Back in the Day: Tank Drivers, Start Your Engines

Back in the Day: Tank Drivers, Start Your Engines

This week, the BA time machine again touches down in May of 1989...

- As tens of thousands of student participate in pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, the vicious struggle for power within the Chinese Communist hierarchy reaches its climax. The hard-liners, led by Deng Xiaoping and Premier Li Peng, seize control of the levers of power and place General Secretary Zhao Ziyang under house arrest. Sinologists are in agreement that a bloody crackdown is only a matter of time.

- Prime Minister Bob Hawke is facing major difficulties of his own with the latest national accounts showing that the economy is growing at an unsustainable 5.4 per cent which is well above the Treasury’s forecast. In response the Reserve Bank raises interest rates to an unheard-of 17% in an attempt to prevent the severe recession that is being heavily predicted.

- As the members of NATO gather in Brussels to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its founding, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H.W. Bush each announce plans to slash the numbers of combat forces that they have stationed in Europe.

- Gorbachev is facing a new political landscape with the election of a new Congress of People’s Deputies. While the nation sits riveted in front of its TV sets, former dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov speak openly of their discontent with the present regime. Gorbachev declares that the “violations of the past” will not occur again.

- The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Wright is forced to resign following a continual bombardment of allegations concerning possible ethics violations. In an emotional address from the well of the House, Wright pleads “All of us in both political parties must resolve to bring this period of mindless cannibalism to an end! We’ve done enough of it!” Sadly, it is only the beginning.

- London is brought to a standstill as upwards of 15,000 people protest the publication of Salman Rushdie’s highly controversial novel The Satanic Verses. The march reaches its climax in Parliament Square where copies of the book and effigies of Rushdie are burned. Violence during the protest led to 12 police being injured and 70 arrests.

- The Cannes Film Festival reaches its climax with the Steven Soderbergh film sex, lies and videotape awarded the coveted Palme d’Or. Meryl Streep is named Best Actress for her performance as Lindy Chamberlain in Evil Angels.

- It’s America’s biggest weekend of motorsports, with the Indianapolis 500 followed by NASCAR’s World 600. At “The Brickyard”, former Formula One World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi wins for the first time after colliding with Al Unser Jr. on the penultimate lap. Meanwhile Kevin Cogan is lucky to walk away after a fearsome crash on the third lap. In Charlotte Darrell Waltrip becomes the first and so far only man to win the World 600 five times. He also claimed a cool $100,000 having already won the Daytona 500.

- In the world of football, two of its greatest competitions end in contrasting styles:

* AC Milan wins their first European Cup in two decades with a 4-0 thrashing of Steaua Bucharest at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. Dutch internationals Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten each scored two goals.

*On a warm Friday night at Anfield, Liverpool and Arsenal met to decide England’s First Division champion. Liverpool had not lost a match since New Year’s Day and Arsenal had to win by at least two goals to claim the title. Deep into injury time and with the Gunners a goal to the good, the ball is placed at the feet of Arsenal’s Michael Thomas. As ITV’s Brian Moore cries “It’s up for grabs now...” Thomas coolly slots the ball into the bottom left corner of the net, denying Liverpool a second domestic Double in four seasons and claiming the First Division championship for Arsenal for the first time since 1971.

- The most notable death of the week was that of former Leeds United and England manager Don Revie, who succumbed to motor neurone disease at the age of 61.

- “Forever Your Girl”, “Ferry Across the Mersey” and “Like a Prayer” are at the top of the music charts.

Meanwhile, in the world of basketball...

- The Lakers continue their march towards a three-peat by sweeping the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals. In the Eastern Conference, it is a far more brutal affair with the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls literally slugging it out. Pistons strongman Bill Laimbeer adds to his reputation as one of the meanest players in NBA history when he is ejected from Game 2 after an elbow to the chest of Bulls guard John Paxson. The third game of the series, played at the old Chicago Stadium in front of a nationwide television audience, is made memorable for an outstanding performance by Michael Jordan.  With his Bulls trailing by 14 with 7:19 remaining in the fourth quarter Jordan scores 17 of his game-high 46 points including the game-winner in a 99-97 victory.

