Fourteen new inductees will receive Australian basketball’s highest honour when the class of 2010 is welcomed to the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame at a star-studded black-tie event at The Sofitel Melbourne on Collins on Wednesday 18 August.
Sydney Olympian Grace, who earned his nickname of ‘Amazing’ after leading Perth to four National Basketball League (NBL) titles (1990, 1991, 1995, 2000), will be recognised for his remarkable career by being inducted as a Player.
Fallon had a stellar career that spanned across 251 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) games, including two championships with the Sydney Flames of 1993 and 1997, and 224 games for Australia. She won three Olympic medals (two Silver, one Bronze) and one World Championship medal (Bronze), and will join former Opals teammates Sandy Brondello and Shelley Gorman in the ABHF induction class of 2010.
Indigenous Australian basketball pioneer Michael AhMatt will also be inducted as a Player, along with women’s basketball pioneer Elaine Hardwick, early WNBL stars Karin McRobert and Julie Nykiel and dual Olympian Bill Wyatt.
The ABHF will also posthumously induct former Sydney Kings owner Mike Wrublewski as a Contributor, Australian wheelchair basketball star Sandy Blythe as a Player and lifelong country New South Wales stalwart Merv Emms as a Coach.
The driving force behind the establishment of Townsville’s NBL team, David Carmichael, has also been recognised as a Contributor for his efforts, and veteran official Greg Love will enter the Hall as a Technical Official.
The name of the third person ever to have been elevated to Legend status, Australian basketball’s highest honour, will be revealed on the night of the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame Dinner.
Basketball Australia Chief Executive Officer Larry Sengstock, himself a previous Hall of Fame inductee, said the incoming class of inductees represented some of the sport’s greatest heroes, on and off the court.
“The 2010 class of the Hall features fourteen individuals who all have given absolutely selflessly to our sport over an extended period of time,” said Sengstock. “They have all made their own indelible marks on basketball, and helped us grow our sport to where it is today. They make a fantastic addition to the Hall and I look forward to honouring them in Melbourne on August 18.”
Full details of all 14 inductees for 2010 are below.
Tickets for the 2010 Australian Basketball Hall of Fame Dinner on 18 August at The Sofitel Melbourne on Collins are currently on sale. Click here to see full details.
About the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame
The Australian Basketball Hall of Fame recognises those people who have made an outstanding contribution to the sport of basketball in Australia at the international or national levels, NBL/WNBL, State/Association, local level, or to basketball generally. The ABHF is open to able-bodied athletes as well as athletes with a disability. Inductees to the ABHF will be in four divisions; Player, Coach, Technical Official and Contributor. The Legend Award is the ultimate award in the Hall of Fame and can be made only to persons who have previously been inducted into it, and whose service to basketball and Basketball Australia is worthy of the highest honour in Australia in the sport of basketball. The Basketball Australia Hall of Fame and National Basketball League Hall of Fame have been united under the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame to acknowledge the restructure of the NBL and Basketball Australia into a single, united governing body. There are 56 previous inductees.
2010 Australian Basketball Hall of Fame Inductees (Listed in alphabetical order)
Michael AhMatt - Player
A pioneer for indigenous Australians and his sport. Born in Townsville in 1942, he grew up in Darwin and was selected to represent the Northern Territory at the 1959 Australian Championships. At that tournament he was invited to move to South Australia and join the South Adelaide Panthers. Eventually he would play a then-record 588 games over twenty seasons for his club in his adopted state. In 1964, Michael became one of the first two Indigenous Australians to represent their country at an Olympic Games as part of a Boomers squad that would finish in 9th position. He was also a member of the 1968 Boomers squad that participated in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Monterrey prior to the Mexico Olympic Games. Michael was a tremendous basketball player with freakish and uncanny dribbling and passing skills. He was also renowned for his spinning backboard shots which seemed to come out of nowhere. An enthusiastic supporter of the National Aboriginal Sports Foundation, Michael’s skills and flair for the game would inspire future champions such as Danny Morseu and indirectly Patrick Mills and Nathan Jawai. Tragically Michael Ahmatt died of a heart attack in 1984. AhMatt is already a member of the Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame.
Sandy Blythe - Player
If he were to be remembered for nothing else, Sandy Blythe’s role as captain of the Rollers during their historic run to the gold medal at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta would guarantee his place in Australia’s basketball history. But he will be remembered for a great deal more than that.
