Almanac (Club) Basketball: Missed it by that much! Another chapter in the life of ‘Not Bad Thanks’


We invited Graeme Willingham, author of the book Not Bad Thanks (reviewed here on February 21) to report on Not Bad Thanks Basketball Club’s quest for a premiership in its historic 80th season in the Victorian Business Houses Basketball Association, playing at MSAC. This report could be a new chapter if that forever-young Willingham decides to update his book, and do another print run.



“That’ll be Not Bad Thanks, Y’Self, Y’Shelf?” acknowledged Court Captain Czar.
(A rule, Players greet each other with “Not Bad Thanks, Y’Self?”)



Missed it by that much!


(with apologies to Maxwell Smart)



The fate of Not Bad Thanks’ finals quest in its kilometrestone 80th season rested with the very last game of the fixtured season … the 10.10 game on February 20. Comp favourite Hot Shots was playing fifth team Stickmen. Earlier, at 6.50, Not Bad Thanks (or NBT as it’s registered), third, unexpectedly lost against eighth team, Bullet Royals. NBT had surrendered a 3-point lead with about one to go, losing by 2 points. For the immediate two minutes after the game, the losers were in shellshock. No-one spoke. There was no need. All felt the pain. They all knew a win would have secured their rung on the ladder. And, they all knew where they’d messed up … at various times during the sea-sawing game.


Scoop, he’s a journo, broke the silence: “Come on, let’s get to The Clubrooms!”


Soon, the squad of 10 players and Tinnie’s two little kids left MSAC. However, they knew there was still hope. Not Bad Thanks would stay in the Final Four if Hot Shots did the job at 10.10.


At midnight, the score came through. Stickmen upset the applecart, winning by … the single, solitary, soul-destroying, one scoreboard point. So, NBT slipped out of the finals race, by the single, solitary, soul-destroying, one premiership point.


A premiership would have been a fitting 80th birthday present. That was the aim, way back in September when Captain-for-Life, aka Doktor, was drawing up the list for the new season. The Club has won six flags, the last in season 2014-15. They were won in E, D, C and A Reserve grades. B Grade is missing. NBT is in B Grade.


An extremely healthy list of 13 players was drawn up. Most teams have seven-to-eight players. What do we do, when all 13 turn up to play, given there’s space for only 11 names on the score sheet? Doktor asked the VBHBA. Draw in an extra two panels, she’ll be right, replied the accommodating VBHBA.


Hopes for the new summer season were high because Bullitt was returning from playing with Collegians in VAFA’s footy A Grade. Under 30, lighting-fast dribbler, passer and interceptor, averaging 10 points a game and backboard rebounder, Bullitt bounced NBT’s skill set into serious premiership contender status. However, he missed the first six games because of a lingering footy foot injury.


Large (16 points av) missed games two and three and then at the end of the third qualifying game, another serious game-maker and 12-pointer, Gutz, pulled out with a knee. He missed the next eight. At virtually the same time, Barman (named after perpetual Melbourne Cup aspirant ‘Who Shot the Barman’), broke an ankle when he fell into the Richmond Bowling Club rink while having a roll with NBT teammates Large and Rower, and their dads. He missed the rest of the season, following his best game ever. (The customary “Have to work back!’ “Fell asleep in front of the tele!”, “On holidays!”, “Sick kid!” etc, also marred attendances during the season.)


So much for the 13-strong NBT. (The Club never had to draw in the extra two panels.)


After the three losing grading games, NBT successfully appealed to the VBHBA to leave the Club in B Grade … because “Bullitt, Large and Gutz were returning soon”.


At the halfway mark, NBT was sitting 5-4 and still in touch. It won six of the final 10, drew one and lost three. The appeal vindicated.


In that critical deciding last round, preceded by a draw against the second team, Bullitt was a late withdrawal with a new foot injury from footy pre-season training, and Large was still overseas.


