Back in the Day: 1984

Back in the Day: 1984

This week, the controls of the BA TARDIS (in the shape of the Dr. John Raschke Trophy) have sent us all the way back to 1984. A time of fears of Armageddon, frizzy perms and a prime minister who could cry on cue. It was also a time when the NBL could be proud of drawing a total of 500, 000 people to its games and had 17 teams, in two divisions. Those were the days, my friends...

Let’s take a look around and see what’s doing. Prime Minister Hawke is on a tour of Australia’s East Asian allies, having lunch with Emperor Hirohito of Japan and extended discussions with South Korean political and economic leaders. He gives a speech in Osaka that warns of both job losses and tariff cuts for Australia’s industrial sector, particularly in steel making and motor car manufacturing. At home, Hawke’s staff is busy consulting with Labor Party hard-heads as to when to call an early general election. Speaking of elections, the United States is gearing up for a presidential election in November. The opposition party, the Democrats, seemingly have their nominee for President already chosen as party leaders such as former President Jimmy Carter and Speaker of the House Edward ‘Tip’ O’Neill line-up behind Carter’s Vice-President, Walter Mondale.

Far above these earthly concerns, the space shuttle Challenger is in orbit, on NASA’s tenth space shuttle mission. The most noteworthy aspect of the mission is the introduction of the MMU, or manned manoeuvring unit. This device would allow astronauts Bruce McCandless and Robert Stewart to spacewalk while being untethered from the vehicle. During the almost 6 hour duration of their first use of the MMU McCandless was heard to remark ‘It may have been one small step for Neil, but it’s a heck of a big leap for me!’

News and notes:

-Australia’s new health-care funding system, Medicare, comes into operation (everywhere except Queensland).

-Melbourne’s Age newspaper publishes explosive allegations implicating a ‘senior judge’ in a possible obstruction of justice. The allegations stem from Federal Police wire-taps, the transcripts of which end up in the hands of investigative journalist Bob Bottom. Bottom then turns this material over to The Age. It is soon announced in Parliament that the ‘senior judge’ is Justice Lionel Murphy of the High Court, who served as Gough Whitlam’s first Attorney-General.

-Help is on its way for Australia’s Summer Olympics team as they prepare for the Games, to be held in Los Angeles:

         * The team’s uniforms, designed by Prue Action, are unveiled and meet with the approval of the nation’s fashion mavens.

         * The Ten television network, who hold the broadcasting rights to the Games, broadcast a 26 hour long nation-wide fundraising telethon. The $6 million raised is considered to be an astonishing achievement for the time.

-Meanwhile, the city of Sarajevo is gearing up to host the 14th Olympic Winter Games. Australia has eleven athletes due to compete but most attention is focused on the Zetra Ice Hall, where the figure skating and ice dancing competitions promise to be the most competitive in years.

-Legendary Australian wicketkeeper Rod Marsh announces that he will retire from all forms of cricket at the end of the Australian domestic season. It brings to a close one of the most successful eras in Australian cricket history.

-‘Karma Chameleon’, ‘Relax’ and ‘Original Sin’ (by INXS) are topping the music charts.

Some vital facts before we take a look at the nine games (9!) of this opening round of the 1984 NBL season:

# Managing Director Tony King predicted that the League’s crowd aggregate would increase from close to 350,000 in 1983 to 500,000. He also expected that the League and its teams would spend in excess of $2 million for the season.

# With League referees now sponsored by Flag Inns (in a deal reportedly worth $15,000) it was hoped that there would be more neutral referees available to travel around Australia (Weren’t referees neutral before 1984?)

# With the Melbourne Tigers joining the competition, the League looked like this:

Eastern Division: Frankston Bears, Coburg Giants, West Adelaide Bearcats, Bankstown Bruins, Newcastle Falcons, Sydney Supersonics, Brisbane Bullets, Illawarra Hawks and the Tigers.

Western Division: Hobart Devils, Devonport Warriors, Adelaide 36ers, Geelong Cats, Perth Wildcats, Nunawading Spectres, Canberra Cannons and St. Kilda Saints.

Each team would play the other teams in their division twice and the teams in the opposing division once. This meant that Western Division teams played 23 games and Eastern Division teams played 24. Figure that one out for yourself!

#Finally, there were three new rules:

1.    Players could now wear numbers beyond the international standard (4-15). This meant that 00-3, 20-25, 30-35, 40-45 and 50-55 were now available.

2.    Games would now consist of four 12-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves (There would be complaints that the game now went ‘almost 2 hours’.)

3.    Most importantly, the three-point line was introduced, following a decision by FIBA. The line was drawn at a distance of 6.25 m (or 20ft 6in) from the basket. It would prove to be crucial in a number of games in the opening round.

Friday 3rd February:

Two NBL Games:

Game One: Brisbane Bullets @ Frankston Bears.

Final score: Brisbane 102-Frankston 82.

