Drawing inspiration for marathons from basketball?

As most of you already know, I’m at the stage of life where I run almost as many marathons, half marathons and other shorter distance events as I watch and play football matches these days. This weekend was no exception, completing my third Melbourne Marathon despite what was described by the medics after the finish line as a small meniscus tear in the left knee affecting the last 11km of my performance. Little wonder I only battled to a 4:18 finish…..

More on that on another time, but I often seek out other sports to look for to inspire me to great heights. This year on the Gold Coast, it was a Suns vs North Melbourne game (report HERE). For Sydney’s City2Surf, it was a last minute trip to the Bledisloe Cup. This weekend, it was an opportunity to see what the hype was about, for a lot of headlines have been made by the NBL (National Basketball League) in the last couple of months. It would almost be a new experience for me, given that the only other time I’ve been to an NBL game was in the late 80’s when as a 4-year-old I was too young to remember what exactly happened at The Glasshouse (now Eddie’s Inner City Palace) between the Westside Melbourne Saints and the Brisbane Bullets (one long defunct, the other seemingly finally revived next season after a few years in a sporting coma).

Melbourne United to many sounds like the 3rd franchise representing the city in the A-League (would like to have gone to the derby, but the basketball was easier and cheaper to get into and I needed an early night on Saturday) but last year the name was used in an effort to unite the seemingly fragmented Melbourne basketball community. In an effort to appease the many jilted fans the big screen at the 2nd tennis stadium court (still refuse to use sponsors names for venues, this is the best I can do) a package said they were recognising all the past teams from Melbourne that played in the NBL, plus strangely the Geelong Supercats whom last time I checked weren’t a Melbourne team. Unfortunately despite the many titles won by Melbourne clubs (2 by the North Melbourne Giants, 1 from St.Kilda in the inaugural season, 2 by the South-East Melbourne Magic, 3 from the Melbourne Tigers and 1 by the South Dragons), only 4 of the championship banners were hung from the Tigers and Dragons titles as well as the 6 numbers that the Tigers retired in their time in the league (numbers 6, 8, 10, 21, 25 and 50, no prizes for guessing whom they represent). Apparently many of the other banners are lost and will probably turn up in someone’s random garage sale or on Ebay before long.

Apart from that the pre-match was trying to cater for the kids who comprised a decent percentage of the final attendance. Dancers inside and outside the venue provided the entertainment pre-match, although many kids spent some spare change on the arcade basketball game set up at the interior concourse. There were the usual array of cheer girls that have been a staple of the game, and a gospel group singing the national anthem (played before every game) and providing a little half time show which went largely unnoticed. More in fact took notice when the kids during time outs and the quarter and three-quarter time breaks took part in their contests.

This season United, under their third coach in 2 seasons (Dean Demopolous having replaced Darryl McDonald who replaced Chris Anstey) were taking on an Adelaide team that even at this early stage of the season, were desperate not to fall to a 1-2 record. Fortunately both sides were looking to score unlike many other teams in recent seasons who employed the Ross Lyon defensive cordon (Cairns Taipans were the worst offenders, they struggled to score 60-70 points). Both coaches had their frustrations throughout the night. Demopolous irritated at some of the easy scoring opportunities the 36ers were able to create and convert, Joey Wright annoyed at the officiating, going off his nut when his team were warned about “flopping”. For those wanting to know about the rotations, for this sport is often referenced in football’s interchange overuse, Adelaide used all 10 of their players and substituted often enough. Melbourne had 3 players record a “DNP – Coach’s Decision” on the score book, looking to rotate 3 guards, 3 forwards and 2 centres.

The game itself had few highlights after a first quarter dunk by United’s American import guard Stephen Holt (shake and bake to pass one defender on the baseline before taking it to the rack as they say). Adelaide lead the game at half time through their exploitation of the defensive holes, but in the second half they had little answer to Dan Kickert’s outside shooting (6 from 8 outside the 3 point arc) or Hakim Warrick’s inside moves. It seemed they showed little fight even when they were just 9 points down with just under 2 minutes to play, which in basketball is not insurmountable. The last 15 seconds were basically spent with Holt dribbling out the remainder of the clock, as win loss records against teams rather than points percentages are the tie breaker in this league. By basketball standards, a win by 9 points (84-75) was comfortable, especially when they weren’t really threatened in the second half. The 36ers responded a couple of days later by dumping one of their import players, whose major contribution to the cause on Friday Night was shooting a couple of airballs late in the match.

So what was my impression of the spectacle? Certainly it wasn’t the worst way to burn a couple of hours on a Friday Night, although courtesy of their Fox Sports contract I’d suggest getting bigger crowds to turn up to the Wednesday and Thursday night contests may need work (I know that many Townsville fans aren’t pleased with the number of home games on those nights given they had to work overtime to stay afloat). Fortunately the scoring has picked up across the league, so the days of the boring defensive struggles that have plagued the on court product in recent times seem to be over. To be honest I probably wouldn’t be in a hurry to go again if it clashed with another product; I’d probably have gone to the A-League match if they were playing on the same night. But for hoops fans, at least the league is in a stronger position than it has been in past years, and watching a game on the TV, especially with every game now being on Pay TV, may be a better bet.



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About Mick Jeffrey

32 Year Old, Bulldogs Member and tragic. Reserve Grade coach after over 225 combined senior/reserves appearances for Brothers AFC in AFL Capricornia. 11 time Marathon finisher, one time Ultra Marathon finisher and Comrades Marathon competitor 2017.


  1. Mick –
    Outstanding effort on your marathon.
    The buds and I were in the MCG stand to watch N.cunninghamii and my sister complete the 1/2 marathon on Sunday. The whole scene was a celebration of achievement and attempt.
    Not something I’ve done.
    Very well played.

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Well done Mick, better days will come, days when your body doesn’t betray you.

  3. That’s now 3 Melbourne’s for me, a little short of the 8 that are batting 38 from 38. Unfortunately it’s down from the 9 that were 37 from 37 after Peter Ryan pulled out at about 20km last Sunday due to injury.

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