Another sporting coup for Coffs Harbour
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
OTHER top level sports can bring a couple of teams to this city for a match or two but the National Basketball League has shown enormous faith in Coffs Harbour's ability to run great sporting events by bringing their entire competition here.
The NBL announced yesterday that the 2006 Blitz pre-season competition will be held at Sportz Central in early September and it marks the first time that the tournament will be hosted by a city that doesn't have it's own NBL team.
As the NBL Commissioner, Rick Burton was extremely impressed by the bid that was put together.
Coupled with the reputation that this city is gaining as a great sports venue and he was left in no doubt that an event of this size can be handled with aplomb in Coffs Harbour.
"It's a great sports city already in so much as what it's done with the Wallabies in the past and certainly from a basketball standpoint you've got a great facility," he said.
"This is a huge event, if you bring in 12 teams in one setting and you play maybe more than 20 games in a two day period, the co-ordination and the logistics of all those players, all those hotel rooms, all that ground transportation, all those meals and all those restaurant visits it creates a huge economic impact for Coffs but for us it's a real chance to give back to the community and have everybody see the Phillips Championship in one setting all at once and there are very few facilities and probably very few communities that could handle it."
The competition sees every team play in a series of Blitz matches which are shortened to two 12-minute halves with a running clock for all but the last two minutes of each game.
This year's pre-season Blitz in Cairns saw the Melbourne Tigers take home the trophy with former NBA centre Chris Anstey earning the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.
When veteran NBL star Derek Rucker finally plays his last game he'll be a walk up start to the Hall of Fame but he wants to make sure he puts on a good show during the Coffs Harbour Blitz before he shoots his last basket.
He thinks the basketball fans in this city who've supported him so well are about to get an experience that they could only dream of.
"For fans, I think it's just the sheer volume of hoops that you can see, and up close," the Bullets guard said.
"You're right there, you're in the thick of things with the players and see the players mingling around between games, there's no security you can just go and meet with your favorite player, it's pretty laid back for the fans."
Just because it's a pre-season game don't think for a second that the players are just going through the motions.
"It's pretty close to the regular season so the coaches want you to try and stick to some kind of team plan that you want to play to," the veteran said.
"So I don't think it's necessarily all run and gun and as teams want to try and win as they advance through the tournament you play the style that you think is going to help you win."
No-one's sure who'll win the NBL Blitz but already Coffs Harbour's basketball community has proven to be the biggest winner of all.