Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blight on the game

Corbin Middlemas

Updated April 20, 2012 07:46:38

The NBL's disjointed grand final series continues tonight in Perth on the back of an engrossing tussle last Thursday.

The Breakers can seal back-to-back championships with victory, while the Wildcats must win to push the series to a deciding third game.

Yet despite the importance, the series has struggled to gain momentum over the past week given the protracted schedule.

Game one delivered all that NBL promoters could have hoped for with an overtime result and a home town victory in front of a sell-out crowd in Auckland.

But instead of garnering the momentum generated from game one, the series took an eight-day spell ahead of its next fixture.

The structure of the NBL grand final series goes completely against the successful model used by sports premier competition, the NBA. In 2011, the NBA finals scheduled six games in 13 days.

The NBL has only three games, spread across the same period.

As a second-tier sport in this country, attracting the interest of the general public has proven a challenging task, while maintaining that focus during an eight-day break is near impossible.

This week, the Wildcats have encountered both local AFL teams being involved in blockbuster fixtures and Perth Glory qualified for its first A-League grand final.

In Perth the Wildcats and the Glory compete for the same slice of the media pie. The latter is often on holidays this time of year. But now the Wildcats must contend with a Glory grand final sandwiched between its two most important fixtures.

Adding to the problem is the NBL's unacceptable TV deal.

Under the present set-up, the league's showcase series is shown on delay up to six hours after tip-off. Australia's premier women's basketball competition, the WNBL, had its grand final telecast live nationally.

Yet for a myriad of reasons, the NBL is absent from the mainstream media focus in the two major markets, Sydney and Melbourne, while the NBL has no presence in Brisbane.

As a result, the NBL runs virtually in anonymity in those parts.

A national competition cannot be run on the edges. The NBL needs to tap into the major metropolitan markets to appeal to broadcasters, advertisers, investors and a greater fan base.

Wednesday's announcement on the TV deal for the next three seasons is a vast improvement, yet it will not assist Wildcats or Breakers supporters in the current series.

The Wildcats have initiated a live site at Challenge Stadium for fans that missed out on tickets to Friday's encounter.

From next season, the NBL's host broadcaster will telecast at least two games a weekend. A feature game will be shown live on a Sunday afternoon and a delayed telecast on the network's digital channel on a Friday evening.

Under the revised agreement, the NBL will also reclaim the rights to games that are not televised by the host broadcaster. This allows the NBL to potentially on-sell the rights to pay television, where discussions have already begun.

As for the on-court action this Friday, both teams appear to suffering the effects of a virus. Wildcats Shawn Redhage, Jesse Wagstaff and Luke Nevill are believed to be unwell, while Damian Martin missed training completely on Thursday.

Breakers trio Dillon Boucher, Gary Wilkinson and Dion Prewster missed Tuesday's session with a stomach bug, while Thomas Abercrombie has not trained fully since he injured his ankle during game three of the semi-final win over Townsville a fortnight ago.

Live coverage of game two can be heard on ABC NBL (ABC Extra) and streamed at from 7:00pm (AWST), while 720 ABC Perth and Local Radio WA will join following AFL coverage from Docklands at approximately 8:30pm (AWST).

Tags: basketball, nbl, sport, perth-6000

First posted April 20, 2012 07:44:28

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