Basketball Australia just dealt the Mount Gambier Pioneers a cruel blow

It’s back to mostly business as usual for almost all of the 2018 SEABL teams, as well as some other big Melbourne-based associations, after Basketball Victoria announced the teams that were granted entry into its new elite league.

The major talking point so far is the exclusion of the Mount Gambier Pioneers, a powerhouse men’s team in recent times, who have set an extremely high standard for this second-tier level of basketball.

Club officials expressed that an inability to convince Basketball Victoria that Mount Gambier could establish a women’s team was a major issue in the bid to join the new league.

This is not surprising. Given the time frame, the Pioneers had no reasonable chance of satisfying this requirement appropriately. Right now, Mount Gambier do not even have a women’s CBL (Country Basketball League) team that they could build from. It's not impossible to imagine a situation where middle ground was found, where the Pioneers could have phased this requirement in over a two or three year period.

What is important here, is that the onus does not lie as heavily with Basketball Victoria's rejection of the bid, as it does with Basketball Australia's seemingly inadequate support to the Pioneers. There should have been consideration of an appropriate transition plan for all SEABL clubs, after ending a league the governing body acquired only a scant four seasons ago.

The lack of forward thinking is embarrassing, and Basketball Australia’s silence has been disappointingly predictable. Key issues of costs, interstate play, Friday night games, and fielding men’s and women’s teams, were factors that would obviously come up for Mount Gambier after the SEABL was scrapped.

Other interstate teams have been afforded the ability to find solutions in quick fashion. For example, two Tasmanian teams are sharing a licence to satisfy entry requirements. It illustrates an ability from all stakeholders to find a solution, but there was no room allowed for transition to the new league when it came to the Pioneers. Basketball Australia could have potentially pulled some weight and showed some care.

Playing in South Australia’s Premier League, if Mount Gambier were granted entry, would be a step backwards, and undo an enormous amount of hard work that has seen the Pioneers ascend to an impressive level on and off the court.

Mount Gambier and Basketball Australia aside, the new competition will be strong for years to come, and the addition of some match-ups of state vs. state winners will be of great interest - if it does indeed does eventuate.