Back in the Day: Late Autumn 1984

Back in the Day: Late Autumn 1984

This week, the BA time machine touches down in the late autumn of 1984. Unfortunately it appears that we have missed Al Green's immortal night, which is a shame. Let’s see what else was going on...

Winter Season Week Ten: We Love L.A.

-The former Minister for Corrective Services in New South Wales, Rex Jackson, testifies at a Special Commission of Inquiry into allegations that he had accepted bribes to ensure the early release of certain hardened criminals. Jackson strenuously denies any wrongdoing.

-As the streets of the Philippine capital Manila roil in violence following suspect election results, the Marcos regime’s “inquiry” into the murder of opposition leader Ninoy Aquino rises to high farce. Two soldiers who were tasked with ‘protecting’ Aquino from his supporters claim that they did not see the alleged gunman who struck Aquino down, despite being only metres away.

-The ABC is in uproar following a management decision to make an agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea that a Four Corners interview with a leader of the Free Papua Movement not be broadcast. After a week of wrangling between the ABC board, management, journalists and the Australian and PNG governments, the interview is finally broadcast.

-On the football stage, Everton wins its first trophy in 14 years, defeating Watford 2-0 in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Pop star Elton John, president of the Watford club, is seen to shed tears as the match nears its end.

-The most notable death of the week was that of Sir John Betjeman, 23rd Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, at the age of 77.

- ‘Hello’, ‘The Reflex’ and ‘Footloose’ were the songs that swung people’s hips.

As was previewed last week, the Opals were on their way home from Cuba following their seventh-place finish in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament. This tournament was later described as ‘the coming of age’ for Australian women’s basketball. It appeared as though the Opals had fallen one win short of achieving their Olympic dreams. But then, the vagaries of international power politics stepped in to lend a hand. In retaliation for the United States’ boycott of the Moscow Olympics four years previously, the Soviet Union along with several of its Communist allies announced their intention to boycott the Los Angeles Olympics. A withdrawal by Cuba would allow the Opals to sneak into their first ever Olympic tournament.

Finally, on Thursday 24th May, a press release from Havana: the Cubans had joined the boycott. The Opals were in! Here now are some of the reactions from the members of the squad recorded over the next 24 hours:

Opals captain Jenny Cheesman: ‘It’s a life-long dream come true...Since I was twelve years old my aim has been to play basketball at an Olympic Games.’

Opals vice-captain Kathy Foster, who received the news in the middle of her day as a primary school teacher in Tasmania: ‘When I returned to the classroom the kids asked me whether I was going to LA and were thrilled to bits when I told them I was’.

Nunawading star Robyn Maher: ‘We always aimed to qualify legitimately...but when we didn’t...we sure started thinking about the boycott then.’

North Adelaide’s Pat Mickan: ‘The pull-out is disastrous because it possibly means the end of the Olympics, but I find it difficult to appreciate that now!’

Wollongong’s Wendy Laidlaw: ‘I’m so happy. I haven’t been able to sleep since we’ve been home, just hoping Cuba would withdraw...Now we’re in the Games, it is out of this world.’

Opals head coach Brendan Flynn ‘was afraid that every phone call he got...would tell him it was all a joke.’

One other note of historical interest: Phil Smyth and Jenny Cheesman would become the first husband and wife to captain Australian teams at the same Olympics. 

Friday 18th May 1984: Three NBL Games

NBL Game One: Frankston Bears @ Illawarra Hawks

Final score: Hawks 113-Bears 110

Illawarra produces the first of a series of comebacks that would pepper the round, fighting back from an 18 point deficit to win. The Hawks hit 11 of their last 13 shots, most of them put up by Marion Redmond who top-scored for the game with 36 points.

NBL Game Two: Devonport Warriors @ Perth Wildcats

Final score: Wildcats 128-Warriors 126

After being behind 53-68 in the second quarter, Devonport produces their version of a comeback. Chipping away at the lead, the Warriors take a 112-111 lead with seven minutes remaining. The Wildcats, desperate for only their second victory of the season, were able to fight back and win the ‘Battle of the Western Cellar.’

Milestone Alert: Perth’s Mike Ellis scores his 1000th NBL point.

NBL Game Three: Geelong Cats @ Sydney Supersonics

Final score: Cats 122-Supersonics 75

No chance of a comeback here as Geelong tore the hapless Supersonics to shreds. James Crawford scores 32 points, making his case for League MVP honours. This game still ranks as the 10th worst regular-season defeat in the NBL record book.

Saturday 19th May 1984: Six NBL Games

NBL Game Four: Bankstown Bruins @ Brisbane Bullets

Final score: Bullets 113-Bruins 74

Brisbane coach Brian Kerle’s decision to call in a sports psychologist to work with his team brings immediate results as his team crushes the Bruins. Ron Radliff has a red-letter night, racking up 37 points and sending Bullets fans home from Chandler Arena with big grins on their faces.

