Are we ready for Cannons ‘Mark Two’?

Tim Gavel 23 September 2019 5

Canberra Cannons team photo before the 2001-2002 season. Photos: Supplied by Basketball ACT.

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.

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5 Responses to Are we ready for Cannons ‘Mark Two’?
Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:00 am 03 Aug 18

I don’t think ACT ratepayers have any appetite for more money to be spent on sponsoring professional sporting teams.

I don’t think anyone realises how much money is given out already and information about how much is very difficult to access. And why do publicly funded universities see benefits to education by sponsoring professional teams?

Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 8:27 am 03 Aug 18

The 80s were a special time for basketball, especially the Cannons. The start of tbeir demise occurred when they tried to copy the flashy teams like Brisbane but also that tbe players became less accessible before and after games, much like peofessional sport of today. Connection with community is critical to success. But a new Cannons - no.

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 8:08 am 03 Aug 18

Unless they are a winning team they won’t attract the crowds. There’s a reason why the Cannons failed and it wasn’t because fans were flocking to the games.

John Moulis John Moulis 7:35 am 03 Aug 18

My main memory of the Cannons involves a local supermarket chain calling itself Cannons at the same time as the team was riding high. At one of the games I asked one of the officials if the team owned the supermarkets or vice verca. “No” I was told, and they had been trying to get the owners to stop using the name without success. It reminds me of how a local driving school called itself Raiders Driving School at the same time the Raiders were winning their premierships.

Marc McCreadie Marc McCreadie 7:29 am 03 Aug 18

Similar to Tassie. Tickets to see the Tassie Devils play were impossible to get for a while there then the club died. Now they are attempting to create a new NBL Tassie team.

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