Back in the Day: Business end of 1994

Back in the Day: Business end of 1994

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).

2012-13 Pre-Season Week Two: Take Me Out to the Pickets

  • In an embarrassing security breach for the U.S Secret service, a light aircraft slams into the south lawn of the White House, only metres away from President Clinton’s regular sleeping quarters. The pilot at the controls of the Cessna 150 is later identified as Frank Eugene Corder who reportedly had a history of mental illness. Fortunately the President and his family were sleeping elsewhere at the time.
  • President Clinton achieves a notable legislative victory as he signs a bill banning the manufacture of new assault weapons with certain features until 2004. The bill itself was heavily criticised by Clinton’s Republican opponents and the National Rifle Association. The NRA pledges to unleash a veritable tsunami of cash against those who voted in favour of the bill at the upcoming mid-term elections.
  • Attention soon turns to the Caribbean island nation of Haiti where two U.S. aircraft are sitting off the coast in preparation for a possible invasion. The avowed reason for the military action is the return to power of Jean-Bertrand Aristide who had been forced into exile following a military coup three years earlier. Opinion polls taken in the United States say that 73% of respondents want there to be no military action at all.
  • A federal court in Spain rules that Australian businessman and accused thief and scoundrel Christopher Skase must be extradited back to his homeland within thirty days. In recognition of Skase’s claimed illness the court also finds that he must return home by sea with full medical treatment throughout the journey. Speaking on behalf of Skase’s family, son-in-law Tony Larkins confirms that the former chairman of Quintex will be appealing the decision.
  • A political era comes to an end as former Leader of the Opposition Andrew Peacock announces that he will be quitting politics at the earliest possible opportunity. Much of the punditry following Peacock’s announcement speaks of a talent wasted: having entered Parliament at the age of 26, Peacock was never able to grab the brass ring. An all-out contest to replace Peacock as the member for the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Kooyong soon gets underway with Victorian powerbroker Michael Kroger seen as the logical choice by party elders.
  • The issue of independence for Quebec once again moves to the forefront of Canadian political debate after the Parti Quebecois win a handsome victory in provincial elections. The PQ’s leader Jacques Parizeau confirms that legislation on a referendum on the question whether his province should remain within Canada or not will be heading his government’s program when it faces the Lower House.
  • In a sign of progress in the nascent movement towards a final peace in Northern Ireland, the British Government lifts its ban on the use of the voices of Republican and Loyalist paramilitary leaders on television. Coming a fortnight after the Provisional Irish Republican Army had formally declared a ceasefire it now means that statements from people like Gerry Adams will be heard in their own voice and not as performed by an actor.
  • Channel Nine’s Sunday program alleges that several of ABC Television’s infotainment programs (such as The Home Show, Holiday and Great Ideas) have had stories paid for by various companies such as Telecom and Alcoa, in direct contravention of the Charter. Managing Director David Hill orders an immediate investigation into the matter in an attempt to prevent an inquiry by the Minister for Communications.
  • The sport of baseball suffers one of the most grievous blows in its history when acting Commissioner Allan ‘Bud’ Selig announces that the rest of the 1994 season will be cancelled. This means that there will be no World Series for the first time in exactly ninety years. It comes five weeks after the owners of the twenty-eight Major League teams voted to lock-out the players in a long running dispute over primarily the introduction of a so-called ‘hard’ salary cap.
  • Notable deaths during the week included the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper (at the age of 92), 70’s tennis heartthrob Vitas Gerulaitis (at the age of 40) and survivor of the Munich air disaster Johnny Berry (at the age of 68).
  • “Saturday Night”, “I’ll Make Love to You” and “Confide in Me” are the songs helping people take their minds off the worries of the day.

NBL Round Twenty-One, WNBL Grand Final
Friday 16th September 1994
NBL Game One: Hobart Devils @Canberra Cannons
Final score: Cannons 107-Devils 101

With both teams having fallen out of contention for the play-offs weeks before, there was little real interest in this contest. Leading by 56-55 at half-time the Cannons won the game with a 12-0 run to open the third quarter. Jason Reece had a fine game for the home side with 32 points (14 of them in the third term), nine rebounds six assists and three steals. A further positive for the Cannons that week was the announcement that The Canberra Times would remain the team’s naming rights partner in 1995.

NBL Game Two: Gold Coast Rollers @Adelaide Super Sixers
Final score: Super Sixers 104-Rollers 90

The Super Sixers (a moniker they dropped after the 1994 season) made it eight successive wins in a row at home by comfortably accounting for a Rollers outfit that just wanted the season to come to an end. Mark Davis stood out like an exploding star for Adelaide, scoring 40 points (on 14/21 from the field) and nine rebounds. In hitting put-backs and jump shots with ease, Davis harked back to the club’s glory days in the mid-80’s and gave hints that they may have been on the way back.
Milestone Alert: Gold Coast’s Matthew Reece scores his 1000th NBL point.

NBL Game Three: Newcastle Falcons @Sydney Kings
Final score: Kings 116-Falcons 94

Having won only two of their last five since the mid-season break Sydney desperately needed a win for some confidence going into the post-season. They achieved everything they had to: a thumping victory over a team desperate to ensure itself a play-off berth. It was a rough night for the Falcons: they not only lost the game but they looked to have lost their point guard and talisman Derek Rucker who had come off second-best in a collision with Kings enforcer Dean Uthoff early in the second quarter.
Milestone Alert: Sydney’s Leon Trimmingham breaks a club record for most points scored by a player in a single season (passing the total of 682 set by Dwayne McClain in 1991).

