Goals, behinds and fouls: Could AFL clubs have NBL teams?

mds1970 Roar Guru

By mds1970, mds1970 is a Roar Guru

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    With the National Basketball League looking to expand, speculation is circling that AFL clubs are looking to field teams in the competition.

    In Europe, it’s not unusual for a club to run teams in multiple sports.

    Powerhouse football clubs such as Barcelona, Panathinaikos and Bayern Munich also have teams in sports like basketball, handball and volleyball. Their substantial resources are available to other sports, who would otherwise struggle to access the same level of professional facilities.

    There are administrative synergies and cost-saving efficiencies as multiple sports are streamlined under a single structure. Facilities are utilised year-round and opportunities abound for cross-promotion.

    But it’s unusual in Australia at the elite level.

    Clubs, and entire leagues, often run footy and netball side by side under a single club and league structure, but that’s grassroots sport.

    Volunteers are hard to find, and this enables both sports to be run by a single committee. Sponsorship donations from local businesses can go twice as far and cover both men and women. And when the council finds some money to upgrade facilities, the two sports can work together as one instead of having a turf war.

    This year, the formation of Super Netball saw multi-sport clubs come into being, as Greater Western Sydney Giants and Collingwood fielded teams, while the Melbourne Storm were behind Sunshine Coast Lightning.

    Jo Harten in action for the Giants

    AAP Image/David Crosling

    The tyranny of distance may have prevented the Lightning from benefitting as much, but both Giants and Magpies netball were able to access the training facilities and fitness personnel of the AFL clubs – elite facilities far superior to what any netball team could ever have imagined before.

    Does it give them an advantage? Time will tell, but in the first season of Super Netball, all three teams aligned with other sports made the final four. Only one netball-only club did.

    And all were able to attract fans to their teams by promoting to footy members, who became netball fans. For GWS Giants it went both ways, as they promoted AFL to their netball members.

    Could basketball benefit?

    In the last couple of years, basketball has had a resurgence. Crowds are up, and the NBL is getting more publicity. Every game is televised on Fox, while SBS is taking two games a week live, and the ABC is doing another weekly game on delay.

    Just a couple of years ago, the only coverage was delayed on One. Teams were dying. But now the NBL has stablilised and is crying out for more teams.

    We’re only six weeks into the season, and already by this Thursday the Kings and Hawks will have played each other four times. Having so few teams makes the comp repetitive.

    But starting up new teams costs money, and who’s going to stump up the cash?

    Basketball is strong in Perth, with the Wildcats selling out Perth Arena on a regular basis. A second team, with a few local derbies, would grow that interest. Fremantle are keen.

    Melbourne United have recorded crowds far bigger than the Tigers were getting in their dying years. Melbourne have had multiple teams in seasons past, and Collingwood, and possibly other clubs, have an interest in filling the void.

    While basketball has had a resurgence across much of Australia, Sydney has missed out. The Kings remain stagnant, on and off the court. Is there an opening for a second Sydney team to build a rivalry and succeed where the Kings have failed? If there is, GWS would surely be interested.

    But it’s not going to work unless both sports within a club respect each other. And no poaching.

    Dean Brogan, who won an NBL championship with the Adelaide 36ers before switching to AFL and winning a flag with Port Adelaide, has warned AFL clubs that this isn’t going to work if the football team entices basketballers over to the AFL division.

    Players like Brogan and Hugh Greenwood, along with AFLW premiership captain Erin Phillips, have switched from AFL to basketball, while the likes of Jesse White and Craig Moller have gone the other way. But while AFL has often recruited ruckmen with a basketball background, if a club was to regularly raid their basketball team to produce footballers, it wouldn’t be a good look.

    There’s an opportunity. At this time of year, when AFL is out of season, this keeps the club running and becoming a year-round operation. The facilities, coaching and fitness staff, and other infrastructure are there for basketball teams to access.

    There’s a lot more basketball on TV than there was a few years ago, but ratings aren’t great.

    Getting AFL clubs involved has the potential to get their fans to tune in, delivering a substantial boost to the ratings, and thus dollars from TV rights.

    It hasn’t always worked. AFL investment in the old National Soccer League in the 1990s was a disaster. Collingwood lasted just one season, while Carlton were sold and then gone within a few years.

