff and a Grand Final. It was announced prior to the start of the season that Launceston would be the host city for the NBL Final Four, to be held in June. With all that knowledge in mind, we join the competition in progress...

Saturday 8th March 1980
NBL Game One:
Canberra Cannons @St. Kilda Saints
Final score: Saints 109-Cannons 68
This re-match of the 1979 Grand Final (a fixture to be reviewed later in 2011) was another opportunity for Melbourne’s basketball community to catch a glimpse of St. Kilda’s new wunderkind Rocky Smith. Originally from Oregon State University (where he was named to the Pac-8 First Team in 1977) Smith had led the Beavers in scoring in his final two seasons. Only six weeks after having arrived in Australia, Smith was the talk of the basketball community, averaging over thirty points per game and drawing awed comparisons to legendary shooters such as Eddie Palubinskas. Earlier that week, St. Kilda had slaughtered Frankston 118-93 to win the VBA summer league with Smith pouring in 39 points.
The Cannons, hoping to defeat their arch-nemesis, didn’t get within a bull’s roar as the Saints continued their march towards back to back titles. Despite Herb McEachin’s 27 points, Canberra lost their fourth straight games to the Saints.
NBL Game Two: Brisbane Bullets @Launceston Casino City Tigers
Final score: Bullets 99-Tigers 81
Launceston, looking to bounce back after an 84-65 shellacking at the hands of West Adelaide the previous week, competed for a half with the Bullets before falling away. Brisbane’s new import Brian Banks led all scorers with 26 points while Ian Davies, who had missed the Bearcats game due to a Boomers camp, led the home side with 24 points.

NBL Game Three: City of Sydney Astronauts @West Adelaide Bearcats
Final score: Bearcats 93-Astronauts 71
West Adelaide continued on its merry way, comfortably accounting for the Astronauts despite a disrupted preparation. Dale Eineder’s transfer to a Sydney club had finally passed muster while three-time Woollacott Medallist Werner Linde reportedly walked out on the club in disappointment at the lack of playing time that he was receiving. Rick Hodges led all scorers with 25 points for the Bearcats who were now looking to make an impact on the national stage having won six of the last 10 Adelaide District premierships.

NBL Game Four: Newcastle Falcons @Illawarra Hawks
Final score: Hawks 101-Falcons 98
In another edition of the ‘Steel City Derby’ the Hawks had the ‘Snakepit’ rocking, coming back from fifteen points down to steal the victory. Newcastle led 62-53 at half time before falling away in the latter stages of the contest. The Falcons were in a unique position having seven American-born players on their roster, fuelling complaints that local Hunter juniors simply didn’t have a chance to compete at the elite level.  Jim Slacke and Gordie McLeod led the home side, each scoring 22 points in a balanced attack. For the visitors, both Dave Cook and Carl Whitfield scored 27 points.
Sunday 9th March 1980

NBL Game Five: Brisbane Bullets @Nunawading Spectres
Final score: Spectres 58-Bullets 56
Reports on this match-up are scanty at best but having almost scored a century of points the previous night, it is a surprise to see Brisbane fall short of scoring 60. Perhaps Spectres coach Barry Barnes ran the ‘four corners’ offense so beloved by college coaches in the U.S. at this time, combining it with a stifling and tenacious defence. In any case, Andrew Kirkup led Nunawading on the score-sheet with 18 points and was ably supported by Gary Fox’s 15. Dan Hickert and Brian Banks each scored 16 points for the Bullets, leaving the rest of the team to produce a miserly 23.

NBL Game Six: Newcastle Falcons @Bankstown Bruins
Final score: Bruins 105-Falcons 95
In a traditional rivalry match between two of the most powerful clubs in NSW, it was the Bruins who captured the vital victory that kept their hopes of a place in the Final Four alive and put Newcastle under some threat. Rick Fried led all scorers with 30 points for Bankstown with Carl Whitfield again starring for the Falcons with 27.

NBL Game Seven: City of Sydney Astronauts @West Torrens Eagles
Final score: Astronauts 72-Eagles 70
In a hard-fought slog between the league’s two worst-performed teams, the Astronauts gained a rare victory for visiting teams in the Apollo Stadium. For Sydney, it was a further boost to their confidence having overcome Coburg at Alexandria Stadium the previous week. The Astronauts’ gun player David Leslie was the MVP with 28 points while 1980 Woollacott Medallist Mark Lampshire could only produce 15 points on this occasion. Sydney centre Brad Dalton was also mentioned in dispatches with his rebounding and generation of fast break points considered worthy of praise.

NBL Game Eight: Canberra Cannons @Coburg Giants
Final score: Cannons 73-Giants 58
It was also a split weekend for the Cannons as they comfortably overcame a Giants team with whom they would have some torrid clashes later in the decade. Herb McEachin drew the attention of the critics with his 30 point display. It would not be the last time that the bite of the ‘Snake’ would be fatal to the Giants.