At The Clubrooms, aka The Lewis Family’s Emerald pub near MSAC, spirits rose when Paul Lewis joined the group. He’s known at NBT as ‘Paul Y’Shelf’ after he installed a beer-glass shelf under the Club’s Golden Elbow Honour Board in the bar, years ago. A framed photograph of Makybe Diva was recently propped on the shelf, obscuring some of the board. ‘Y’Shelf’ rectified the matter and asked if his rising-star teenage basketballer son could play one game with Not Bad Thanks.


“That’ll be Not Bad Thanks, Y’Self, Y’Shelf?” acknowledged Court Captain Czar. (A rule, Players greet each other with “Not Bad Thanks, Y’Self?”)


Finals quest fully-finalised, the following night the Club held its 80th Steve O’Baugh Memorial Golden Elbow count, for the Player who most ‘gives it heaps’ on the court. For the first time in NBT’s Modern Era, all Players present (12) wore Club Caps because new caps were presented to several uncapped Players. The caps are embroidered with each Player’s nickname. So, the NBT Caps parade featured the aforementioned Czar, Bullitt, Scoop, Tinnie, Gutz and Doktor, plus Postie, Axe, Flash, Plasma, Rower and Barman.



Apart from Doktor who was at the GE, other NBT Legends ordered new caps, too.



They first toasted the Club with a home-made Lithuanian milk-based firewater at Czar’s art studio in Northcote, which featured pinned scoresheets from two premierships and his six premiership medallions. This is where Czar updates the board for the new Count. Therefore, the studio was deemed to be an NBT Sacred Site. They sang The NBT Anthem, to the tune of Silent Night. They walked to Axe’s house on the hill, commanding a setting-sun view of Melbourne’s city skyline, off to the southwest. The venue became known as Axe’s Shack, for NBT’s Heritage Register. Before BBQ eye-fillet and salads were served, Plasma produced a cocktail of yellow peaches from his backyard tree, crushed ice and ‘a certain amount of Cachaca’, with mint garnish. No questioning NBT’s style.



GE Count Board
Contemporary artist, Czar created the GE Count Board. Each season he adds a quirky adornment. The bloody glove, top left, was added this time, as a mark of respect for Founding Player, Bloody Gloves.



As per NBT Rituals, Axe was presented with a 400 Games pewter mug, Scoop won his second Bloody Gloves Bowl for the most fouls (48) and then with that same number of votes was runner-up to Plasma’s 52 votes in the Golden Elbow count (back-to-back for Plasma, and his sixth), Czar won Squeakers Basket for the 44th time with 292 points, and the group sang The NBT Anthem at least a dozen times, with cap-clutching right hand on the heart. The game lost 24 hours earlier never happened.


Singing was led expertly by Postie, who, the next night, was lead singer of ska band Loin Groin’s comeback show at the Yorkshire Stingo in Collingwood. Flash is in the band, too, on guitar. They gave it heaps. The joint went off. They opened with Slab Dab, an old song reworked for the comeback. NBT was represented in the bouncing mosh pit.


Loin Groin’s Slab Dab:


In his Golden Elbow acceptance speech, Plasma, one of NBT’s thinkers, summed up: “It was a great season with brilliant team wins, lots of quick subs and sharing the ball. The loss meant a lot to us in the last game of the season, but only because the wins meant a lot for us to get that position.”


NBT has lodged its nomination for another crack at B Grade, starting in three weeks. Season 81. Has Doktor done his list yet? Bullitt’s gone back to footy, if his feet are OK.  Barman says he’s ready to return.


Just after April Fools’ Day (the date of NBT’s Foundation), 30 Players and their partners will attend an official 40 Years: 80 Seasons  dress-up dinner. Every opportunity is taken to celebrate this Club’s whacky culture, and binding camaraderie.



Editor footnote. The author was permitted to write the Not Bad Thanks book as long as he capitalised words the Club deemed to be of Club importance.





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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab read Graeme! You guys have so much fun & companionship playing together exemplifying what sport should be all about. I’m sure that premiership is not far away.

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