What started as a concept that Deakin Melbourne Boomers General Manager Justin Nelson raised in a 2015/16 season scheduling meeting last April with Coach Guy Molloy and BTBC President Linda Perry, turned into reality on Monday night as the Australia Day Eve Blockbuster hit the WNBL with full force.
A record crowd of 2,481 flocked to the State Basketball Centre to see the Boomers take on rivals Dandenong in a classic Melbourne Derby and, despite the home team missing a string of key players, the fierce contest went down to the wire with the Rangers sneaking home 72-67 in front of loud and appreciative fans.
Back by Basketball Victoria, an invitation went out to youngsters across the state, encouraging them to come and be a part of a new concept in the league, a big event that everyone hopes to see on the WNBL calendar every season. To say they responded positively would be an understatement – they came in their droves.
“Our players were so excited to play in front of such a great crowd. The fans lifted our play and the team was determined to deliver. We hope people had a great night and want to come back and watch the Deakin Melbourne Boomers in action again,” said Molloy, adding “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is an event that should be the first fixture pencilled in each year when the league puts the home and away schedule together.”
For Perry, who has been a strong advocate for building strong relationships with all basketball associations and was a key leader in the team’s name change to Melbourne three seasons ago, the record crowd re-inforced her vision and belief that the Boomers could become the most followed team in the WNBL.
“It was amazing. The huge crowd made so much noise the players couldn’t hear the coaches instructions in the last minute. It was fantastic to see so many associations represented and for many it was their first experience of the WNBL and they loved it,” said Perry.
“The club has recently announced its intention to transfer its WNBL licence to new owners and I think those who saw last night’s game will tell you the Deakin Melbourne Boomers and our ability to put on a big WNBL event is stronger than ever,” added Perry.
For Nelson, he hopes the Australia Day Eve Blockbuster now becomes a permanent fixture each year between Melbourne and Dandenong at the State Basketball Centre, but he also sees so much more on the horizon for the event.
“Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who was in the stadium for what was a fantastic game of WNBL, the two teams did themselves, their club and the league proud. It was a great contest,” said Nelson.
“When Guy, Linda and I first sat down and talked about this it was always about doing something special for women’s basketball, we wanted it to be more than just a weekly game in the middle of the season and I think we achieved that.”
“We wanted two big games on the eve of public holidays – Melbourne Cup and Australia Day – and the league backed us, which we thank them for. Now we want to keep building those games into massive events that fill the stadium and gets everyone talking about women’s basketball.”
“There are so many basketball players out there and they want to support our elite teams, but you can’t just expect them to turn up, you have to market and promote. The WNBL is a great league, it deserves bigger crowds and more media attention, but you have to go out there and work for it. Hopefully this game exposed the league to a lot of new fans.”
“The next step is to push for broader coverage, get the media behind it, jump to a sell-out next season and develop further significance around the event. I’d love to see a medal for the best player like they do in the AFL, and being the eve of Australia Day, I think it would the perfect place to stage a night for all the former Opals players and WNBL Life Members out there – how good would that be?”