After two successful years with West Adelaide (including a championship in 1982) Leroy Loggins returns to Brisbane and rips off a 29 point, 14 rebound performance against the lowly Bears. He was supported by the other two members of the Brisbane Triad: Ron Radliff scored 16 points and Larry Sengstock 15. For Frankston, Chuck Rose was their highest scorer with 29 points.

Game Two: Adelaide 36ers @ Perth Wildcats

Final score: Adelaide 120-Perth 100.

New coach, new rules: Same old results for the struggling Wildcats. Perth’s head man Lynne Massey is powerless to stop a 36ers line-up that expects to make the play-off rounds. New Adelaide import Dan Clausen makes an immediate impact with 33 points and a stack of rebounds. He is supported by Dwayne Nelson, who monsters the boards and also garners 23 points. Boomer hopeful Daryl Pearce picks up 28 points, including a number of three-pointers.

Saturday 4th February

Three NBL Games:

Game One: Sydney Supersonics @ Nunawading Spectres

Final score: Nunawading 101-Sydney 94.

The Spectres get their 1984 campaign off to a great start with a tough win over the visiting Supersonics (who had won a record 16 games in a row the previous year). For Nunawading, Ron Lemons is the top scorer with 28 points, while future Kings Damian Keogh and Alan Black picked up 21 and 19 points respectively. Sydney gets their scoring punch from a three-way threat: Brian Devincenzi (32), Owen Wells (29) and Curt Forrester (19) account for 85% of the Supersonics output.

Game Two: Canberra Cannons@ West Adelaide Bearcats

Final score: Canberra 112-West Adelaide 91.

Probably the most eagerly awaited game of the round: a grand final re-match! The big difference is that Bearcats starting centre Andy Campbell has moved to the Cannons, who have also added a young player from the A.I.S. by the name of Mark Dalton. Campbell racks up 29 points and 1983 Rookie of the Year Jaime Kennedy scores 24 including 4 three-pointers, a new League record. Even with 25 points from Mike Parsons, Ken Cole’s Bearcats have few answers to the defending champions’ onslaught.

Game Three: Brisbane Bullets @ Melbourne Tigers

Final score: Brisbane 94-Melbourne 70.

A historic moment, as the Melbourne Tigers finally join the NBL after decades of supremacy over Victorian basketball. 18-year old wunderkind Andrew Gaze scores 16 points and is the only bright spark as the Bullets complete a sweep of their first road trip for the year. Leroy Loggins is magnificent once again, with a stat line of 31 points, 11 rebounds and 7 steals. Despite the quality of his team’s defence (‘in patches was nothing short of superb’) Brisbane coach Brian Kerle still demands improvement.

Sunday 5th February

Four NBL Games

Game One: Hobart Devils @ Devonport Warriors

Final score: Hobart 78-Devonport 75

The first of two ‘North vs. South’ encounters produces the closest game of the opening weekend. A slow start sees three minutes passes a team scores a basket. Devonport get out to an early eight-point lead; the Devils whittle it back and take an 18-15 lead at quarter-time.  After leading by 14 at one stage, Hobart had to withstand a furious Warrior charge to get the win. Mark Leader had a strong game for Devonport, with 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Game Two: Sydney Supersonics @ St. Kilda Saints

Final score: Sydney 107- St. Kilda 93

Sydney makes up for their disappointment of the previous night by thumping the former glamour team of the 1970’s. The Supersonics’ three way threat strike gold again: Devincenzi with 37, Forrester with 30 and Wells with 25 accounts for 86% of their team’s score. David Leslie’s 33 points for St. Kilda is not nearly enough to stop the Supersonics blitz.

Game Three: Frankston Bears @ Geelong Cats

Final score: Geelong 106-Frankston 87

The Cats are determined that this is the year where they will break through for that coveted NBL championship. Their campaign gets off on the right track with a comfortable victory over Frankston, who crash to their second loss of the weekend. Geelong’s James Crawford is in his pomp, scoring 24 points, dunking and blocking shots all over the place.  Another Boomer hopeful, Danny Morseu, picks up 22 points.

Game Four: Canberra Cannons @ Coburg Giants

Final score: Coburg 110-Canberra 101.

Those who saw him play will tell you that Bennie Lewis was one of the most electrifying imports ever to play in Australia. In this game, he blew Canberra’s defence apart, scoring 39 points and driving their captain Phil Smyth to kick the ball away in frustration. The Cannons were flattered by the scoreline, as the Giants led by 25 midway through the final quarter before shutting down for the night. The final word goes to Cannons coach Bob Turner ‘I’m not upset...Coburg is hard to beat when Bennie Lewis plays like that’. Lewis got plenty of assistance from his front court duo of Ray Borner and newly-signed Chuck Harmison.

No ladders this week, as some teams had a first round bye.

Sailing on the tide and eddies of time, our next port of call will be the late summer of 2003. There is something strange going on: the Sydney Kings are leading the NBL. Who would have believed it?

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’.