Back in the Day: Fire, Fire Everywhere

Back in the Day: Fire, Fire Everywhere

BA's historian Nicholas Way whisks us back to the cold of July, 1988.

-The city of Aberdeen is wrapped in a dark pall of sadness and dismay following a massive explosion on the Piper Alpha production platform off Scotland’s western coast. 167 lives are lost as the platform is utterly destroyed. The resulting fire can be seen from over 100 kilometres away. The Government immediately announces that there will be a full inquiry into the disaster, the worst ever in terms of lives lost.

-Iran’s diplomats are breathing fire following the shooting down of an Iranian Airlines aircraft by the USS Vincennes, resulting in the deaths of 290 people. The U.S. Navy quickly suggests that the incident was a case of mistaken identity with the captain of the Vincennes reportedly believing that he was shooting at an F-14 Tomcat operated by the Iranian Air Force. The act draws worldwide condemnation and sees oil prices rise by US20c.

-The leader of the ground-breaking inquiry into police corruption in Queensland sets out a timetable for the completion of its work. Gerald ‘Tony’ Fitzgerald QC says that he hopes to have the Inquiry’s final report handed in by May of 1989. In a wide-ranging statement, Fitzgerald also says that in his view “The Commission has tried to do too much”. Queensland Premier Mike Ahern re-affirms his promise to implement the recommendations of the Inquiry “lock, stock and barrel”.

-South of the Tweed the newly-elected Coalition government of Nick Greiner faces its first major political challenge: education reform. Education Minister Terry Metherell has become the most hated man in the State with his cavalier disdain for groups such as the Teachers Federation who don’t agree with his views. With public opinion turning against the reform package, Greiner puts the implantation of the package in the hands of a Cabinet sub-committee from which Metherell is deliberately omitted.

-The mood between unions and the Victorian Government is as cold as the weather. As negotiations between the Trades Hall Council and Premier John Cain continue, Melbourne’s public transport network sits idle. For over a week the city’s population attempt to move around in any way they can: by foot, by bike and mostly by car, leading to horrendous traffic jams on most routes.

-Having been rubbished by the Australian press in the lead-up, Great Britain springs one of the great sporting surprises by thumping Australia 26-12 in the third Rugby League ‘Ashes’ test at the Sydney Football Stadium. It is the Lions’ first victory in a test match in Australia for 14 years and it sends their long-suffering supporters into passionate ecstasy. Winger Henderson Gill scores two tries and creates the most memorable moment of the match by performing his ‘Downtown Boogie’ following his second try.

-FIFA’s Executive Committee selects the United States to host the 1994 World Cup following a meeting in Zurich. In other news from the world of football the Thatcher Government announces its latest anti-hooligan policy: a nationwide membership card that will be required to gain entry into all grounds. The clubs are almost unanimous in their belief that such a scheme is doomed to fail.

- Closer to home, the Bicentennial Gold Cup gets under away. Surely the biggest international tourney in Australian soccer history sees Australia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Argentina play in a round-robin format. The opening match sees the Socceroos lose 1-0 to Brazil at Olympic Park (in John Kosmina’s 100th international for his country) despite controlling play for most of the match.

- Notable deaths during the week included  renowned English dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse (at the age of 78), the head of America’s Teamsters union Jackie Presser (at the age of 61) and Canadian historian Gerald S. Graham (at the age of 85).

-“Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You”, “The Flame” and “Got to Be Certain” were topping the charts with bullets.

In the world of basketball:

-The Olympics now sit just beyond the horizon and Europe’s contenders for medals sort themselves out in a qualifying tournament in various capitals within the Netherlands. The Soviet Union books their tickets by going through undefeated: their closest tussle was with arch-rivals Yugoslavia which degenerated at one point into a bench-clearing brawl before the Soviets won 86-83.

-With all nations having now qualified the men’s and women’s tournament draws are now confirmed. The first half of the Boomers’ campaign looks like this:

18th September: vs. Puerto Rico, 20th September: vs. Soviet Union, 21st September: vs. Central African Republic, 23rd September: vs. Yugoslavia and 24th September: vs. South Korea

For the “Bloomers” the draw fell this way:

19th September: vs. South Korea, 22nd September: vs. Bulgaria and 25th September: vs. Soviet Union.

Boomers coach Dr. Adrian Hurley pronounces “It’s a fairly good draw...Our first aim is to finish in the top four. Our most important game will be the first one against Puerto Rico...We haven’t seen them in a long time.”

NBL Round Twenty-One, WNBL Round 19

Friday 8 July 1988

NBL Game One: Melbourne Tigers @Illawarra Hawks

Final score: Tigers 123-Hawks 112

Any hopes that the Hawks might have had of reaching an Elimination Final were snuffed out by the rampaging duo of James Bullock and Andrew Gaze. Bullock dominated inside with 32 points, 23 rebounds and eight assists while Gaze worked the outside to finish with 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Illawarra played in a lethargic fashion with only Gary Gaspard making any real impression with his 32 points.

NBL Game Two: Hobart Tassie Devils @Perth Wildcats

Final score: Wildcats 114-Devils 99

With Laker legends Michael Cooper and Mitch Kupchak sitting in the audience, Perth put on their own version of Showtime to overcome the Devils. Captain Mike Ellis had an outstanding game for the Wildcats, his crisp passing (which led to 13 assists) being a feature of the match. Trevor Torrance exploded for 22 points in the first three quarters before fouling out; James Crawford’s 13 in the final term put Hobart away. The next task for Perth was to travel to the east for a Grand Final re-match with Brisbane in the first Elimination Final.

