Back in the Day: Thanks to the fallen

Back in the Day: Thanks to the fallen

This week, after a week on the Eye of Orion for Easter, the BA time machine touches down in May of 1985...

-The grumbles within the Hawke Government on the issue of tax reform grow louder by the hour with the Left faction indicating that they won’t support the introduction of a consumption tax. There is also griping about the actions of Treasurer Paul Keating and Labor powerbroker Senator Graham Richardson in presenting the passage of a consumption tax as “a done deal.”

-A G7 Leaders summit in the West German capital of Bonn is overshadowed by a debate over President Reagan’s plans to visit a cemetery in Bitburg where the bodies of 42 members of the Waffen-SS are buried. To mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe in this fashion would later be seen as the first in a series of almost catastrophic blunders that affected Reagan’s second term in office.

-Media baron Rupert Murdoch declares his willingness to take up U.S. citizenship after purchasing seven television stations that will eventually form the foundation for the Fox television network. Murdoch also says that News Corporation will remain “basically an Australian company.”

-Close to 15,000 protestors march through New Zealand’s capital Wellington to protest the New Zealand Rugby Football Union’s decision to send an All Black team to South Africa in 1985. The decision was taken against the express wishes of David Lange’s Labour Government with its members said to be privately fuming at the decision.

-On the theme of sporting links with South Africa, the Australian Cricket Board takes legal action against seven of its contracted players to prevent them from taking part in a “rebel” tour of the Republic. The storm surrounding this tour eclipses the progress of Allan Border’s first touring party to England.

-History is made in the VFL with Collingwood player John Bourke receiving one of the heftiest suspensions in the sport’s history. Bourke is barred from all forms of the game for a period of 10 years and eight weeks after being charged with firstly kicking an opposition player then attacking a field umpire.

-“Australia Day at Wembley” was the headline in Rugby League Week following the 50th Rugby League Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium. Wigan and Hull played out a ten-try thriller that had the record crowd of 99,801 out of their seats from the first whistle to the last. Parramatta’s Brett Kenny led his Wigan team to a 28-24 victory while claiming the Lance Todd Trophy as the best afield.

-In English football, Everton claims the First Division title for the first time in 15 years with a 2-0 win over Queen’s Park Rangers at Goodison Park. Having gone undefeated in their last 27 matches (only four of them draws), Howard Kendall’s charges continue on their march towards an historic treble (alongside the F.A. Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup).

-Spend a Buck creates history in winning the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of American horse-racing’s “Triple Crown”. The winning margin of five and a half lengths is the biggest since 1946 and the time of 2:00.02 is the third fastest Derby ever run (behind Secretariat in 1973 and Northern Dancer in 1964).

-Notable deaths during the week included former Foreign Minister Sir Percy Spender (at the age of 87) and prolific novelist Allan Yates, better known as ‘Carter Brown’ (at the age of 61).

-“We Are the World”, “Move Closer” and “One Night in Bangkok” were making the music charts sway.

Two short notes on some basketball news:

*Three teams punch their tickets for the NBA Conference Finals: Los Angeles and Denver will run and gun in the West while Philadelphia awaits the winner of the Boston/Detroit semi-final in the East.

*A 17 member Opals squad for the Oceania championship series is announced. Six new or returning players are named alongside the 1984 Olympic team: Bankstown’s Maree White, Nunawading’s Karen Ogden and Lyn Palmer, Coburg’s Paula Hetengi, St. Kilda’s Marissa Rowe and West Adelaide’s Tracey Scrutton.

Friday 3rd May 1985

NBL Game One: Bankstown Bruins @Perth Wildcats

Final score: Wildcats 112-Bruins 94

The Wildcats continued their surprising start to the season with a thumping home victory over a Bankstown squad that had defeated Coburg the previous week. The battle between Perth’s Dan Hickert (who finished with 40 points) and the Bruins’ gun forward Vince Hinchen (who finished with 33 points) was reckoned to be worth the price of admission alone. It was not all glad tidings for the home side, with both Roland Brooks and Adam Brennan suffering injuries that forced them out of the contest in its early stages.

NBL Game Two: Newcastle Falcons @Hobart Tassie Devils

Final score: Falcons 93-Devils 89

The Falcons began their first long distance road-trip of the season by trekking to the Kingborough Stadium and its 1600 rabid Devils fans. Coming off a victory over St. Kilda the previous week, Hobart showed great spirit and were within a point with a minute to play. As import Ollie Johnson broke away for the dunk that would have given the Devils the lead, the referee spotted a back-court foul and awarded two free-throws to Newcastle. Michael Johnson (reckoned to be the game’s MVP with 31 points and eight rebounds) stepped up to the line and sunk a free-throw before anyone noticed that in fact it was Ian Robilliard who had been fouled. After several seconds of dithering, Robilliard was sent to the line and sunk the two shots that iced the game for the visitors.

NBL Game Three: Canberra Cannons @Coburg Giants

Final score: Cannons 114-Giants 106

The Cannons and Giants had last met in the previous year’s semi-final where a then NBL record crowd of 5426 had packed The Palace to see Canberra come out winners 108-107. There was also excitement about the clash between the two tallest Australians in the NBL: Coburg’s 208 cm tower Ray Borner against the 217 cm Cannons colossus Andy Campbell.

In the end, the game was not really a contest. After leading 61-45 at the half and by as many as 21 in the third term, Canberra coasted to victory in the knowledge that they had two more games that weekend. Borner garnered a game-high 36 points while Mark Dalton led the winners’ scoresheet with 26 points.