Friday 26 May, 1989

NBL Game One: Newcastle Falcons @Perth Wildcats

Final score: Wildcats 134-Falcons 129

Ken Cole’s Falcons, noted for their high octane offense, began their “Doomsday Double” trip “like a petro-chemical facility on fire”. After only eight minutes they led the Wildcats by the score of 31-8 with Michael Johnson stroking it from three-point range (he would finish with eight threes in his 31 points). Perth was able to steady and chipped away at the lead, taking advantage of Newcastle’s weak zone defence. When Mike Ellis stole the ball and hit a three-pointer as the siren sounded for three-quarter time, tying the score at 101-101, the stage was set for a thrilling last term. After five lead changes the home side were able to take command with James Crawford running riot, finishing the game with 35 points.

NBL Game Two: North Melbourne Giants @Illawarra Hawks

Final score: Hawks 124-Giants 123

On paper, this appeared to be a David and Goliath match-up. The Giants arrived at the Snakepit having won their opening four games while averaging 130 points per game. In Tim Dillon and Scott Fisher (the “Twin Boulders”) they had one of the most formidable import pairings in NBL history. Illawarra was yet to win a game but as Bruce Palmer said: “The Hawks scare the hell out of me”. Their inbuilt home-court advantage would play a crucial role in the outcome.

Despite their lowly position on the ladder, Illawarra led for most of the contest and at the final change led 92-88. In a bizarre twist, the final quarter was delayed for 30 minutes after trees fell on power lines near to the Snakepit and the lights went out.

After falling behind 102-95 with 9:08 to play, North Melbourne put a 9-0 run together over the next 1:38 to lead 104-102. A Hawks time-out was not enough to stop the rot and the lead spread to 111-104 with 5:00 remaining to play.

Another shift in momentum saw Illawarra take the lead 118-113 with 3:00 left. Two quick baskets to Cecil Exum and David Graham brought North to within a point.

The Hawks pounded the ball inside to Norman Taylor who took advantage of a defensive mismatch and got the roll: 120-117 Hawks. On the ensuing possession Fisher, playing with three broken ribs, hit a runner from 12 feet: 120-119 Hawks, 1:50 remaining. Illawarra looking static in their offense caught a break when Dillon errantly kicked a Don Bickett pass forcing a re-set of the shot clock.

Again the ball went to Taylor who drew the triple team. Taylor then somehow found a way to pass the ball through Fisher’s legs to the open Justin Withers for the score: 122-119 Hawks, a minute and change left.

The Giants worked the ball to Dillon in the post, who found Fisher cutting to the basket with a beautiful no-look pass: 122-121 Hawks, 56 seconds to go. Illawarra’s Greg Hubbard had a shot from the free-throw line partially blocked by Dillon and landed in the hands of former Hawk David Graham. With time of the essence the ball was shifted to Exum, whose shot was blocked by Withers. A scramble ensued and Eddie Crouch ruled that Illawarra had the ball: 122-121 Hawks, 33 seconds left.

Now things got interesting. Withers threw a long pass to Rod Johnson who fumbled the ball into the arms of Graham. A pass to Fisher and the Giants were off. Fisher got the ball to Exum whose three-point attempt was long.

Bickett and Dillon battled for the rebound over the base line and again the Hawks received possession. On the North Melbourne bench, Bruce Palmer and assistant coach Glen Bines were in a slow burn: they called time-out with 21 seconds left.

Following the time-out, Rod Johnson inbounded the ball to Taylor, who was fouled immediately by Dillon. Bizarrely, the game clock failed to start. No time was taken off the clock and the ball was inbounded by Bickett at half-court. Taylor received it and passed it to Rod Johnson.

