The 2019 Australian Indigenous Basketball (AIB) National Tournament held at Early Settler Stadium in Cairns across the past week has proven to be an overwhelming success.
Boasting 60 teams from under 14 boys and girls through to open age men's and women's divisions, the event has proven to be a resounding success, with teams from across the country participating.
It was an opportunity to celebrate Australian indigenous culture through sport, and perhaps unearth the next indigenous basketball star such as Patty Mills, an AIB Ambassador.
The event opened in front of more than 1,200 fans at Early Settler Stadium, and throughout the week, the players, coaches, officials and volunteers together helped deliver an amazing event they can be proud of.
The Southern Lightning Koorie Basketball team taking part in the under 14 boys division made it through to the quarter finals against Darwin Top End Crocs despite losing their first game to Townsville by just 2 points. While they ultimately bowed out and did not make the final, Cairns Taipans head coach Mike Kelly invited the team to watch and meet the NBL players, providing a special morning for all the boys.
The opportunity and experience they received, like all teams, will last a lifetime.
Having traveled from Echuca in regional Victoria to take part in the event with the Southern Lighting, Hurricane Hudson spoke of his participation in the event.
"It’s feels good to be in the semi finals with limited preparation & so this for our family’s (mobs) Cairns Taipans," enthused Hudson. "I liked to watch them train as l learned a lot, [and] it was great to have a photo meet them all as [I] don’t get this opportunity as l live in Echuca."
AIB Vice President Ricky Baldwin, a driving force behind facilitating the growing of indigenous basketball, spoke of the tournament's success.
"This past week was a tremendous success with the first national indigenous championships, with so much talent on was hand to watch with 60 teams from around Australia," shared Baldwin. "The exciting thing is that it will only grow bigger the response l have had with people wanting to play in 2020.
"As a very proud Aboriginal man, l was proud to be part of this national tournament and to win the [2019 Australian Indigenous Basketball] outstanding commitment to community award, something l will cherish!"
In the marquee men's open final, a star studded Erub United defeated Cairns Marlins Black in a game boasting former NBL players. Chris Cedar and Michael Cedar were joined by Deba George, Kerry Williams and TJ Diop to come away with the inaugural title. Tad Dufelmeier Jr and Mason Khalu were exceptional for the runner up Marlins Black outfit.
In the open women's division, the Darwin Rebels proved too good for Cairns based side Phoenix, with the Adelaide Lightning's Jasmin Fejo and Rebekah Dallinger of the Sydney Uni Flames leading the way in representing the WNBL talent on display. Phoenix boasted talent of their own too, with Alana Frazer (Logan Thunder) and Naomi Moke (Cairns) who are both current QBL players making an impact throughout the tournament.
With an array of rising stars on show, 2019 promises to be just the start for a wonderful exhibition of Australian indigenous basketball talent.
2019 Championship Winners
Open Men: Erub United (QLD)
Open Women: Darwin Rebels (NT)
U17 Boys: Binar | WA
U17 Girls: Darwin Rebels (NT)
U14 Boys: Binar (WA)
U14 Girls: Kayin Bau (Torres Strait)