I was an apprentice working in the Shipyards when one of the tradesmen in the shop, “Davey Wade” asked me to play basketball, I wasn’t shore at first, basketball being a “girls game”, but his persistence prevailed.
I recall Davey Wade and the Cambell brothers George and Ricky were about to give up on me, after training twice a week for approximately , 6 to 8 weeks I still couldn’t manage a simple layup, then one night out of the blue it became like second nature.
The first team I played with was the Tigers, coached by Davey Wade. Thanks to Davey and my team mates, I received the Fairest and Best award in that first year.
Playing outdoors the weather played a big part in the style of play, strong winds, rocking backboards, dust and rain. With the wind to your advantage, fast breaks & passes into the keyway games were fast and quick before the opposition could man up. Note in those days there were no houses or light industry in the area at that time so the court was wide open to the elements.
It wouldn’t be strange to be playing or umpiring when the patrons from the Drove in were going home around midnight.
In the first years of Whyalla Basketball there were very few umpires, most games there was one experienced umpire and one novice. Rule books were few and far between. Davey Wade took me under his wing every game I umpired, I was his student. His philosophy was blow the whistle hard and loud, if I was too slow with the decision he would call it. By both playing and umpiring I learnt the rules very quickly.
In this period we had our own sports commentators (who were also players) using microphones and amplifying system calling the games made them exciting with some very comical comments. The two I consider the best were Mick Palmer and Michael Nicols.
Teams also had theme music such as ,
Saints – “When the Saints come marching in”.
Mormons – “Sweet Georgia Brown”.
Tigers – “Tiger Rag”.
This added atmosphere and extra entertainment for the spectators.
We also travelled to Pt Augusta to help them establish their own association. Their first court was the bitumen area of the Trotting Association, north of the grand stand at Memorial oval. Over the years both Pt Augusta and Whyalla had some fantastic inter town competitions, with a BBQ to finish the night off.
Easter carnivals were also held with teams participating from, Broken Hill, Pt Augusta, Woomera, Pt Pirie, & Pt Lincoln. I can’t remember them all but someone’s bound to help.
I later transferred from the Tigers to a young team called “Knights”, they needed a tall player to help them. I was coach on paper but we all helped one another, calling time outs and subs was my job. To be promoted to the seniors the Knights had to play the bottom side of the seniors, which they won comprehensively.
The parents of the Knights players organised a family BBQ night at the old aerodrome courts. The highlight of the night was the Fathers versus Sons match. I arrived a little late for the match straight from hospital, the team sheets had to be changed as I had become a father myself, the lads were a bit disappointed in me changing sides.
As a club we travelled to Iron Knob to play exhibition Men’s and Women’s matches to help them organise teams to join our Association. We also travelled to Cleve and Kimba on invitations to play.
One year we were invited to play a curtain raiser to the Men’s final at Pt Pirie at the old YMCA courts, we played a team consisting of players not in the finals. It was a great night out.
Xmas 1961 we organised a holiday trip to Pt Vincent on Yorke Peninsula to play Basketball. We played Men’s and Women’s teams from Moonta, Kadina and surrounding areas. The court was a private tennis court along side the owners house, the net and posts were removed and basketball boards erected. We played games every night, the locals and holiday makers would come in droves to watch us play.
We stayed at a privately owned caravan park, one morning my wife and I were awakened by laughter. When looking out of our van we noticed a group of people taking photos of the lads in their 2 man tent. Their were 6 or more of them, legs and arms everywhere. The owner of the park was so amused he let them a van free of charge.
While starting my basketball career at the old aerodrome I also played at the McBride courts. This was when the Association needed more courts to cater for the rapid expansion of the sport. I also played at the recreation centre and at the current Jubilee park stadium, inside and outside.
Over the years I’ve seen some very good players, some stayed but many moved on. Our women’s players I consider the best in the Iron Triangle.
I’ve also had highs and lows both as a player and coaching many Men’s and Women’s A’s and B’s teams as well as juniors.
I’ve also worked as a committee member and secretary, over the years I have also made myself available for working Bees.
I’ve forgotten more than I can remember but I do know Basketball was a big part of my life, and hope the association will prosper for many years to come.