Hounded by Graham, Johnson threw a long pass that was almost stolen by Mark Leader before landing in Taylor’s hands. With less than ten seconds to go, Taylor handed it to Johnson who has hacked by a combination of Graham and Dillon. Few could hear themselves think the crowd was creaming so loud. Bruce Palmer was caught on camera offering his opinion on the officiating with a single finger salute. Lindstrom called a time-out for the last play with five seconds left and his team up a point.

Following the time-out the two teams came out in a line-out formation. Bickett was to in-bound the ball, guarded by Exum. The Hawks’ front court was to Bickett’s left. Bickett aimed the pass at Withers but Leader underplayed the pass and was able to steal the ball.

Exum turned around and caught the ball before sending it on to Giants captain Wayne Carroll. Coming from the right side and with both feet on the three-point line, Carroll’s shot was all nylon: 122-123 Giants. Prime TV commentator Phil Lynch cried: “It’s all over... There’s no time off the clock.” Again the scoreboard electronics had failed. While this was going on, the North Melbourne bench led by Palmer streamed onto the court, thinking that they had won. Standing next to Palmer was junior referee Roger Sheils. Sheils, showing great concentration in the midst of all the madness around him, awarded Palmer a technical foul for coming onto the floor while the game was still in progress. The Giants were livid and unleashed a stream of swear words directed at the scorer’s table.

A discussion then ensued between Crouch, Sheils and referees assessor John Martin before the technical was confirmed. Greg Hubbard was the man chosen to take the two technical free-throws. With hysteria running wild, 'The Riverina Express' showed great poise as he stepped up to the line. The first free-throw was centimetre perfect: 123-123.

In the seats, in the aisles and in the bar the crowd exploded. The second was the same as the first: 124-123 Hawks. Hubbard turned to his teammates, screaming and pumping his fists, looking like a pre-pubescent Lleyton Hewitt at a Davis Cup final.

There were still two seconds to go and an in-bound pass to be negotiated: in the words of Prime TV analyst Tom Pottinger: “For goodness sake, throw it towards your own basket!” Again Bickett made the pass, but there was a fatal slip: Graham went down and allowed Hubbard to catch the ball, run out the clock and throw the ball into the roof. Like many a U.S. college success, the fans stormed the floor and carried the Hawks off the court as heroes. It was the home side’s first win of the season and one of the most remarkable in NBL history.

Graham led all scorers with 32 points while Taylor was tremendous for the home side with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Justin Withers, in his rookie year, had an outstanding game finishing with 22 points and 13 rebounds. You can see the highlights of this game on YouTube via the following link:

Milestone Alert: The win was David Lindstrom’s 50th as a coach in the NBL.

NBL Game Three: Sydney Kings @Melbourne Tigers

Final score: Kings 128-Tigers 125 (OT)

In a game described by the correspondent for The Age as “essentially a poor game of basketball”, the Kings achieved the longest winning streak in the club’s short history.

A Marc Ridlen bank shot as time expired tied the scores at 118-118 at the end of regulation. Sydney was then able to hold off a furious Tigers charge during the overtime period. The major controversy arising from the game came from an incident in the third quarter where Sydney forward Mark Dalton was forced off the floor after receiving an elbow from his opposite number David Simmons.

The elbow split open Dalton’s right eyebrow and required two stitches. Mark’s brother Brad was later quoted as saying “It’s hard to restrain the football instincts but I didn’t want to get ejected.” Mark himself made a statement that would have made many NBL fans laugh: “The Kings play tough defence but we don’t throw elbows”.

Saturday 27 May 1989

NBL Game Four: Newcastle Falcons @Adelaide 36ers

Final score: 36ers 148-Falcons 123

A 47 point third quarter by the 36ers was the deciding factor in this contest with the Falcons falling victim to the curse of the “Doomsday Double”.

Orlando Phillips led the home side with 33 points and ten rebounds with Mark Davis adding 29 points and 18 rebounds. Al Green shut down the dangerous Jerry Everett, holding the Newcastle guard to only 17 points.

