Time for Basketball Australia to switch on

There was a world class sporting event held this week, most of you would have missed it.

The Melbourne Boomers took to the court against cross town rivals the Dandenong Rangers on Australia Day Eve in the Women’s National Basketball League clash, at the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna.

A season high crowd of close to 2,500 people packed the stands to watch what is hoped will become a regular fixture on the WNBL calendar.

Much like the Anzac Day AFL clash between Essendon and Collingwood, Boomers and Rangers fans hope this game will become a ‘rusted on’ part of the WNBL season.

For the record, Dandenong, on the back of 24 points and 13 rebounds from American import Annalise Pickerel, got on top of the Boomers, 72 – 67.

For Melbourne Boomers general manager Justin Nelson, the Australia Day experiment was one that worked very well.

“The Australia Day Eve concept was always about establishing a key night on the WNBL calendar that would put women’s basketball on the national map. It is the perfect night for families to enjoy some time together, in a city that is in love with the game”, he said.

“I think it was such a huge success because we made the game about the people, for the people. For me it’s always about fan engagement – you have to make sure people are entertained and feel like they are an integral part of what’s taking place.”

Make no mistake, this was a world class game in a world class league but unless you were at the game, you didn’t see it.

Surprisingly there is no free to air coverage on television, in addition to a distinct lack of promotion by the WNBL themselves.

Led by the Women’s Big Bash League and the gamble taken by Channel 10 in televising women’s cricket and regular coverage of Netball, women’s sport is becoming a hot commodity.

With extraordinary TV ratings and games attracting over 400,000 viewers, the newly minted queen of women’s sport, outperformed A-League soccer and the Matador Cup.

In what must be a bitter pill for the WNBL, Women’s cricket or least the T20 version, leads the way for female sport in Australia.

Following the ABC’s axing of its WNBL coverage last year and with Free View television channels multiplying like rabbits, it’s astonishing that the second best women’s basketball league in the world doesn’t have a broadcast partner.

With the Men’s National Competition, the NBL, being run privately and not part of the Basketball Australia equation, the WNBL is Basketball Australia’s premier national competition.

With basketball in the top bracket of participation sports in Australia and just under half of those participants being female, it begs the question, what are the WNBL or more particular, Basketball Australia doing?

A check on the WNBL website highlights a distinct lack of promotion for the Australia Day Eve event with the only reference to the game coming from media releases from the clubs themselves.

For Justin Nelson it’s a sense of frustration and a growing concern.

“Basketball Australia manages the WNBL and some dedicated focus on promotion wouldn’t go astray. The league needs to better promote itself. For example, I’ve spent time with V8 Supercars and everything is flat out promotion, you can’t just expect people to turn up. You have to work hard for your audience and then even harder to keep them. That’s what competition is about right now in the sporting world.”

Nelson believes that more work needs to be done at the top level to help not only the WNBL clubs but the game itself.

“I want basketball to fully realise its demographic and successfully gain a piece of the sponsorship pie, because if we don’t drive this game commercially it will fall further behind the football codes, and the likes of netball and cricket”.

With the Australian women’s basketball team, the Opals, taking aim at the Rio Olympics, coupled with the success of the WBBL and the fact we have arguably the second best female basketball league in the world, surely the time is right for the WNBL or Basketball Australia to pounce……or not, as seems to be the case.

Leave a Comment