Sandy had his sights set on a career in the VFL when a car accident left him paralysed. Against all the odds, Sandy decided that he would draw on his competitive drive to conquer the challenges of both life and sport. By 1988, Sandy Blythe had been selected to represent his country at the Paralympics in Seoul, where the Rollers would finish in 10th position. Twelve years later, in the year 2000, Blythe would be named co-captain of the Australian Paralympic team for the Sydney Paralympic Games that finished fifth. A noted corporate speaker and businessman, Sandy Blythe’s tragically early death in November 2005 robbed our sport of one of its finest ambassadors. As a player and as a person Sandy Blythe was truly world-class.
Sandy Brondello - Player
Sandy Brondello has one of the most decorated mantelpieces in all of Australian basketball. A star on three continents, Sandy played 302 games for her country, which remains the third highest total in Opals history behind Hall of Famers Robyn Maher and Karen Dalton. Sandy played for 10 seasons in the WNBL, reaching the playoffs on three occasions. Most notably, she was named the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player in 1995 as a member of a Brisbane Blazers team that finished just out of reach of the playoffs. Her decade-long stint with German powerhouse BTV Wuppertal resulted in 10 German national titles, four trips to the Euroleague Final Four and in 1996 a Euroleague title alongside a Final Four MVP trophy. In 1998, she joined the WNBA’s Detroit Shock as a fourth-round draft pick (alongside Hall of Famer Rachael Sporn) and spent six years with the Shock, Miami and lastly Seattle.
Brondello was a member of four Olympic and four World Championship teams, including the Opals of 1996, who claimed Australia’s first medal in Olympic basketball with a famous victory over Ukraine in the Bronze medal playoff. She won two Olympic silver medals as well as a World Championship bronze medal. In February 2010, Sandy was appointed head coach of the WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars. Sandy Brondello was a member of a generation of players who took Australian women’s basketball to unparalleled heights of excellence.
David Carmichael - Contributor
David Carmichael‘s contribution to Australian basketball was not made in the glare of the spotlight, but through years of tireless work on behalf of the sport off the court as a passionate and dedicated administrator. Few people have had a greater involvement in the development of the sport at a professional level. After being approached in 1992 to support the bid of Townsville to enter the NBL, David gave freely of his time and money to organise the operating syndicate and gather the funds necessary to make the bid a success. As chairman of Barrier Reef Basketball, he oversaw the birth of the Townsville Suns, giving that city its first team in a national sporting competition. He also lobbied the state and local governments to convince them to build the Townsville Entertainment Centre (now known simply as ‘The Swamp’). Eventually, Carmichael took his passion for the game onto a national level, serving as a member of the NBL Board for over a decade. He played a crucial role in the marriage of BA and the NBL, and the business model that he pioneered has become the template for all incoming NBL clubs.
Merv Emms - Coach
Merv Emms’ legacy to Australian basketball is a diverse one. In almost 60 years of service to the game, Merv has held a number of positions in the sport, helping to develop basketball in Country NSW initially, and later in the Oceania region. In 1948 Merv qualified as a State referee and was a Technical Official at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He co-founded the Lithgow Basketball Association in 1946 and coached the Lithgow team, leading it to six straight NSW Country Championships from 1953-1958. During that time Merv also coached the NSW U16 and U18 teams, winning seven titles out of 10 national finals appearances. Today ‘The Merv Emms Trophy’ is the prize for the Australian U18 Men’s Champions. Country Secretary of Basketball NSW from 1952-62, Merv facilitated the growth of NSW regional associations from seven to 70 and following his retirement, continued to make regular visits to the nations of the Oceania region to conduct coaching clinics and advise on administration and development of game officials. A State and National Selector of representative teams, Merv continued to contribute across a number of areas in the sport, co-founding the NSW State Coaches Association before his talent for architectural drawing led him to be appointed as Stadium Development Advisor for Basketball NSW in 1977. A decade earlier, Emms had been responsible for the design of Alexandria Basketball Stadium.
Trisha Fallon - Player
Trisha Fallon was a cornerstone of the Opals during a period where expectations changed; now, instead of hoping to win medals, we expect to win medals and challenge for the gold. In her 224 games for Australia, Fallon won three Olympic medals (two Silver, one Bronze) and one World Championship medal (Bronze). At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Fallon was the captain of an Opals team that won every game until narrowly losing the Gold medal match to the United States 74-63. It was a disappointing end to an international career that also included the 2003 Maher Medal for Female International Player of the Year. Trisha appeared in 251 games in the WNBL and played a vital role in two championship teams (the Sydney Flames of 1993 and 1997). She was one of the faces of the League in the mid-1990’s and drew notoriety in 1997 in winning a championship (and the Grand Final MVP trophy) while pregnant. In 1999/00, Trisha was named co-Most Valuable Player of the League alongside Lauren Jackson. Finally, in 2004 she was selected in the WNBL’s 25th Anniversary Team. Like many of her contemporaries, Trisha also played for a number of seasons in Europe and in the WNBA. In 2003, she was part of a Ros Casares Valencia team that won the Spanish Cup and Super Cup double. As an integral member of the administration of the Sydney Uni Flames, Trisha Fallon continues to grace the sport for which she has been an outstanding ambassador.
