NBL: Rejuvenated Crocs look to build momentum ahead of 2015/16 season

News of Townsville’s participation in the 2015/16 NBL season has put the wind back into the sails of the league ahead of the exciting off-season free agency period.

After a tumultuous 2014/15, there was serious doubt cast over the financial stability of the Crocs, and big question marks over whether they would be competing in the NBL in 2015/16.

However, that has been laid to rest in some good news for the franchise and the league after a rather barren patch for both.

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Not only will the Crocs compete, but they will also be returning to the ‘The Swamp’ for their home games, otherwise known as the Townsville Entertainment Centre, after spending last season playing out of the much smaller Townsville RSL Stadium.

The return to The Swamp is a huge coup for the franchise and exactly what the Crocs needed, with the arena’s facilities set to be upgraded ahead of the season.

As the embattled club went into voluntary administration after the 2014/15 season, the Townsville community, as they have done so often over the journey, rallied behind their beloved Crocs.

According to new Crocs chairman Andrew Gisinger, fans are already lining up to purchase season tickets, with a ‘large’ number of pre-commitments already.

Of course, it is now up to Townsville to use the support of the community to stabilise their financial standing in the league – something they have seemingly failed to do in recent years.

With a number of potential sponsors coming forward from within the Townsville community, the support of the fans, and of course the announcement of the move back to their spiritual home at The Swamp, the Crocs have a big opportunity to establish themselves and set up for the long term.

Sponsorship is perhaps the most pressing issue needing to be addressed, with Gisinger wary of working through that process in the coming weeks, particularly as they attempt to secure a naming rights major sponsor.

Townsville need look no further than their north Queensland neighbours in Cairns for inspiration, with the Taipans consistently turning a profit over the past few years despite being the smallest market in the competition.

The key to their success has been good management, with the club making the most of small successes, both on and off the court, to further themselves in both aspects through the signing of big-name players and the attraction of key sponsors.

The successes of the Taipans have proven it can be done by a small-market community-based club.

Townsville boasts a supporter base that is arguably one of the most passionate and tightly-knit in the league, and with the club’s fortunes seemingly turning around away from the court, the future is looking significantly brighter.

Despite rallying off the court so admirably, on-court success remains a big part of any sports club’s survival.

The loss of young star Todd Blanchfield, who has signed with Melbourne United for the next two years, has come at the wrong time for Townsville, with the need for a big name signing now even greater.

With momentum building and membership drives set to begin within the next fortnight, a big name signing (finances permitting) would provide the Crocs with a huge boost and would only heighten the hype around the club ahead of the 2015/16 season.

That is in an ideal situation, of course, which isn’t always able to become a reality.

The reality may well instead be that the Townsville Crocodiles organisation simply continues to fight behind the support of the community around them.

The NBL needs community clubs like Townsville, Cairns and Wollongong – they are irreplaceable for what they bring to the league in terms of fan involvement and growing the game.

The remaining months before the new season tips off will be telling for the Crocs, and while they have undoubtedly been the good news story of the off-season thus far, it is critical to their future that the club’s management now builds on the momentum into the coming season and beyond.