- With the sun beaming down on an assembly gathered in Pretoria that numbered over 50,000 guests from all across the globe, on a day many thought they would never see, Nelson Mandela is officially sworn in as the first President of a democratic, multi-racial Republic of South Africa. Many in the crowd are unashamedly weeping during the ceremonies. Mandela pledges to “build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity-a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
- But even as Mandela speaks these inspiring words the darkest side of human nature is being exhibited to the north in Rwanda. Ten of thousands are fleeing to refugee camps on the edge of their nation’s borders to escape the Hutu and Tutsi death squads who are rampaging across the land. While the leaders of the developed world wring their hands in dismay and NGO’s such as CARE Australia attempt to provide an infinitesimal measure of relief the genocide continues.
- Hopes for an end to the continuing bloodshed in the former provinces of Yugoslavia are almost non-existent despite the U.S. Senate voting 48-47 to unilaterally lift the United Nations arms embargo aimed at Bosnian Muslims. Most of the pundits agree that any attempt to move a similar resolution through the U.N. Security Council would be automatically vetoed by Russia, acting in support of their Serbian allies.
- This mixture of glory and despair makes any reference to Australia’s Federal Budget seem unimportant. There were features within the text imparted by rookie Treasurer Ralph Willis that are worthy of note: 4.25 per cent growth in the economy was predicted in the 1994-95 financial year, increasing to 4.5 per cent by 1995-96 (an election year). As the readers of the economic runes state their belief that Treasury’s figures are wildly optimistic, the All Ords index rises by 26 points the day after Willis’ address.
- There is uproar on the floor of the NSW Legislative Assembly after a motion moved by Independent MLA John Hatton to set up a Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service is carried by a single vote. Police Minister Terry Griffiths, Commissioner Tony Lauer and their supporters in the media such as Alan Jones claim that the whole process will simply be a waste of money and time. By the end of the week Supreme Court Justice James Wood is appointed to head the Commission.
- Significant change is also coming to Australian cricket with long-serving captain Allan Border announcing that he is finished in the international game. The era of one of Australian cricket’s most important captains ends with Border maintaining his ornery reputation to the end: the announcement is not made at a well-organised press conference but as an ill-tempered outburst in an interview with Seven Network journalist (and golfing partner) Pat Welsh.
- The notable deaths during the week included the leader of Britain’s Labour Party and future Prime Minister John Smith (at the age of 55), actor Leonard Teale (at the age of 71), Vietnam veteran and Pulitzer Prize winning author Lewis Puller Jr. (at the age of 48) and the inventor of Teflon Dr. Roy J. Plunkett (at the age of 83).
- “The Sign”, “Come On You Reds” and “Love Sneakin’ up on You” were whizzing up the charts.
In the world of basketball:
- The NBA’s second season is in full swing, having reached the conference semi-final stage. The big series is the war between New York and Chicago. Game three proves to be one of the most dramatic nights of recent years. An all-in brawl breaks out in the second quarter with players flying into the courtside seats at the feet of Commissioner David Stern. The game ends in dramatic fashion, too: as Scottie Pippen sits out the last play with a migraine, it is Toni Kukoc who hits a three-pointer as time expires to seal a 104-102 victory.
Derek Harper of the Knicks is suspended for two games for his part in the brawl while Bulls bench-warmer (and future 36ers import) Jo Jo English receives a game’s suspension.
- In the other series, Utah takes a commanding 3-0 lead over the eighth-seeded Nuggets, Indiana has a 2-1 lead over Atlanta and the Houston Rockets recover from the opening two games at home against the Phoenix Suns to level their series at 2-2.
- Meanwhile, in the regional centre of Albury in New South Wales a girl celebrates her 11th birthday and goes to sleep with visions of gold medals dancing in her heads...
NBL and WNBL Round Six
Friday 13 May 1994
NBL Game One: Newcastle Falcons @North Melbourne Giants
Final score: Giants 128-Falcons 99
North Melbourne continued its rise to the top of the NBL ladder with a thumping victory over the Falcons. Having become only the second team in League history to sweep the ‘Doomsday Double’ three weeks earlier the Giants rolled on to their fifth straight victory thanks to the brilliant play of Darryl McDonald. His stat line read: 25 points, seven rebounds, 14 assists and 11 steals. With a line like that, his status as Player of the Week was assured!
Milestone Alert: Darryl McDonald equals the NBL record for steals in a game with 11.
NBL Game Two: Perth Wildcats @Geelong Supercats
Final score: Wildcats 118-Supercats 109
“We won forty-three minutes, they won five, but they were the five that buried us.” Those were the words of Geelong coach Jim Calvin who had again seen his talented team throw away a chance at victory thanks to their leaky defence (their 113 point average was the worst in the League). A 19-2 run by the Wildcats in the second quarter set the result in concrete as they looked forward to the bigger battle the following night.
NBL Game Three: Adelaide 36ers @Townsville Suns
Final score: 36ers 116-Suns 91
It had been a turbulent week in the City of Churches: word had leaked out that captain and legend of the club Mark Davis had offered his resignation in response to his poor form at the start of the season. 36ers management told Davis that they weren’t interested in hearing such talk and he wasn’t going anywhere. The revival began in Townsville as ‘The Chairman’ racked up 19 points and 15 rebounds in a runaway victory over the Suns.
Milestone Alert: Mark Davis becomes the 11th player in NBL history to score 6000 points.
WNBL Game One: Adelaide Lightning @Bulleen Melbourne Boomers
Final score: Lightning 80-Boomers 58
This first leg of a difficult road-trip saw the Lightning just keep rolling along on their way to the title. Rachael Sporn, returning from a week-long Opals camp in preparation for the World Championships that would start in three weeks time, led the scoresheet with 20 points.
