Back in the Day: August 1985

Back in the Day: August 1985

The smell of burning toast and the whoosh of a speeding DeLorean is proof that the BA time machine has landed in August 1985...

Winter Season Week Twenty-One: ‘Great Scott!’

-The world stops to mark the 40th anniversary of the first use of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. As 30,000 people hold a “death-in” in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, Nobel laureate and former Governor of South Australia Sir Mark Oliphant registers his “terrible sadness” that such a weapon had ever been produced.

-Australia’s Ambassador to South Africa is recalled for discussions in Canberra as that country enters its third week of an official “state of emergency”. As the major mining unions announce that their members will walk out if the state of emergency is not lifted immediately, U.S. President Ronald Reagan fails to deny that he would veto Congressionally-approved economic sanctions against South Africa.

-G.J. Coles and Co. and Myer Emporium agree to merge in a deal worth over $1.1 billion. The combination of these two great family companies forms a retail colossus that will control one-fifth of Australia’s retail market.

-The head of the Federal Government’s AIDS Task Force, Professor David Pennington, warns that “huge demands on public resources and on the services of a wide range of persons’ will be made over the next decade as the epidemic continues to grow. Pennington also calls for a nation-wide education program, to show that AIDS will affect everyone in the community. The letter columns in Australia’s newspapers suggest that such a program would be more than welcome.

- In an attempt to ‘choke the oxygen of publicity’ from the I.R.A., the BBC bows to pressure from British Home Secretary Leon Brittain and decides not to screen a program featuring an interview with Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuiness. In response, the BBC’s 2000 journalists, along with their colleagues at ITN walk out en masse, to protest the Thatcher Government’s interference in broadcasting policy.

-For the sixth time since 1972, the players of Major League Baseball walk-out of ballparks across America. After two days, a deal is reached on increased minimum salaries and owner’s contribution to pension funds.

-The fourth Ashes test at Old Trafford ends in a draw after a combination of Manchester’s infamous bad weather and Allan Border’s magnificent 146 not out saves the game for Australia. The series remained level at 1-1 with tests at Edgbaston and The Oval remaining.

-The notable deaths of the week included the President of Guyana Forbes Burnham (aged 62), silent film star Louise Brooks (aged 78) and Rugby League Immortal Clive Churchill (of cancer, aged 57). South Sydney champion and NSW Minister for Sport, Michael Cleary, who won four premierships under Churchill’s tutelage, speaks for many when he says “It is a sad time but I am happy he is out of pain.”

-‘Shout” (by Tears for Fears), “Crazy for You” and “Into the Groove” were keeping music fans home at night.

The NBL entered its penultimate round with a number of storylines crowding each other for prominence. First up were Ken Cole’s run and gun Adelaide 36ers, who had won ten straight while averaging over 136 points per game and winning margins of over 30. Bob Turner’s Canberra Cannons, as two-time defending League champions, were recovering from a shock home loss to the lowly Sydney Supersonics. Brian Kerle’s Brisbane Bullets looked to be the odd team out in the battle for a top-two spot. Meanwhile, Dave Ankeney’s Newcastle Falcons, who had led the League through the middle of the season, had had a disastrous month and were on the edge of play-off oblivion. Finally, the Supersonics, led by new coach Claude Williams, had won their last three and making positive noises for 1986. Their final road-trip of the season would be “The Doomsday Double”, with their first stop being Perry Lakes Stadium...

NBL Round 21

Friday 9th August 1985: Three NBL Games

NBL Game One: Sydney Supersonics @Perth Wildcats

Final score: Wildcats 142-Supersonics 122

The Wildcats lead from go to whoa in this shoot-out. Perth’s Dan Clausen and Sandy Caldwell hold Sydney’s star import Tiny Pinder to only 29 points (he would finish the year with an average of 33.5 points per game).  Roland Brooks leads all scorers for Perth with 37 while Clausen and Mike Ellis each pour in 35.

NBL Game Two: Nunawading Spectres @Illawarra Hawks

Final score: Spectres 111-Hawks 109 (OT)

Barry Barnes’ Spectres continue their drive for a first-week home final with a gutsy win on the road against the Hawks. In a game that was nip and tuck all the way, Nunawading’s Steve Samuels hits a tip-in with seconds remaining to tie the score at 101 and force the overtime period. Ron Lemons leads the Spectres with 26 points. Illawarra are unable to send their ten-year veteran Jim Slacke out on a winning note, with the “Silver Hawk” scoring 26 points in his last game at the Snakepit.

NBL Game Three: Brisbane Bullets @Bankstown Bruins

Final score: Bullets 95-Bruins 86

A 27-point, 13-rebound performance (18 of his points came in the second half) from Larry Sengstock is enough to drag the Bullets to a surprisingly difficult victory over Bankstown. Brisbane had an 11-point lead with nine minutes to play before the Bruins cut the lead to three on two separate occasions. Bullets big man Audie Matthews misses the game with a broken hand and they struggle to make-up for the loss.

