Brisbane was a foundation Club of the NBL back in 1979 and the Sydney Kings have been one of the most successful teams winning three titles in the last six years.  There are many individuals who see the collapse of these teams as the end of basketball in Australia.  These people couldn’t be any more wrong. The media and general public have been given just a small insight into the state of basketball in Australia, a sport that at the community or grassroots level is booming.

Kilsyth & Mountain District Basketball Association is living proof of this boom.  The Association is the largest in Australia and in turn the Southern Hemisphere.  With 1000 teams participating each and every week the Association has more participants then some entire Australian States. Kilsyth has seen continual growth over the past few years resulting in the move into the newly opened Oxley Stadium and plans for new courts at the Kilsyth Sports Centre.  

Kilsyth has put in place a schools program ‘Kids First’ in partnership with ANZ Bank which has seen over 25,000 children participate in basketball clinics, 2500 prep children receive their own basketball and 3,500 students participate in financial fitness lessons. Children are then encourage to join one of the 14 clubs playing in the Kilsyth competitions, participate with their school in the After School Competition, learn about the game in the Aussie Hoops program or take part in the Kilsyth Cobras School Holiday Camp.

Basketball is a fun, safe and interactive sport which provides health and social benefits to the community.  It is indoors, family friendly as well as cost and time effective for parents.  Basketball is easy to practice on your own or with a team, as all beginners need to play is a ball.  The sport has an excellent development pathway for those who are athletically gifted but also opportunities for a life time of participation for those like me, who just wish to participate with their friends.  Kilsyth has competitions for people of all ages and abilities as well as opportunities for those talented athletes to play for the “Phil Mundays” Junior Cobras.

Kilsyth’s development pathway allows players to participate in a statewide competition the Victorian Junior Basketball League (VJBL) which has close to 1000 elite teams playing every Friday night.  Those athletes who put in the hard yards may have the opportunity to make it into one of the Kilsyth senior teams.  Kilsyth enter a male and female team into the Big V Youth League competition and two semi professional teams into the South East Australia Basketball League (SEABL).  SEABL is Australia’s premier winter basketball competition with teams in Queensland, ACT, Tasmania, South Australia as well as country and metro Victoria make its one of Australia’s most unique community sporting competitions.

Crowds at SEABL games are growing, with players regularly attending local primary schools and with involvement in many aspects of the participation and development programs, they actively promote the game. Crowds of over 1200 people attend the SEABL rivalry matches between Australia’s two largest Associations in Kilsyth and Knox.  This intense on court rivalry is a fierce contest that evokes the passion of basketball supporters from all over the region.  With growing interest at the SEABL level, basketball is by no means fading from the communities mind.

This community basketball boom is evident in the local media with regular columns and match reports in each of the local newspapers as well as a weekly radio show on the community airwaves. The local media coverage is matched by increasing local corporate support from both large and small business.  Organisations such as ANZ Bank, Phil Mundays Panel Works, Club Kilsyth, Club Ringwood and Spalding have thrown their support behind community basketball as sponsors and have recognized the benefits and profile they can gain from their support of a booming community sport.

As further proof that the sport is alive and well, travel just 10km down the road from Kilsyth to Knox and you will see the second largest Association in Australia with close to 1000 teams playing each week and with similar participation and development programs, a further 15 km south and 12 km east you will find Dandenong and Nunawading stadiums doing much of the same.  Basketball at the community level is booming with participation continuing to increase.  Our development programs continue to produce athletes capable of competing on the international stage.    

Basketball as a sport in Australia does not receive it due National respect and exposure for its position on the International stage.  These athletes that come through our development programs such as Luke Kendall or Jessica Bibby have contributed towards the success of our National teams.  At present the Australian Senior women’s team, the Opals, are World Champions and include two of the world is top players in Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor.  As a country we are ranked 2nd of 213 playing nations on the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rankings.  We are not only successful within the playing arena but also with our referees,  Kilsyth’s own Sharon Arnold has been involved in Olympic and Paralympic games and is a world renowned official.  Maybe the most evident example of Australia’s success as a basketball nation is the fact that the FIBA President is Australian Bob Elphinston.

Elphinston was the founder of the National Basketball League (NBL) back in 1979 and has been involved at various levels of the sport.  He was the general manager of Sydney Olympics Bid Company and subsequently in charge of SOCOG during the running of the most successful games in Olympic history.

Australia as a country has unique love-affair with sport, basketball is one of the countries most popular participation sports, we have World renowned development programs which have resulted in unbelievable success on the International stage.  We as community basketball must continue to get behind the sport.  I call on all basketball participants and parents to get behind your local community basketball team such as the Club Kilsyth Cobras and when the NBL season comes around go out and support your South Dragons and Melbourne Tigers.  The sport of basketball is booming at the community level, we have the programs and pathways in place to provide participation and development opportunities for the community. 

Despite the current messages being portrayed about our sport, the evidence is overwhelming, the sport at the community level is booming and we continue to encourage people to become involved as both participants and spectators of this exciting sport.

By Ben Turner