Saturday 14 May 1994
NBL Game Four: Newcastle Falcons @Canberra Cannons
Final score: Falcons 81-Cannons 74
Newcastle coach Tom Wisman took a gamble after being crushed by the Giants: he changed his starting five to what he felt was his most accomplished line-up on defence. The bet didn’t pay off until the second half as the Falcons climbed back from an 11 point deficit to snatch the game in the dying minutes. Derek Rucker finished a single rebound away from a triple-double while Terry Dozier was a beast in the paint with 23 points and 19 rebounds.
Milestone Alert: This was Newcastle’s first win in Canberra since May 8, 1982.
NBL Game Five: Adelaide 36ers @Brisbane Bullets
Final score: 36ers 124-Bullets 105
The resurrection of Mark Davis was brought to completion at one of his favourite venues. The Brisbane Entertainment Centre saw the champion rip and tear through the Bullets defence at will. Davis’ final total of 43 points and 15 rebounds (six of them on the offensive end) on 15/22 from the field made him the obvious selection for the MVP award. After a slow start the Super Sixers (their moniker in 1994) were into the eight and looking to become a championship threat.
NBL Game Six: Perth Wildcats @Melbourne Tigers
Final score: Tigers 97-Wildcats 96
These two teams took up the battle from right where they had left off the previous October after an epic Grand Final series. Once again it was Andrew Gaze who produced the heroics in the final seconds, his three-pointer with seven seconds left to play sending the 11,500 strong crowd at Melbourne Park into raptures and the Wildcats down to defeat. The champ finished with a game-high 37 points as the Tigers entered the log-jam at third spot on the ladder.
NBL Game Seven: Illawarra Hawks @Sydney Kings
Final score: Kings 120-Hawks 102
The Kings were there too thanks to a combination of 42 points and 14 rebounds from Leon Trimmingham and introducing a 1-3-1 zone defence at the opening of the final quarter, stifling Illawarra’s defence. Trimmingham’s awesome performance certainly shoved the words back down the throat of an unnamed Illawarra official, who was reported in the pre-season as saying he didn’t think that Leon would be any good and he’d be one of the first imports packed up and sent home. Whoops!
Milestone Alert: Tim Morrissey plays his 300th NBL game.
WNBL Game Two: Canberra Capitals @Melbourne Tigers
Final score: Tigers 75-Capitals 67
The Tigers held off a fast-finishing Canberra outfit to continue their surprising and undefeated start to the season. They had to survive having two players foul out of the game and losing Jo Metcalfe to an ankle injury. Alison Cook led the scoring for Melbourne with 16 points while Jodie Murphy was magnificent for the visitors with 32 points.
WNBL Game Three: A.I.S @Sydney Flames
Final score: Flames 66-Students 46
Sydney held their position as the ‘best of the rest’ by comfortably accounting for a determined A.I.S team at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Sunday 15 May 1994
NBL Game Eight: Gold Coast Rollers @Hobart Devils
Final score: Devils 90-Rollers 88
After spending an off-season wondering from day to day if they would have a club to play for the players, coaches and support staff of the Hobart Tassie Devils had a real mafeking after finally securing their first win since the previous September. Coach Bill Tomlinson was overcome by the emotional release and wept for ten minutes alone in the dressing room before he was ready to face the media at the post-match conference. Proof again, if it were needed, that sports does matter.
Milestone Alert: Gold Coast’s 12 points in the third quarter equals the club record for fewest points in a period.
WNBL Game Four: Adelaide Lightning @Brisbane Blazers
Final score: Lightning 78-Blazers 63
Brisbane coach Bronwyn Marshall left Chandler Arena in a bemused state of mind following Adelaide’s comfortable victory. Marshall would not have denied that the Lightning were the better team on the night; it was just that on appearances it had been an unfair contest. The home team had been assessed for 27 fouls while the visitors were awarded only nine; a three-to-one differential. As Marshall said afterwards “We get a better deal from referees away from home!”
WNBL Game Five: A.I.S @Tassie Islanders
Final score: Students 73-Islanders 72
The Students were very lucky to escape the Derwent Entertainment Centre with a victory: 39 points from Islanders captain Lucille Hamilton just failed to drag her team across the line.
Tuesday 17th May 1994
NBL Game Nine: Gold Coast Rollers @South East Melbourne Magic
Final score: Magic 116-Rollers 94
A bad weekend for Gold Coast just got worse as the League’s stingiest defence (conceding just under 78 points per game to that point) was wiped off the Melbourne Park floor. Adonis Jordan with 32 points and Tony Ronaldson with 26 were the main destroyers. Mike Mitchell played a fine lone hand for the Rollers with 35 points and nine rebounds. With the win the Magic joined in the four-way bun-fight over third place on the ladder.
North Melbourne (5 and 1)
Perth (6 and 2)
South East Melbourne (5 and 2)
Sydney (5 and 2)
Brisbane (5 and 2)
Melbourne (5 and 2)
Illawarra (4 and 3)
Newcastle (3 and 4)
Gold Coast (3 and 5)
Geelong (2 and 6)
Canberra (1 and 4)
Townsville (1 and 6)
Hobart (1 and 7)
Adelaide (4 and 4)
Top Four: Bottom Six:
Melbourne (7 and 0) Dandenong 2 and 2
Adelaide (5 and 0) Perth 3 and 3
Sydney (5 and 2) Canberra 2 and 5
Brisbane (5 and 2) A.I.S 2 and 6
Bulleen 1 and 4
Tassie 0 and 8
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 Nicholas.Way@Basketball.net.au and put in the subject line ‘Back in the Day.’