NBL Game Four: Brisbane Bullets @Sydney Supersonics

Final score: Bullets 125-Supersonics 97

Despite being twenty minutes late for the game after getting lost on their way to the State Sports Centre, Brisbane’s team play hummed like a newly-completed Swiss watch as they squashed the Supersonics’ three-game winning streak. Cal Bruton proved that he was a better ball handler than bus driver, leading all scorers with 43 points. Kendall ‘Tiny’ Pinder, Sydney’s dangerous inside threat, was well held by Audie Matthews with Pinder scoring 16 of his 28 points in garbage time.

WNBL Game One: Noarlunga Tigers @ A.I.S

Final score: Tigers 94-A.I.S 72

The 1984 Australian Club Champions easily accounted for the Students despite arriving in the nation’s capital only 90 minutes before tip-off.

Saturday 4th May 1985

NBL Game Five: Bankstown Bruins @Adelaide 36ers

Final score: 36ers 117-Bruins 110

This game is one of the most important in the history of the 36ers: on this night Mark Davis pulled on an Adelaide uniform for the first of 482 times. Befitting his future title of “Chairman of the Boards”, Davis led the 36ers with 14 rebounds along with 32 points. Despite Davis’ heroics the home side had to scramble to victory, leading by only four points with a minute to play. This result gives your correspondent an opportunity to make an entry in the competition for the best quote about the recently-retired Bill Mildenhall. It seems that the previous week Adelaide coach Ken Cole, becoming increasingly frustrated at the standard of Mildenhall’s work, reportedly said “I know you look like Harpo Marx but you don’t have to referee like him!” On seeing this item, your correspondent’s response was “Mildenhall had curly hair?!”

NBL Game Six:
Canberra Cannons @Geelong Cats

Final score: Cannons 89-Cats 87

A Phil Smyth lay-up with two seconds remaining saved Canberra from what would have been an embarrassing loss. The Cannons had gotten off to a flyer with “The General” scoring 11 of his 21 points in the opening term. By three quarter time Canberra had a 75-63 lead but had to weather a determined charge by the Cats. Geelong’s Wayne McDaniel led all scorers with 26 points while Brad Dalton garnered 18 as well as numerous rebounds. The loss knocked Geelong out of the top six.

NBL Game Seven: Newcastle Falcons @Nunawading Spectres

Final score: Falcons 107-Spectres 89

This match, originally a Nunawading home game, was moved to Albert Park Stadium in order to meet the lighting requirements for television. Ian Davies continued to mine a rich vein of form, finishing with a game-high of 28 points. Simon Cottrell was the best for the Spectres with 24 points. The Falcons’ torture trail continued with a journey to Swan Hill in an ancestor to the ‘Takin’ it to the Streets’ promotion.

NBL Game Eight: Melbourne Tigers @Brisbane Bullets

Final score: Bullets 117-Tigers 71

With a 19 year old Andrew Gaze missing the game with a broken bone in his foot, Melbourne was no match for a Bullets team that had recovered from a slow start to the season and were playing again like championship contenders. Leroy Loggins led Brisbane’s scoresheet with 27 points as the team shot 48/82 (59%) from the field. This was the last Bullets home game to be played at Auchenflower Stadium: a new court worth $55,000 was being laid at Chandler Arena in time for the Grand Final re-match against the Cannons the following week.

WNBL Game Two: Bulleen Boomers @Nunawading Spectres

Final score: Spectres 89-Boomers 45

WNBL Game Three: Noarlunga Tigers @Bankstown Bruins

Final score: Tigers 88-Bruins 65

After leading 49-26 at half-time, Noarlunga coasted to an easy victory.

Sunday 5th May 1985

NBL Game Nine: Canberra Cannons @Melbourne Tigers

Final score: Cannons 76-Tigers 68

Playing their third match of the weekend, Canberra struggled to find the energy to overcome a Tigers outfit that had nothing to lose. They led by as many as 13 in the third quarter until the Cannons drew on their championship spirit and fought their way back into the contest. With Andrew Gaze missing from their line-up, Melbourne’s offense centred around import Eric Bailey who jacked up 33 shots  in scoring his game-high 33 points. Dave Nelson’s first basket with 2:00 remaining gave Canberra a lead they would never lose and completed a stunning weekend of success. It got no easier for the defending champions with the Illawarra/Brisbane road trip next on their itinerary.

Milestone Alert: This was the Cannons’ first ever win at the old Albert Park Stadium.

NBL Game Ten: Newcastle Falcons @St. Kilda Saints

Final score: Saints 130-Falcons 129

A sold-out Swan Hill Basketball Stadium saw veteran Mike Slusher throw up a desperation shot with two seconds remaining that stole the game for the Saints. Newcastle’s Ian Davies was without any doubt the MVP of this match finishing with 47 points while shooting 13/22 from three-point range. Peter Wain led St. Kilda with 30 points as they captured only their second win of the season.

Milestone Alert: Ian Davies’ 13 three-pointers remains an NBL record for most 3-pt field goals by a player in one game.

NBL Ladder

Top Six:                                  Bottom Eight:

Perth (4-1)                              Adelaide (4-3)
Canberra (6-2)                       Geelong (3-3)
Coburg (5-2)                          Sydney (3-3)

Newcastle (4-2)                     St. Kilda (2-4)
Brisbane (5-3)                        Hobart (1-3)
Nunawading (3-2)                  Illawarra (1-3)  
                                              Bankstown (1-4)
                                              Melbourne (0-7)

Positions on the ladder were then determined by winning percentage. Illawarra had the bye.

FYI, at the same point of the 1984 season, 31,985 people (an average of 969 spectators) had attended NBL games. In 1985, the aggregate total had jumped to 53,929 people (an average of 1685 spectators) with one less game played.

Next week, Back in the Day takes in the view of May 1986.

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.’