Shelley Gorman - Player
Known to many simply as ‘Gorms’, Shelley Gorman was one of the toughest and fittest players ever to wear an Australian uniform. Over 15 years and 306 games, Gorman achieved some significant milestones. Selected to play at the 1988 Olympics at the age of eighteen, the following year Shelley was the Co-Captain of Australian basketball’s first medal-winning team, the Gems of 1989 who claimed a bronze medal at the World Championships. After her Olympic debut in 1988, Shelley won bronze and silver medals at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic teams. In the WNBL, Gorman’s 321 games (split between Melbourne East, A.I.S., Dandenong, Sydney and Canberra) are sixth on the all-time games played list. She won five championships, including three with the all-conquering Melbourne East teams of the 1980’s. She was named as a member of the WNBL All-Star Five on six occasions (1988-89, 1991, 1993-95). Her greatest year was 1994, when she shared the scoring title with Sandy Brondello and received the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player award. Her career total of 5204 points is second on the all-time scoring list, behind Hall of Famer Rachael Sporn, earning Shelley a place in the WNBL’s 25th Anniversary Team. Gorman also had stints with BTV Wuppertal alongside Sandy Brondello and with the San Jose Lasers in the American Basketball League.
Ricky Grace - Player
Few nicknames have been as fitting as that attached to Ricky Grace: ‘The Amazing One’. For fifteen years, Ricky terrorised opponents and won a place in fans’ hearts with his sparkling play at the point guard position. He arrived in Australia in 1990 following two NCAA Tournament appearances with the University of Oklahoma (reaching the National Championship game in 1988). Ricky’s Australian career was loaded with honours including four NBL championships (1990, 1991, 1995, 2000), two Grand Final MVP awards (1990 and 1993) and four All-NBL First Team selections (1991, 2001-03).
Still ranked third on the NBL all-time list for assists with 3,470, Ricky was named a member of the NBL’s 25th Anniversary Team in 2004. A winner of six Gordon Ellis Medals as the Perth Wildcats’ Best and Fairest (1991, 1997-99 and 2001-02), he is one of only five Wildcats to have their playing number retired. Making his Boomers debut in 1996 Ricky was a member of one of the most successful Boomers teams in Olympic history at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, finishing fourth.
Throughout his career Ricky spent much of his downtime working with the community, running basketball clinics at schools. With the end of his playing career in 2005, Ricky focused his energies on developing a program that would develop leadership skills through sport and education for at risk young people in Western Australia. The program, ‘Role Models WA’ has now spread its operations into the Northern Territory.
Elaine Hardwick - Player
It is not a great exaggeration to say that Elaine Hardwick is one of the ‘Founding Mothers’ of women’s basketball in Australia. She was a player on the opening night of the Victorian women’s competition in 1955. Elaine was a member of two Opals tours of New Zealand in 1960 and 1963. An 11-year veteran of the Victorian state side, she was captain of the 1964 team that won the National Championship for the first time, after several defeats in the final. In 1968, Elaine moved into coaching and became head coach of Brunswick/Coburg. She was the first woman to lead a team to an Australian Championship and built Coburg into a basketball powerhouse in the 1970’s. Off the court, Elaine served as a Victorian delegate to the Amateur Basketball Union of Australia (the precursor to Basketball Australia) for over two decades and was President of its Women’s Council at the birth of the WBL (later the WNBL) in 1981. For a time, Elaine was the Tribunal Commissioner for the WNBL. She also served as team manager for numerous Opals teams in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Greg Love – Technical Official
Greg Love is one of Australian basketball’s unsung heroes. In 1958, at the age of 17, Love began a 42-year career as a referee that encompassed both able-bodied and wheelchair basketball. During that time, he controlled 20 National Championship games in various divisions, as well as a number of men’s and women’s Australian Club Championships. He was a senior referee in both the NBL and WNBL in the founding days of those leagues. From 1985, Greg also directed his energies towards wheelchair basketball, controlling three Gold medal matches as well as serving as Senior Referee at the 1998 Gold Cup and 2000 Paralympics, both held in Sydney. He has served as Vice-President of the IWBF (International Wheelchair Basketball Federation) and is currently the Secretary-General of the Asia-Oceania region for that body. He is a Life Member of Australia’s National Wheelchair Basketball League.His greatest contribution has been in the areas of teaching, training and assessing referees. Using his professional experience as a training provider, Greg has developed many of the courses and methods by which our game’s officials have been brought up to national and international standards. Most officials who control games today owe their jobs to the work of people like Greg Love. For his work within and outside the basketball community, Greg Love is welcomed into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame.