NBL Game Three: Westside Melbourne Saints @North Melbourne Giants

Final score: Giants 102-Saints 88

The margin of victory was flattering to the Giants who had struggled out of the gates, falling behind by 14 points to the lowly Saints. Slowly chipping away at the lead over the next two quarters, North Melbourne careered away in the final term and sealed up second spot on the ladder along with a week’s break (which they looked like they needed). With both teams shooting at 43% from the field Ray Gordon’s four three-pointers from as many attempts drew plenty of praise.

Milestone Alert: Westside’s Bennie Lewis plays his 200th NBL game.

WNBL Game One: Brisbane Bullets @North Adelaide Rockets

Final score: Rockets 65-Bullets 50

WNBL Game Two: Perth Breakers @Noarlunga Tigers

Final score: Tigers 66-Breakers 54

WNBL Game Three: Bankstown Bruins @Coburg Cougars

Final score: Cougars 61-Bruins 56

Saturday 9 July 1988

NBL Game Four: Melbourne Tigers @Canberra Cannons

Final score: Cannons 138-Tigers 112

By smashing the Tigers in the nation’s capital the Cannons confirmed their position as the most dangerous team in the top six. It was their seventh victory in succession and their veteran line-up, led by Phil Smyth and Herb McEachin looked to have timed their run towards a third title perfectly. Canberra had eight players score in double figures (led by Willie Simmons’ 22 points); forcing the Tigers to turn the ball over 23 times also helped the home team’s cause.

NBL Game Five: Hobart Tassie Devils @Adelaide 36ers

Final score: 36ers 142-Devils 100

When the Devils were held to only seven points in the first quarter, this game was all over. Gary Fox’s charges had little trouble in sealing the club’s third successive minor premiership. Adelaide’s Al Green produced a triple-double with 33 points, ten rebounds and ten assists. Hobart’s MVP candidate Joe Hurst led all scorers with 46 points on the night but shot a pitiful 14/39 to get there. The 36ers now had the luxury of a week’s rest before beginning their finals campaign.

NBL Game Six: Sydney Kings @Brisbane Bullets

Final score: Bullets 135-Kings 122

Brisbane tuned up for their showdown with the Wildcats by comfortably accounting for a Kings line-up that had begun a long tradition of not living up to the pre-season hype. A 17 year old Shane Heal led the Bullets with 26 points, the same total garnered by Sydney star Steve Carfino in three quarters before he fouled out. Kings coach Claude Williams knew it would be his last game with former Canberra maestro Bob Turner already selected to be his replacement.

NBL Game Seven: Newcastle Falcons @Eastside Melbourne Spectres

Final score: Spectres 121-Falcons 108

A 37-16 third quarter from the Spectres was enough to guarantee them a comfortable victory over the play-off bound Falcons. Future Cabinet officer Arne Duncan and future jolly giant Dean Uthoff proved to be a winning combination: Duncan scored 35 points and dished 14 assists while Uthoff was unstoppable inside in scoring 34 points and grabbing 21 rebounds. After a tumultuous opening to the season (long-time coach Barry Barnes sacked, Brian Goorjian being brought in, issues with imports and losing their first six games) there looked to be some signs that the men of the East could finally match the all-conquering feats of their female counterparts.

NBL Game Eight: Westside Melbourne Saints @Geelong Supercats

Final score: Saints 110-Supercats 99

For sheer and utter futility the 1988 Geelong Supercats set a standard that may never be equalled. A lot of the team’s problems were the result of off-court issues: non-existent finances, coaches being sacked the week before the season opened, poor recruiting and so on. That doesn’t excuse the fact that this team DID NOT WIN A GAME! Not even a full house of 1600 people was enough to get them over the line. The one positive to come out of the whole night was that Dean Templeton’s aching knees had to carry him no further: after 179 games and a championship in 1980 this was the end of the road.

Milestone Alert: Geelong’s NBL record 26 straight losses (two in 1987, 24 in 1988) is one that hopefully will never be equalled.

WNBL Game Four: Hobart Hustlers @Canberra Capitals

Final score: Capitals 94-Hustlers 57

WNBL Game Five: Brisbane Bullets @West Adelaide Bearcats

Final score: Bearcats 68-Bullets 62

WNBL Game Six: Perth Breakers @North Adelaide Rockets

Final score: Rockets 69-Breakers 65

WNBL Game Seven: Bankstown Bruins @Bulleen Boomers

Final score: Bruins 67-Boomers 42

Sunday 10 July 1988

WNBL Game Eight: Hobart Hustlers @A.I.S Pumas

Final score: Pumas 101-Hustlers 77

WNBL Game Nine: Brisbane Bullets @Noarlunga Tigers

Final score: Tigers 77-Bullets 65

WNBL Game Ten: Perth Breakers @West Adelaide Bearcats

Final score: Bearcats 92-Breakers 72

WNBL Game Eleven: Bankstown Bruins @Nunawading Spectres

Final score: Spectres 64-Bruins 52

Final NBL Ladder for 1988

Top Six:                                                                         

Adelaide (19-5)

North Melbourne (18-6)

Brisbane (18-6)

Canberra (16-8)

 Newcastle (13-11)

Perth (13-11)                   

Bottom Seven:

Illawarra (11-13)

Eastside Melbourne (11-13)

Hobart (10-14)

Sydney (10-14)

Westside Melbourne (9-15)

Geelong (0-24)

WNBL Ladder

Top Four:                                                              

Nunawading (20-1)                    

North Adelaide (17-4)                  

Bankstown (15-6)                    

West Adelaide (13-9)                    

Bottom Eight:

Coburg (12-8)                                                                              

Canberra (12-9)                                                                              

Noarlunga (12-9)

Brisbane (11-10

Perth (6-15)

A.I.S (3-18)

Bulleen (4-17)

Hobart (0-21)

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.’