    It’s hard to imagine an AFL club fielding a team in the A-League. It happened in the NSL days, but that’s long gone. And while NBL boss Larry Kestelman is open to AFL investment in the NBL, I can’t imagine the FFA being so accommodating.

    And could it go beyond netball and basketball? Is this a way for a sport like European handball to get a foothold in Australia?

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • November 15th 2017 @ 10:49am
      Mattyb said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      I’ve always felt the NBL has suffered from what the ALeague suffers now,people have a lack of interest in a modern world because the competitions are second rate compared to other competitions around the world. People just aren’t really interested in the NBL because the NBA is available for people to watch and follow.
      Moving forward theoretically this is only going to be more so as the world continues to shrink,and as things become more of a virtual reality attending sport as we currently understand is going to significantly decline.

    • November 15th 2017 @ 12:18pm
      Paul said | November 15th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

      Nice article , valid points
      The birth of second nbl teams in melbourne and wa is imminent
      Collingwood have invested heavily in a state of the art facility right across the road
      Huge financial windfall when netball and nbl play at the tennis centre
      Can see a huge atmosphere and basketball being the big ticket item as all get hooked and passionate
      Can’t beat a professional indoor sport presentation
      With the assistance of the NBA and the influx of aussies in the league
      Win a Olympic medal or world champs watch out
      More games will be played against Nba teams
      No brainer

      • Roar Guru

        November 15th 2017 @ 6:53pm
        mds1970 said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

        Second Melbourne and Perth teams have a lot to recommend themselves. But they would need start-up capital and resources. The AFL clubs are cashed up.
        But could it work and benefit both AFL and basketball?

        • November 15th 2017 @ 10:40pm
          Mattyb said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:40pm | ! Report

          Most AFL clubs are financially supported by the league,especially the Victorian clubs and how many Vic NBL sides have folded in the last 25 years,most despite significant on court success.
          Both Perth football clubs seem financially stable but I’m unsure if going up against the Wildcats with a second side would be a wise financial decision.

          • Roar Guru

            November 16th 2017 @ 12:05pm
            Cat said | November 16th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

            Most supported by the AFL? No. Especially Victorian clubs? No, wrong again.

        • November 18th 2017 @ 12:27pm
          BigAl said | November 18th 2017 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

          How do you reach the conclusion that AFL clubs are “cashed up” ?

    • Roar Guru

      November 15th 2017 @ 4:38pm
      Cat said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

      If AFL clubs think they can make a profit doing so they will. Not sure its a wise investment for most AFL clubs at this point.

    • November 16th 2017 @ 11:33am
      Brian said | November 16th 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

      The European scenario is different. Clubs like Barcelona were setup 120 years ago with amateurs playing and so the sporting club had a football team, a basketball team, a handball team, maybe some tennis courts. Members then paid to use the facilities as we would a gym. In more modern times the lesser sports have actually being moving away from the football clubs and being run independently so they can gain their own identity.

      Basketball probably needs to be more ambitious and learn from soccer’s mistakes 20 years ago. The AFL certainly wouldn’t let Man Utd buy Essendon

    • November 18th 2017 @ 11:16am
      bryan said | November 18th 2017 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Back in the day, TVW7 in Perth pushed the NBL to the hilt, hence the good start for the Wildcats.
      Unfortunately, the “Wise men from the East” didn’t agree, & all the hype had to move to the (then,new) AFL.

      NBL then languished in the hands of the Ten Network, who didn’t seem to care much, then the ABC, & so on.
      The Wildcats continued to win games & be followed by their “rusted on” supporters.

      The Wildcats have the cachet in Perth of being “our team versus the Eastern States”, something which can never be underestimated.(WCE had the same advantage in its early years, & still do, to a large extent, but now need to share it with Freo.)

      To say that “nobody watches NBL because the NBA is better, is similar to the “Eurosnobs” often derided on the “Football” tab.
      Carry that idea to its ultimate conclusion, nobody would do anything!

      I don’t think AFL teams fielding their own NBL teams is a good idea—perhaps some kind of alliance between local teams would work.
      I would go further & have a “Purple Alliance” between Freo in the AFL & The Glory in the “A League”, & maybe a similar one between WCE & the Wildcats .

      It would probably never fly, however, unless one Network had broadcast rights for all of them.

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