A note about the ladder below: the research for this week’s column failed to find a correct ladder printed in the nation’s newspapers. Therefore, an approximation based on various clues has been produced below. If a more accurate ladder is found during the coming weeks, it will be included in the column.

NBL Ladder
Top Four:                                                                              Bottom Eight:

St. Kilda                             7 and 1                                       Brisbane                                     6 and 3
Illawarra                           7 and 2                                       Nunawading                               6 and 4
Canberra                          7 and 3                                       Newcastle                                   5 and 5
West Adelaide                 7 and 3                                       Bankstown                                 4 and 5
                                                                                               Coburg                                        3 and 6
                                                                                               Launceston                                 2 and 6
                                                                                               West Torrens                             2 and 6
                                                                                               City of Sydney                            2 and 7

1980 Rosters:
Bankstown: Robbie Cadee, Darrell Corcoran, Ray Dawson, Laurie Dent, Warren Fenton, Rick Fried, Greg Hemmings, Peter Lopez, Joe Manley, Alan Morris, Michael Rees, Mark Ryan, Peter Ryan, Dick Stubbs.
Brisbane: Brian Banks, Cal Bruton, James Carr, Bruce Fitzgerald, Barry Freeman, Tom Gerhardt, Neil Goldfinch, Michael Haddow, Dan Hickert, Steve Langley, Mark McGowan, Chris McGraw, Warwick Meehl, Bruce Munro, Albert Navruk, Grant Simmons, Colin Varian.
Canberra: Garry Ball, Neil Burton, Tim Clarke, Ian Ellis, Nick Gasgoigne, Les Hurst, Jerry Lee, Bernie Maher, Herb McEachin, Phil Morgan, John Ophel, Tom Pirman, Neil Richardson, Cal Stamp, Gary Upton.
City of Sydney: Ian Andrews, Peter Buchanan, Brad Dalton, Peter Donnelly, Mark Gledson, Keith Hart, Chris Jones, David Leslie, Hugh Morris, Lindsay Palmer, Ian Robilliard, Glen Ryan, Larry Shutes, Len Solman.
Coburg: Billy Anderson, Barry Bird, Peter Blight, Wayne Carroll, Paul Franke, Bob Hillman, Mark Holland, Terry Kealey, Tony Marcucci, Charley Palmer, Les Riddle, Paul Sporton, Ray Tomlinson, Mark Warke.
Illawarra: Ian Bartholomew, Kevin Becker, Darren Cooney, Paul Hamer, Ray Hannett, Ted Holcolm, Bob Kubbinga, Gordie McLeod, Tom Pottinger, Jim Slacke, Ron Smith, Oliver Tams, Jim Williams.
Launceston: Andrew Clements, Curtis Coleman, Nigel Cummins, Ian Davies, Jim Ericksen, Mark Fry, Daryl Garner, Cliff Martin, Trevor Mathew, Mike Parsons, Creighton Roberts, Craig Robson, Robbie Thompson, Alden Ulrich.
Newcastle: Dave Ankeney, Dave Cook, Larry Davidson, Stephen Dick, Dean Donnollon, Graham Fardell, Dale Jordan, Bill Pardo, Graeme Potts, Dan Riley, Bob Turner, Ron van dar Jact, Carl Whitfield.
Nunawading: Greg Anderson, Alan Black, Kevin Boyd, John Cichowitz, Gary Fox, Teddy Graham, Brent Hayward, Brendan Joyce, Damian Keogh, Andrew Kirkup, Bill Palmer, Warren Pink, Robert Scrigni, Peter Stacker, Charlie Van Bakel, George Wilson.
St. Kilda: Tony Barnett, Steve Breheny, Ken Burbridge, Santo Chirico, Gary Favero, Clyde Hilliard, Bill McGee, Alan Mikkor, Danny Morseu, Uwe Oeser, Larry Sengstock, Mike Slusher, Rocky Smith, Dean Templeton, Gary Voss, Daryl West, Bruce Woodyard.
West Adelaide: Peter Ali, Peter Dawe, Dale Eineder, Richard Galezonski, Rick Hodges, Werner Linde, Trevor Maddiford, Greg Mules, Ken Richardson, Geoff Schaedel, Peter Spry, Jo Theil, Ray Wood.
West Torrens: Dennis Curran, Ken Edick, Ian Grigg, Laurie Harcus, Peter Hart, Scott Hillaker, Alan Hughes, Mark Lampshire, Albert Leslie, Arthur Newley, Chris Skinner, Chris Stirling, Erik Vaaler.

Next week in 'Back in the Day': the spring of 1981

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.’