School of Hardwood Knocks III: Matt Logue

It was quite literally, sink or swim. Matt Logue remembers his earliest days in the sports writing business, and how it all began.

“I remember starting out as a 14-year-old at the local paper in Dubbo and doing work experience there. On my first day the editor said to me, ‘Alright young fella, I’m throwing you in the deep end. You’re doing the back page today’.”

Since that moment, Logue hasn’t looked back. Now an accomplished writer, author, TV and radio presenter, Matt Logue has climbed the rungs to become one of Australia's most prolific and respected basketball voices.

Growing up the 90s as a passionate basketball fan, Logue bore witness to both the highs and lows of Aussie hoops. He saw the heyday of the NBL during its golden age when Andrew Gaze and the league’s other stars were propelled into public consciousness. Overseas in the USA, Aussie giant Luc Longley was helping to build one of the most iconic dynasties in the history of the sport - the Jordan-era Chicago Bulls.

Then came the dark times. While Australian basketball in America continued to build momentum after that early wave, it violently hit a wall Down Under. The Australian public’s desire for content waned and died.

“When basketball in Australia fell off a cliff, basketball coverage probably wasn’t what it deserved to be. So I was really determined to see basketball back in the mainstream space and covered the way it should be, and getting the space it deserves.”

Central to that mission has been Logue's new book, Hoop Dreams Down Under, which is set to be released July 1. The book chronicles the diverse and colourful stories of the various players who have taken the plunge into the American professional basketball scene.

The book covers 25 Australians, 20 men from the NBA and 5 women from the WNBA. The scope for the project was huge, but Logue was determined to bring the full story into the light of day.

“It didn’t take long at all for me to see the potential for a book… it’s the best narrative in Australian sport, the most pure.

"[I want to] share this story, expand it beyond what I’m doing with the [Daily Telegraph] and really give people something, a memento, something that will be a record of history that people will keep.”

The task of creating a document of history deeply challenged Logue. The writing process took him out of his comfort zone. It not only tested his writing abilities in a less familiar medium, but also tested his fortitude.

“In newspapers there is a lot of assumed knowledge, you don’t have the space. In a book everything is expanded. Not everyone has the knowledge of a passionate fan, so you have to cater to everyone, even outlying the basics. It makes it a long process.

“This is the biggest project I’ve taken on by myself, and it’s hard work. There are dark days, anyone who’s written a book will tell you that. What got me through [were] the stories.”

Logue is a driven storyteller, and the foundation of his craft is built on his work as a sports journalist. The veteran reporter, who writes for The Daily Telegraph, has often been on the cutting edge of breaking news in the basketball world, facilitated by years of building behind-the-scenes relationships, networks in the NBL and its franchises. During the NBL's Media Awards in February, Logue received Best News Story for breaking the Sydney Kings' interest in recruiting Boomers big man Andrew Bogut, months before it came to fruition.

However, with the glory of breaking the latest news comes a difficult tightrope walk to stay on the good side of all parties involved.

“I remember Andrew Gaze’s sacking from the Kings. I found that really hard. A) it’s like shooting Bambi, and B) the club wanted their message around it, they were going to announce it. I got the tip off because they wanted me to announce it at a certain time.

"Meanwhile, I’m getting pressure from editors to [run the story] at a certain time. So it’s a real juggling act, juggling relationships. But at the end of the day, if you’re fair I think that is all you can do.

“[Breaking news] can be challenging. It’s all about relationships and it’s about timing. You need to have people’s trust.”

Logue’s journalistic philosophy is built on a simple premise: take your audience on a journey of discovery and pull no punches. Over the years it has been that ethos that drove him forward, and fuelled his intense desire to shine a light on the stories basketball has to offer Australians. Logue sees his position as a sport journalist as a blessing, one he hopes to share with as many people as possible.

“I think what I’ve learnt is to tell [your audience] something they don’t know, but also give them information and insight. Not everyone is privileged to be in the inner sanctum, so take them there and tell them what it’s like.

“Journalism has the potential to be really powerful. There are a lot of great things these players are doing. The biggest buzz I get is when I tell someone’s story and it makes a difference. It’s not about you, it’s about how you make others feel.”

For the legions of writers taking their first steps on the way to forge their own career in the world of sports journalism, Logue has some pearls of wisdom, accumulated from years of trial and error, success and failure.

“I would say - brace yourself. It’s just the start and there is a lot of hard work to come. I’d encourage that you [remember you] don’t know everything, and you never will. You’ve got to be patient, and be open-minded. And don’t be afraid to fail.”

Matt Logue writes for The Daily Telegraph and can be found on Twitter at @mattlogue7.

Logue's new book, Hoops Dreams Down Under, can be pre-ordered at HarperCollins and Amazon.