Saturday 10th August 1985: Four NBL Games

NBL Game Four: Sydney Supersonics @Adelaide 36ers

Final score: 36ers 155-Supersonics 136

Adelaide ended its regular-season stand at a packed Apollo Stadium with a masterpiece. Shooting a mind-blowing 63% from the field, the 36ers ran Sydney off the floor by producing a 53 point first quarter, ending with an Al Green three-pointer at the horn. Green scored 17 of his 38 in that first term, while Tiny Pinder scored 16 of his game-high 47. Four other Adelaide players scored more than 20 points: Mark Davis with 29 (plus 13 rebounds), Daryl Pearce with 28, Mike McKay with 23 (22 of them in the first half) and Bill Jones with 22. With their 11th straight win (six of them on the road) Adelaide locks up a spot in the semi-finals with one week to go. 36ers coach Ken Cole is still hoping for the minor premiership “It shows consistency throughout the year.” If the world’s headquarters of ‘Showtime’ basketball was based in Los Angeles, then this Adelaide team ran the company’s most successful branch office: they would have been a lot of fun to watch.

Milestone Alert: The 291 aggregate points is the 7th highest total in NBL history.

Adelaide’s 53-point first quarter is the second highest total for a quarter in NBL history (only surpassed by a 55-point 4th quarter from West Adelaide in a match against Illawarra in February 1984.)

NBL Game Five: Bankstown Bruins @Hobart Devils

Final score: Bruins 108-Devils 101

Bankstown bounces back from their loss to the Bullets by successfully navigating the middle part of their three-game weekend. Hobart’s Ollie Johnston and the Bruins’ Vince Kelley go point-for point (they would each finish with 38) before Bankstown pulls away in the fourth quarter, marking a profitable visit to Kingsborough Stadium.

NBL Game Six: Geelong Cats @Melbourne Tigers

Final score: Cats 116-Tigers 111

Geelong keeps their faint play-off hopes alive with a tough win at Albert Park Stadium. Wayne McDaniel scores 30 for the Cats, with James Crawford and Al Westover each putting up 27 (who knew Westover could score?) As usual, Andrew Gaze leads all scorers, garnering 35 on this occasion.

NBL Game Seven: Nunawading Spectres @Newcastle Falcons

Final score: Spectres 94-Falcons 88

The Spectres’ late season surge continues as they condemn the Falcons to their sixth loss in their last seven matches. Having been top of the ladder a month ago, no-one is quite sure why Newcastle had started playing so badly. Already weakened by the loss of inspirational guard Ian Robilliard with a hand injury, the Falcons then ruined their own chances by shooting 30/77 from the field and lower than 50% from the free throw line while turning the ball over 28 times. The ghastly performance motivated Falcons coach Dave Ankeney to say ‘I don’t mind getting beaten but not without putting up a fight.’ Nunawading’s best player was Brendan Joyce whose terrier-like defence and seven assists sparked his side’s victory.

Sunday 11th August 1985: Two NBL Games

NBL Game Eight: Brisbane Bullets @Coburg Giants

Final score: Giants 121-Bullets 106

In the lead-up to this confrontation, Brisbane coach Brian Kerle had been quoted in Melbourne’s Sun newspaper as describing Coburg’s stadium as ‘second-rate’ and saying that ‘Playing there on a Sunday afternoon was about as appealing as attending a funeral.’ The 1200 rabid fans that showed up saw a Giants team that was by no means second-rate run over the Bullets in the fourth quarter. Brisbane turned the ball over six times in the period and stood blithely by as Bennie Lewis torched their defence for 13 of his eventual 44 points. Kerle was fuming afterwards: the Bullets’ interior defence had been so poor that they had allowed Lewis to score 36 points inside the key. In the end, Brian just shrugged his shoulders and said ‘The things you do to get a crowd on a Sunday afternoon.’

NBL Game Nine: Bankstown Bruins @St. Kilda Saints

Final score: Saints 119- Bruins 87

The Bruins, after their two previous games, had little energy left to compete against the Saints. Peter Wain scores 24 for the home team. Bankstown now looked forward to a final round showdown with the Supersonics and would have been hoping to impress Dr. Geoffrey Edelsten, who was reported to be interested in adding the Bruins to his Sportsplay empire. Edelsten, who had just purchased the VFL’s Sydney Swans and had also expressed an interest in taking over the NSWRL’s Cronulla Sharks, had reportedly been involved in unsuccessful negotiations to acquire the Newcastle Falcons.

Canberra had the bye.

NBL Ladder

Top Six:                                                Bottom Eight:

Adelaide        20 and 5                             Geelong     15 and 10

Canberra       19 and 6                             Perth         12 and 13

Brisbane        19 and 5                             St. Kilda      9 and 15

Nunawading   18 and 7                             Illawarra      9 and 15

Coburg          17 and 8                             Sydney        9 and 16

Newcastle      15 and 9                             Bankstown     5 and 20

                                                            Melbourne     5 and 20

                                                            Hobart          2 and 23

Next week, there’ll be no time to cry as the BA time machine sashays its way to Argentina. Join us as we follow the Boomers’ tilt for a medal: we’ll catch sight of Schmidt the super-shooter, watch as a loose pass denies the Boomers a chance at history and see how ‘The General’, Luc and the rest of the band survived the battles. The 1990 Men’s World Championships: next week in a “Back in the Day” Special Report.

P.S. Congratulations to the Wollongong Hawks on the launch of their new historical micro-site. This columnist hopes that other NBL and WNBL clubs follow in their footsteps sooner rather than later.

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.’