The demise of the Cannons in 2003 wasn’t pretty. There were times when you wondered how they put a team on the court in that final season.
Friendships were tested as it became obvious the team was struggling financially and unlikely to survive. In the years leading up to the end, it had become akin to a sporting circus.
So every time somebody says, “Let’s bring back the Cannons”, I shudder, as it revives memories of those final days in the 2002/2003 season.
There were plenty of good days before that though, including three premierships in the 1980s. Tickets to NBL games involving games at the ‘Palace’, as the AIS Arena was known, were the hottest tickets in town.
At the ABC, we used to broadcast every game in a similar way that we do the Raiders and the Brumbies these days.
Talking about resurrecting, the team has emerged recently, with the co-owner of Swansea City in the U.K. buying an NBL franchise to be located in a yet to be determined city for the 2019/2020 season. The NBL owner, Larry Kestelman, wants to make the Australian League into the second biggest in the world. For that to happen, you need more than an eight or nine-team competition.
I have had sporadic calls from interested parties, but nothing in a co-ordinated sense, and I had thought that it was more wishful thinking than anything else.
A couple of years ago, I had a chat with somebody who had bought the Cannons’ name after the club’s ill-fated relocation to Newcastle. There was also speculation linking the Cannons’ name with the Canberra Gunners SEABL team.
Talking to Basketball ACT CEO Michael Haynes, it is obvious that he has plans for the sport to grow in Canberra but is looking more towards a relationship with the Illawarra Hawks. This would be a similar arrangement as we see with GWS and the ACT Government, with AFL games played in Canberra. The hope is that the Hawks would play some home games each season at the AIS Arena.
It won’t happen next season with the draw already out and no provision given for games in Canberra. There remains the possibility of a pre-season double-header involving the Capitals in September, but a long relationship with the Hawks is the outcome sought by Basketball ACT.
For this to happen, there would need to be an investment from the ACT Government.
Just how that will play out could be interesting, given the recent adventure with the Central Coast Mariners playing A League games at Canberra Stadium, which has ended. More successful though have been the Giants Netball, playing a home game in the Super League; GWS in the AFL; and the Sydney Thunder in cricket’s Big Bash.
There is enough support for basketball to be a significant sport in Canberra. There are nine thousand registrations to play in this region, with some playing double seasons.
In fact, the sport is outgrowing its facilities to such an extent that access to more courts is becoming critical. Basketball ACT has established a facilities committee to look at the issue with the possibility that courts may be built on land adjacent to the Belconnen courts.
The facilities at Canberra University may also be sourced to play regular games.
You can understand why Basketball ACT is looking at bringing NBL games to Canberra as it provides a visual pathway for young male players in a similar way that the Capitals provide that pathway for young women.
But the prospect of the Cannons being resurrected seems a long way off.