The 2016/2017 NBL season kicked off on Thursday night with more media coverage and hype than has been attributed to the league for some time. Gone from last season are the Townsville Crocodiles, Wednesday night basketball and Channel Nine’s one game a week. In come the Brisbane Bullets, a television deal with SBS and better access than ever before through Fox Sports and the NBL app.
Three years ago, the National Basketball League was on its knees. Crowds were pathetic, television coverage non-existent and to be honest at times you would not even know that the sport existed. In such a saturated summer sport market, the NBL will always face a battle to remain relevant amongst the A-League, Big Bash League and soon the National Netball League and AFL Women’s. It even faces competition with the NBA with access to American sport easier than ever now as well.
It seems though the NBL realise this. A huge advertising campaign was launched last season and continues this season promoting the NBL tablet application that allows people to watch every game of the season live for $5.00 a month for non Telstra and club members. Alternatively if you only want to watch your own team, you can do this for free. That is very good value. Every game is also shown live on Fox Sports live in high definition. Fox Sports’ coverage of sport is absolutely world class and this is the most important aspect of the revamped NBL. Access.
Scheduling of games throughout the season ranges from Thursday to Monday night. While not every week, the ability to schedule on a Thursday and Monday, allows direct exposure away from most of the sport’s direct competition. The return of the Brisbane Bullets is also a vital component given it re-introduces the game to the business district of Queensland and sees regular basketball action as a possible summer activity in the capital. Every game will be streamed into China this season too, which as history shows is the best way to grow any sport. Just ask the AFL and Port Adelaide.
Another brilliant decision by the NBL has been to appoint Michael Aylen and Vaughan Mayberry as full time referees. A lesson that the AFL should be looking at closely. This is bold and just shows how badly they want this to be an extra professional competition. That can only be a good thing.
Chemist Warehouse leads a range of sponsors who were wanting nothing to do with the NBL a few years ago, but now see potential in backing the game.
The final big positive for the NBL is the quality of both the players and coaches who have decided to call the League home this year. At the Adelaide 36ers, Terrance Ferguson who is expected to go in the first round of the NBA draft next year wants to show off his skills for a season. Cameron Bairstow is a big name get for the Bullets and one who’s talent remains largely underrated. Boomer Chris Goulding is another who’s got immense skill and will have a huge say in how far Melbourne United go this season. Jerome Randle, Kevin Lisch and Damian Martin also headline the new season. Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis takes the reins at Brisbane, while perhaps the biggest name in Australian basketball Andrew Gaze takes over the Sydney Kings.
The options are endless now for the NBL. They have all the right ingredients to continue to grow into the future. While expansion and changes should not be made lightly or even quickly, the NBL has far more options than it had even two years ago. It is a credit to the new management and just goes to prove that any sport must have the right people in the right positions off the field (or court) in order for it to succeed on it.
Picture – The Advertiser