NBL Game Five: Frankston Bears @ Canberra Cannons

Final score: Cannons 118-Bears 107

The Cannons’ win keeps their hopes of a double chance in the play-offs alive. In a game with finals atmosphere, Phil Smyth puts up 33 points for Canberra while teammate Andy Campbell celebrates his recent marriage with 19 points and a strong defensive effort.

NBL Game Six: West Adelaide Bearcats @ Coburg Giants

Final score: Giants 148-Bearcats 127

Coburg’s Bennie Lewis and West Adelaide’s Al Green turn this game into a one-on-one playground duel, with the other eighteen players acting as the supporting cast. Lewis shoots 25/48 while scoring 51 points, while Green shoots 24/45 for 59 points. Green’s total of 59 in a losing effort remains the equal sixth highest individual score in an NBL game. Lewis’ 48 shots is the second highest number of individual shots in an NBL game; Green’s 45 the third highest. The teams put up a total of 236 shots, which is the second most in an NBL game. Wouldn’t you have loved to see that game on One?

NBL Game Seven: Devonport Warriors @ Adelaide 36ers

Final score: 36ers 125-Warriors 112

Dwayne Nelson piles up 32 points and 19 rebounds for Adelaide as they comfortably end the Warriors’ chances of splitting the ‘Doomsday Double’.

NBL Game Eight: Geelong Cats @ Newcastle Falcons

Final score: Cats 128-Falcons 104

What would have been billed as the ‘Game of the Week’ (Geelong leading the West, Newcastle equal with Brisbane at the top of the East) turns into a laugher. Cal Bruton (35 points) and Wayne McDaniel (32 points) are magnificent for the Cats. Falcons coach Dave Ankeney says after the game ‘They can be beaten...but I didn’t know how tonight.’

NBL Game Nine: Hobart Devils @ St. Kilda Pumas

Final score: Pumas 107-Devils 95

Sunday 20th May 1984: Three NBL Games

NBL Game Ten: Coburg Giants @ Melbourne Tigers

Final score: Tigers 128-Giants 124

The previous fortnight for first year Tiger Andrew Gaze had been somewhat hectic. After three ‘Tests’ for the Boomers against a visiting club side from Yugoslavia, Andrew then travelled to Perth to take part in the Australian U20 Championships (seven games in a week). Following Victoria’s 40 point win over NSW in the final, he then caught the red-eye flight to Melbourne, arriving at Tullamarine at 5:30 a.m. At 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, Andrew started for the Tigers and inspired them to an upset win over the red-hot Giants. When Andrew was asked how he was feeling, he said he was ‘a bit tired’. The understatement of the 1984 season, I think.

NBL Game Eleven: Sydney Supersonics @ Bankstown Bruins

Final score: Bruins 130-Supersonics 85

After losing to the Bullets by 39 the previous night, Bankstown show that they like their own home cooking by flattening the Supersonics by 45 points. This was not the worst defeat suffered by Sydney that year: They had suffered through a catastrophic road trip a fortnight earlier where they had lost to West Adelaide by 64 and Coburg by 88 (still the greatest winning margin in the history of the NBL!)

NBL Game Twelve: Hobart Devils @ Nunawading Spectres

Final score: Spectres 130-Devils 115

Milestone Alert: Dean Uthoff’s 34 rebounds (13 offensive) remains tied for the single highest individual total in an NBL game.

NBL Ladders:

Eastern Division

Top Four:                                              Bottom Five:

Brisbane           16 and 4                        West Adelaide                        9 and 9

Newcastle         15 and 5                        Melbourne                              8 and 12

Coburg             15 and 6                        Bankstown                             8 and 12

Illawarra           10 and 9                        Frankston                              8 and 12

                                                             Sydney                                 3 and 19

Western Division

Top Four:                                               Bottom Four:

Geelong            19 and 1                         St. Kilda                                  8 and 11

Adelaide           13 and 5                          Hobart                                    4 and 16

Nunawading      13 and 6                         Devonport                               3 and 16

Canberra           12 and 6                        Perth                                       2 and 17

The WNBL was on hiatus as the Opals were on their way back home from Havana.

So, what have we learnt this week? There were more teams running run-and-gun offences, Geelong was destroying everyone in their path and the Supersonics were simply awful! Thank goodness that a man named Wrublewski would soon appear as a knight errant to save the day.

Next week, we will see the bravery of one man against millions, the Cannons and Giants running wild, Nunawading keeping on keeping on and the ‘Cardiac Kings’ send half their fans to hospital. Those good old dreams will come true, hopefully, next week on ‘Back in the Day’.

This is another in a regular series of articles that will take note of the historic events of the modern era of Australian basketball (1979-today). If you have memories to share, or topics that should be discussed, send an email to and put in the subject line ‘Back in the Day’