Some 300km west of Melbourne lies the township of Hamilton, just south of the Grampians only about 1 hour's drive from the South Australian border. It is the birthplace of the now defunct Ansett Airlines, the home of the 'Big Wool Bales', and last weekend played host to the biggest Champions League Basketball CLB3X3 event to date.
60 team registered for the event, participating in junior and open age divisions in an event that was supported by the Southern Grampians Shire Council and deemed a massive success by CLB3X3 General Manager Matt Hollard.
"It was the biggest and best event we have run to date," enthused Hollard. "The way that Hamilton and the surrounding communities supported the event was phenomenal. We had teams enter from all over the area, including from nearby towns of Ararat, Portland, Warrnambool, Horsham and other nearby towns. For the open men's event, we even had open men's teams travel from Adelaide and Melbourne to take part!
"It was just so great to see everyone embrace the event, from the players, officials, local business, council and everyone else who attended. It just goes to show how much promise and potential the sport has across Australia. We would definitely love to come back."
CLB3X3 Junior divisions in action | Credit: Champions League Basketball
In the Open men's division, Melbourne iAthletic took out the title after accounting for No Big Deal 21-8. Melbourne iAthletic boasted a line-up featuring four of Nunawading's 2018 SEABL roster, including Costas Hronopoulos, Jonathan Cooke, Tom Wright and Andrew Steel. Nunawading's SEABL players have been a feature of recent CLB3X3 events, having taken out recent events in Port Adelaide and Frankston.
The on-court success of Steel in particular has seen him quickly rise through the FIBA 3X3 world rankings into the top 1,000, and is now poised to snatch the mantle as Australia's number 1 ranked FIBA 3X3 player away from Queensland's Tim Keating in the next event he plays in.
"It was great to see hundreds of spectators cheering their favourite players on right across the three days and just how much fun it can be when you add in some kids activities, great food, cold drinks and music into the mix," further added Hollard. "With such a huge event, the ranking points came through and have helped Australia increase their world ranking by two spots!"
CLB3X3's events have been one of the major drivers for Australia's rise up the world rankings over the past 12 months. Following the Hamilton event, Australia rose 2 more places into 44th in the world standings-- that's 18 places higher than July last year. In fact in 2018, Australia's women overtook New Zealand to become the number 1 ranked country in our region, this week moving up into 32nd position and well within reach of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the men who sit in 46th position, still have plenty of work to do, trailing New Zealand's world ranking of 24.
Australia is still trailing the rest of the world in relation to 3X3 basketball, but is fast catching up thanks to CLB3X3.
Further events are planned ahead of the National CLB3X3 Final to be played in March in Melbourne. For the full schedule of events, visit clb3x3.com.au.