With the appointment of Tommy Greer as inaugural General Manager of the next NBL side to enter the league, it all but confirms that the new team will be based in Melbourne's east when it debuts in the 2019/20 season.
In a move bordering on the bizarre, the NBL previously announced that a ninth NBL side had been awarded to Romie Chaudhari -- a co-owner of English Football League club Swansea City -- without confirming a location. While details surrounding the new side have remained closely guarded, Greer’s appointment has shed some measure of light into the NBL’s intentions, as far as the prospective team's location goes.
"Tommy has done a lot of the groundwork for the new franchise and is the logical fit for the role of General Manager as they now get down to business and build the new team," NBL Chief Executive Jeremy Loeliger said in an official release. "We are working with Romie and Tommy to identify the best location for that team. There is a lot of interest from around Australia and we want to ensure wherever it is based that it has access to first class playing and training facilities."
While there is no doubt that Greer will set about establishing the newest NBL team, don't believe for a moment that the NBL has not settled on a location, with the team just over a year away from their on-court debut.
Here are three reasons why the newest NBL team will be in Victoria, and based in Melbourne's east.
1. Greer is entrenched in Melbourne
Greer, a two-time NBL champion, played his entire professional career with the Melbourne Tigers. He previously worked for Melbourne United prior to taking on roles with the NBL, with his most recent being that of General Manager Major Events and Programs for the NBL - all based in Melbourne.
Being born and raised in the same city, it is hard to see someone like Greer --who has such strong family, social and business ties to Melbourne-- would move interstate or across to New Zealand to lay the groundwork for a new NBL team.
Couple that with the fact Larry Kestelman been vocal on the need for another team in Victoria. Put two and two together, and Melbourne comes out on top of the list of possible locations.
2. The State Basketball Centre's upgrade plans
Coinciding with the Boomers versus Team USA games in August 2019, the Victorian government is expected to announce a significant investment that will expand the State Basketball Centre (SBC) located in Wantirna South. Plans include an upgraded show court with significant increase in seating capacity, while also enabling the site to become a National Centre of Excellence and administration hub for basketball bodies in Australia.
While any development there will not be ready in time for the new team’s debut, the eastern corridor of Melbourne has long been the stronghold for basketball. Not just in Victoria, but also for Australia. One could easily draw a conclusion that it would be a logical choice to become the home of the ninth NBL team.
Marquee matchups can easily be accommodated at the newly rebranded Melbourne Arena, home of Melbourne United - or even a possible return to Rod Laver Arena? It would be hard not to expect blockbuster clashes between the two Melbourne-based sides, games that could eventually fill either venue given United's recent success. When the State Basketball Centre upgrade is completed, home games against visiting regional teams such as Cairns, Illawarra and even New Zealand could also be played there.
3. Melbourne basketball rivalries work
Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia, and possibly even the world. The AFL thrives with multiple Melbourne-based teams and rivalries that date back almost a century. While basketball does not boast quite the same traditions or have the same traction as the AFL, it does have the potential to do so, and could in the process capture a good portion of a large sporting market.
A new Melbourne side could introduce a rivalry that has the potential to eclipse those of the early ‘90s, an era that saw Rod Laver Arena sell out regularly for clashes between the Tigers and South East Melbourne Magic, then the Victoria Titans.
Most of the Tigers/United supporters were traditionally from the central, west and inner northern parts of Melbourne. The defunct Magic/Titans and South Dragons teams however attracted the majority of their support from the eastern and southern regions of Melbourne. Basing a side on the border of both these areas make perfect sense. It would be even more logical if a train station was nearby. Having said that, it is located right on the EastLink tollway that connects the southeast with the northeast.
Unlike failed attempts in Sydney, Melbourne's rival NBL teams always managed to draw big crowds and generate media exposure. Unfortunately, the teams and the league itself failed to capitalise on opportunities off those past on-court successes. While many NBL teams in Melbourne have come and gone in the past, the time is right for introducing a second team in the largest basketball market in Australia.
The Southern Huskies' proposal for an NBL team based in Tasmania truly is exciting, and hopefully we will see their plans come to fruition as a tenth NBL side. Right now, it might be time to get excited about a new Melbourne inter-town rivalry, and an anticipated return of the NBL to Melbourne's east.