Rolling to gold… again
MELBOURNE (Paulo Kennedy's View from Downunder) - Gold at last, Roy! Gold at last!
Excuse me for borrowing a phrase from the Ice Dream television program the night Steven Bradbury picked up Australia's first ever Winter Olympics gold medal in 2002, but this has been a great week.
Of course, there's lots I could write about in what has been a surprisingly upbeat week of off-season hoops Downunder.
Then there was the quality form of Aussies Cam Bairstow, Matt Dellavedova, Chris Goulding and Brock Motum in the NBA Summer League, often a tough setting for unselfish players from this part of the world.
While there's plenty of people happy to get down on Dante Exum, for whatever reason, I thought there were some downright exciting glimpses in his first few outings in a Utah Jazz uniform. His place is the future, just enjoy the journey as he makes his way there.
There was lots else too - former Perth import James Ennis signing with Miami, the Boomers squad being announced, the form of Corey Webster against Korea and Basketball Australia's review of the WNBL’s future getting underway.
But what truly made this a golden week was the performance of the Rollers - the Australian men's wheelchair team - in claiming World Championship gold in Korea.
In the Final, sparked by 17 points from Tristan Knowles, they defeated the USA 63-57 to win their second straight world title, and beating the Yanks in any game of hoops is a difficult task.
Add that pair of shiny medals to the 2008 Paralympic crown and my opening line - gold at last - isn't really appropriate! It's more like gold again, Roy!
They didn't get it easy, watching a double-figure lead evaporate quickly and then disappear altogether in the final period before putting the foot down once again to squeeze a win.
That was just one of many scares the Rollers had to face in the tournament, but like a group of men who have already faced some major challenges in their lives they simply stuck at the task, much to the delight of coach Ben Ettridge.
"I've got the 12 best guys in the world and I'm so happy for them. I'm proud of the guys, they're amazing and they have done a great job," he said after the Final.
"We pride ourselves on our defence and that's what won it. Every time we play defence it's a war and today we gave them nothing."
Imagine the superlatives that would have flowed from Ettridge after the Semi-Final win over Turkey.
The Aussies were facing a 20-point hole as they emerged from the sheds for the third term. Not surprisingly, long-term superstars Justin Eveson and Shaun Norris led the resurgence.
Both men date back to the silver medal at the Athens Paralympics, and they used all that experience to guide the Rollers offence to 41 second-half points.
But again it was the Aussies' defence that got the job done - it's the same no matter what level of basketball you look at - holding the Turks to five points in the third stanza and 11 in the fourth.
Gold at a world championship is a brilliant effort, but to overcome two such serious challenges in the medal rounds is truly awesome.
Fair coverage? Fair support?
Big congratulations to ABC Radio and Rafael Epstein for interviewing coach Ettridge in the prime time drive slot after the win.
It is sad to see the 'bandwagoning' media approach we get in the present day.
The Australian men's hockey team won the world cup in incredible style in June this year but you would hardly have known about it if relying on the mainstream media.
The men's soccer team then failed to win a game at the world cup and yet there was blanket coverage.
Now I understand the economies of scale involved with the respective events, don't get me wrong, my point is if our media can saturate one national sporting team's coverage, they can provide adequate coverage of our other teams who are achieving great things.
Not too many did that with the Rollers, so well done ABC.
Epstein tried to make an issue of the fact the Rollers did not have any sponsors, and I thought that was a bit unrealistic.
While it isn't difficult for media to provide scores, interviews and highlights if available, it is a much bigger investment for sponsors to bankroll a team that doesn't provide a financial return, especially in the current uncertain era.
The Boomers have often gone without sponsors in the past, and I'm sure many other national teams have too.
Perhaps if the media coverage was based more on informing the public and less on other interests that wouldn't be the case. Who knows?
But I was pleased Ettridge quickly turned the discussion away from the negative focus of sponsorship and back to the achievements of his men, and the sacrifices they have made to be "the best sporting team in Australian history".
While that claim may be a little overstated, I can definitely excuse it in the euphoria of such a fantastic achievement!
Well done to all involved.
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