NBL Game Four: Melbourne Tigers @Geelong Supercats
Final score: Supercats 131-Tigers 115

It was from this clash that the NBL’s penultimate round started to take on aspects of The Twilight Zone. Melbourne, looking to seal up at least a share of the minor premiership, unaccountably got smacked around by a Geelong team that hadn’t been a play-off contender in three years. The frenzied atmosphere within The Arena obviously inspired the Supercats with their balanced attack yielding five players who scored over 20 points for the game

NBL Game Five: South East Melbourne Magic @Townsville Suns
Final score: Suns 108-Magic 107

If the loss by the Tigers was weird then Townsville squeaking by the Magic had all the experts throwing their form books into the recycling. The Suns, guided by guard Daryl Johnson, played a slow and steady offence that clearly flummoxed the Magic. When Cameron Dickenson hit the game-winning three-point shot with just two seconds left to play The Furnace had never seen such excitement! A win over Brisbane by Brian Goorjian’s men was now a must if they wanted home-court advantage for the first round of the play-offs.

Saturday 17th September 1994
NBL Game Six: Newcastle Falcons @Illawarra Hawks
Final score: Hawks 89-Falcons 87

The drama of the weekend continued at The Snakepit as Illawarra and Newcastle fought out one of the best Steel City Derby matches ever. Needing a victory to keep their faint play-off hopes alive the Hawks had the last possession with scores tied at 87-87. Illawarra’s Mick Corkeron had the ball for the in-bound pass. Corkeron gave an imperceptible nod to teammate Melvin Thomas and then threw the ball up towards the basket. Thomas leapt, grabbed the ball and slammed it down on Terry Dozier’s head for the winning score. The usually raucous Snakepit crowd was hysterical: their Hawks were alive!
Thomas had a mighty game: 34 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and one unforgettable game-winning shot. When asked whether Corkeron’s toss had been drawn up on the bench, Illawarra coach Alan Black could only shrug: “I would like to say it was a set play but Melvin and Mike got it done.”

NBL Game Seven: South East Melbourne Magic @Brisbane Bullets
Final score: Magic 116-Bullets 87

Having been shamed by the Suns the previous night, South East Melbourne were a very determined and angry basketball team as they entered the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. They turned the screws on the Bullets defensively with Darren Lucas drawing particular notice for his excellent work on Shane Heal. The Brisbane star scored only five points, succeeding in hitting only two field goals and was a non-factor in the game for the entire night.

NBL Game Eight: Gold Coast Rollers @Perth Wildcats
Final score: Wildcats 90-Rollers 76

With Perth cemented into sixth place on the ladder their coach Dr. Adrian Hurley decided that they would use this final game of the regular season as a practice session with a particular emphasis on improving their defensive structure. It was not as helpful as had been hoped with the Rollers not providing a particularly penetrative test on offence. Still, to hold a team to 26/70 (37%) from the field augured well for the Wildcats’ chances of a third NBL title.

WNBL Grand Final: Melbourne Tigers @Adelaide Lightning
Final score: Lightning 84-Tigers 77 (2OT)

It was the coach of the new WNBL champions, Jan Stirling, who summed up this game perfectly: “This is a game people will talk about for a long time.”The Lightning and Tigers had dominated the regular season, finishing first and second on the ladder. Their Major Semi-Final clash, won by Adelaide 84-82, had been regarded as an all-time classic. This was better. It had everything: great individual duels, two overtimes and a clutch Kristi Harrower three-pointer. What more could a fan ask for?
A crowd of over 5000 at Adelaide Arena and a nationwide television audience sat glued to their armchairs for the length of this epic battle. After tying at 63-63 at the end of regulation and 71-71 after one extra session the Lightning were only able to pull away thanks to the aforementioned Harrower three-pointer with less than two minutes to go. Rachael Sporn and Maryanne DiFrancesco played like All-Stars with Sporn’s 22 points and 15 rebounds (10 of them offensive) just edging out DiFrancesco’s 20 points and ten rebounds. Having been knocked out of the play-offs in two straight hits the previous year, Stirling and her charges gratefully partied into the wee small hours of the morning.

Sunday 18th September 1994
NBL Game Nine: Hobart Devils @North Melbourne Giants
Final score: Giants 119-Devils 88

“It was a fairly ordinary game all night”: the words of North Melbourne coach Brett Brown after his team was victorious in one of the dreariest games of the 1994 season. The Giants did what they needed to do and no more: Hobart was never going to challenge them. Their focus was on the following Friday night and a meeting with the Tigers to decide the minor premiership. The Devils’ import Keith Nelson achieved an unusual triple-double: 20 points, 14 rebounds and ten turnovers!

WNBL Award Winners:
Most Valuable Player: Shelley Gorman (Sydney Flames)
All Star Five: Sandy Brondello (Brisbane Blazers), Alison Cook (Melbourne Tigers), Gorman, Rachael Sporn (Adelaide Lightning) and Michelle Timms (Perth Breakers)
Youth Player of the Year: Maryanne DiFrancesco (Melbourne Tigers)
Top Shooter Award: Brondello and Gorman
Top Rebounder Award: Debbie Slimmon (Bulleen Melbourne Boomers)
Defensive Player of the Year: Robyn Maher (Sydney Flames)
Coach of the Year: Ray Tomlinson (Melbourne Tigers)

Next week in ‘Back to the Day’: the 36ers’ season almost goes to pot and the only replayed game in NBL history. There’s quite a tale to be told next week in ‘Back in the Day’.

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