NOMADS– were conceived in autumn 1971 following a discussion by 3 BHP electrical apprentices Darrel Raneberg, Lawrie Townsend & Ray Girvin all working at the Steelworks Finishing End.
Keen to give this relatively new game “a go”. Also in the same department was a newly indentured tradesman that actually had some years experience playing the game who offered to act as playing coach to get us started “but only” for the upcoming winter season. After all only the insanely keen or very stupid played basketball outdoors on a winter’s night.
Four friends were quickly rounded up & a practice session held on the McBryde Terrace courts. Then the home of the W.B.A.
Different names were suggested, Nomads being the preferred one due to the likelihood we would all end up wandering around the court lost. Green & white was selected as it was one of the few colour combinations not already taken as in those days there were many one or two team clubs.
And so our team was entered in the Men’s B Grade competition (then the lowest grade). A ball was purchased, singlets & footy socks of the appropriate colour ordered & weekly practice sessions held.
Playing a style not unlike football the first season produced just 4 wins. While players being fouled off or having tech fouls against them for back chatting umpires was common place. Nevertheless such was the camaraderie & endeavour shown in the first season. The next season saw the club in the Men’s C Grade of the 1971/72 summer season. After again losing the first game the team went on to win all but one of the remaining games winning the premiership against Church of Christ.
The following winter season saw the addition of a women’s team consisting mainly of family members of the men’s team as it was considered only right, & besides it would give them something useful to do! The men’s side again in the B Grade won the premiership this time against Baptist (Church teams were popular in the 60’s & 70’s).
It is unlikely Nomads would have ever grown much bigger than one or two men’s or women’s teams had it not been for the introduction of the 3 team rule. The 3 team rule meant each club must have at least 3 men’s or women’s teams to exist in the W.B.A. A mix of men’s & women’s was not allowed. The reason we were told was to reduce forfeits by having so-called “strength clubs” able to promote players up the grades if required.
Faced with the dilemma of disbanding, merging, or growing 3 fold overnight much debate was held. While the first two options were never seriously considered, the race was on to recruit players. Anyone with 2 legs & the ability to withstand being shouted at from the side-lines was signed up. Within just 2 or 3 weeks Nomads now had 3 women’s & 2 men’s teams to register for the coming season. The problem with the 3rd men’s team was overcome by merging with Postal (as the name suggests, employees of the then P.M.G.) another one team club facing extinction.
The 3 team rule saw the eventual demise of many small clubs of the time, most with years of successful involvement in the W.B.A. Clubs such as Bachelors, Celtic, Postal, Tango & Valiant’s were soon to disappear forever.
Nomads were now starting to enjoy success with the women’s teams winning premierships, in the lower grades, while the men came runner up to Saints in the 72/73 summer season B Grade. By now it was becoming apparent to successfully run a club of any size needed a committee, therefore one was elected consisting of 3 men & 3 women. Their duties were to appoint coaches, organize fund raising, attend W.B.A. meetings & all the other organization duties that must be done. No mean task considering the average age of the club’s members was only around 18. What we lacked in knowledge or experience we made up for in youthful enthusiasm.
Whyalla in the 70’s was very much a working man’s town with a high transient population. Unlike most of the other larger clubs such as Magpies or Demons, we did not have a football club or organization such as the YMCA or church groups to draw players from. Nomads being purely a basketball club needed a supply of players for its long term survival. The solution was therefore obvious. Have our own junior grades.
The following season saw the first Nomads Under 16 Boy’s side. This also gave the club its third men’s team. U16’s being considered a senior side for the 3 team rule. Nomads could now go it alone. The winter season of 1973 also saw Nomads men 1982-Nomads-MA-Premiersfield a side in the A Grade for the first time.
The following summer season of 73/74 saw the inception of Nomads Mini League. Grades from U10’s to U14’s were all contested.
The club was truly mushrooming at a rapid rate. Trophies & presentation nights were held for juniors, cabaret’s for seniors, a monthly newsletter was produced. End of season games were held against the Cowell Association, with reciprocal visits. In just 4 years from its inception Nomads could now hold its own with anyone in the W.B.A. both on court or administratively.
By the mid 70’s basketball was enjoying unprecedented popularity Australia wide, by far the fastest growing sport in the country. So too did uniforms evolve with the growth of the sport. Gone were the singlets with plastic numbers, footy shorts & socks. In their place matching tops & shorts with side piping & ankle socks. The women too were now replacing their pleated one-piece skirts for tops & shorts. Footwear was also changing, out of vogue was sandshoes such as Dunlop Volley’s & Gym Boots (little more than a higher cut canvas sandshoe) for new imported brands one with 3 stripes of which we all grappled with the correct pronunciation.
History shows Nomads continued for a further 13 years enjoying success at all levels, before themselves merging in 1988 with Brorowa another club which began in the early 70’s principally by school teachers.
The following year this newly merged club became known as..WILDCATS.
Some other key names that should be acknowledged in the history of Nomads are Ray Girvan and his wife Phil- as players, coaches and administrators.
Elsie Allison – administrator, WBA life member.
Jack Woodford – Coach
Men’s A grade–Ray Girvan, Mike Osborne, Lawrence Mclean, Dave Webber, John Kirby
Women’s A Grade-Sharon Hearne ( ne McKay), Jill Balnaves (MVP), Maxine Castle, Jacquie Allison, Phil Girvan
SA Country Under 16’s representatives in National Championships -Ricky Chesson, Greg Balnaves, Frank Weigend, Richard Allison
Stephen Dunn – Nomads junior who went on to be Director of the NBL and an owner of Sydney Kings NBL team
Last updated Jan 2014