Former Adelaide champion Bill Jones had a mighty game for his new club with 30 points and 16 rebounds. Andrew Both in The Adelaide Advertiser wrote that “No visiting player... has received such a warm reception from neither the Adelaide fans, nor such applause after fouling out of the game.”

NBL Game Five: North Melbourne Giants @Canberra Cannons

Final score: Cannons 109-Giants 108

This eagerly awaited re-match of the previous season’s Grand Finalists lived up to all the hype. North Melbourne led at every change and still had a one point lead with seconds remaining.

Scott Fisher, at the free-throw line for a ‘one and one’, drilled the first but unaccountably missed the second giving the Cannons a chance to steal it. Canberra’s Simon Cottrell made the rebound and quickly threw the ball to Phil Smyth who sighted Jamie Kennedy open and in range. Kennedy, who had already scored 28 points, later said of his buzzer-beating shot: “It was a prayer and it went in”. The shot came off the backboard, hit the rim, did two laps of honour and finally fell in. Having gone into the weekend undefeated the Giants had dropped from first to fifth.

You can see the final passage at (0:20 to 0:53, followed by Ridlen’s game-tying shot against Melbourne).

Milestone Alert: Canberra wins their twelfth successive game at The Palace, setting a new club record.

NBL Game Six: Hobart Tassie Devils @Eastside Melbourne Spectres

Final score: Spectres 100-Devils 99

New Hobart coach Tom Maher was unable to break his team’s long run of futility as the Spectres got a vital win to keep them in touch with the NBL leaders. The combination of Kent Lockhart (33 points and six rebounds) and Dean Uthoff (22 points and 13 rebounds) was enough to get the job done. The big headache now for Eastside coach Brian Goorjian was who to drop: Lockhart or Arne Duncan, who had just returned from a foot injury.

NBL Game Seven: Sydney Kings @Geelong Supercats

Final score: Kings 95-Supercats 90

Sydney coach Bob Turner regarded this performance as his team’s finest to date. The five-point margin was not a true indication of the gap between the two sides, as the Supercats had had to come back from 16 points down in the third quarter to make a game of it. Damien Keogh was outstanding for the Kings, tallying 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while shooting 5/7 from downtown. Keogh’s display drew praise from Geelong coach Barry Barnes, who reckoned that he was ‘the form guard in the NBL.’

WNBL Game One: Sydney Bruins @Noarlunga Tigers

Final score: Bruins 67-Tigers 64

WNBL Game Two: Brisbane Bullets @A.I.S Pumas

Final score: Pumas 63-Bullets 59

WNBL Game Three: Bulleen Boomers @Coburg Cougars

Final score: Boomers 83-Cougars 77

Sunday 28 May 1989

WNBL Game Four: Brisbane Bullets @Canberra Capitals

Final score: Capitals 81-Bullets 62

WNBL Game Five: Sydney Bruins @West Adelaide Bearcats

Final score: Bruins 56-Bearcats 53

NBL Ladder

Top Six:                        Bottom Seven:

Canberra (7-1)              Melbourne (4-3)

Perth (6-1)                    Eastside Melbourne (4-4)

Sydney (6-2)                 Geelong (3-5)

Adelaide (5-2)               Westside Melbourne (1-4)

North Melbourne (4-2)  Illawarra (1-5)

Brisbane (4-3)               Newcastle (1-7)

                                      Hobart  (0-7)

WNBL Ladder

Top Four:                       Bottom Nine:

North Adelaide (6-0)       Brisbane (5-3)

Bulleen (5-1)                   Sydney (4-3)

Hobart (5-2)                    Perth (4-4)

Nunawading (4-2)           West Adelaide (3-3)

                                        Canberra (3-4)

                                         Noarlunga (2-5)

                                         Melbourne (2-5)

                                         Coburg (1-6)

                                         A.I.S (1-7)

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.’