Karin McRobert - Player
Karin McRobert was one of the elite players of her generation. Her career began as part of the powerful CYMS club in the mid-1970's. From there she was selected to be a member of the 1975 and 1979 World Championship teams. The 1979 team produced the greatest result in the history of Australian basketball to that time, finishing a surprising 4th with victories over France, Italy and Japan. When the WBL (precursor to the WNBL) began operations in 1981, McRobert was there as part of the CYMS team, averaging 19.2 points a game (the third highest average for that year). She would eventually play 150 WNBL games for three clubs (CYMS, Coburg and Bulleen) between 1981 and 1989, averaging 18 points a game for her career (in the top ten on the all-time list). In 1985 she led Coburg on a magical run to the WNBL title after finishing in fourth spot at the end of the regular season. Karin was selected as a member of the WNBL’s 25th Anniversary Team in 2004. Following her retirement from the WNBL in 1989, McRobert continued her involvement with the game as a part of the ‘Victorian Butterflies’, a veteran team put together by her former Opals teammate Sandra Tomlinson. An exciting and sometimes unstoppable scorer, as well as one of the most popular people in Australian basketball, Karin McRobert has earned her place in the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame.
Julie Nykiel - Player
When you look at the WNBL record book, the name Julie Nykiel jumps out at you straight away. Despite finishing her career in 1990, Julie still has the second highest points per game average as well as the equal fifth highest field goal percentage in the history of the league. Her single-game record of 53 points, set in 1982, stood for over 20 years and was achieved without the benefit of a three-point line. She also holds the record for the most shots attempted in a game (40, in 1986.) All this was done for a Noarlunga Tigers (now Southern Tigers) team that only reached the Grand Final once, suffering a heart-breaking 73-71 loss to Coburg in 1985. Two years stood out as her best, 1984 and 1988, when Julie was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Nykiel was just as devastating a scorer when wearing Australian colours. She played at three World Championships (1979, 1983 and 1986) and was a two-time Olympian (1984, 1988). A charming and popular figure, Julie was named in the WNBL’s 25th Anniversary Team in 2004, the year she also received a Life Membership of the WNBL.
Mike Wrublewski was a revolutionary figure in the selling of basketball to Australian sports fans. As one of the first private owners of a sporting team in Australia, Michael had a vision: to make basketball ‘everyone’s second most favourite sport.’ It would take the merger of his Sydney Supersonics and the West Sydney Westars, resulting in the formation of the Sydney Kings, to make that vision a reality. The mixture of high-quality sport, family entertainment and corporate interest brought people flooding into Kings home games and the ‘Sold Out’ signs became part of the landscape. The Wrublewski empire soon spread to include a WNBL team (the Sydney Flames), a British Basketball League team (the Birmingham Bullets) and special events such as the 1994 FIBA World Championships for Women (the finals held in front of a raucous crowd at the Sydney Entertainment Centre) and the 1998 IWBF Gold Cup (the World Championships for wheelchair basketball). By the year 2000, Wrublewski had decided that the time had come to step away from active involvement with the sport. He sold the Kings to a new consortium and became a regular fan. No-one was happier when Sydney won three successive NBL titles between 2003 and 2005. Sadly, on 8th August 2009 Michael Wrublewski lost his last fight, against pancreatic cancer.
Bill Wyatt - Player
Bill Wyatt was a vital part of the Melbourne Church (later Melbourne Tigers) dynasty that has kept that famous old club at the forefront of Australian basketball. Learning the art of the shuffle offense at the feet of legendary coach Ken Watson, Wyatt formed a magical back-court combination with Lindsay Gaze that saw Church win numerous Victorian and Australian titles. Their career together began in 1958, with the opening of the Albert Park Stadium, which soon became the most important basketball facility in the country. In 1960, Wyatt was a member of the first Boomers team to attempt to qualify for the Olympic basketball tournament. Unfortunately, they were eliminated after 4 games of the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament. Wyatt’s next two trips to the Olympic Games (1964 and 1972) produced more success: not only did the Boomers qualify for the Olympic tournament, but they actually won games. On both occasions the Boomers finished 9th. Wyatt was more successful back home: he played a crucial role in Tigers teams that won seven Victorian State Championships, numerous Australian Club Championships and all seven titles during the existence of the South Eastern Conference (a precursor to the NBL). For all of these on-court achievements and for his ability to control a game, Bill Wyatt is more than worthy of enshrinement into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame.
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