Sunday, 19 October 2014

Off-season digressions - WNBL: Dandenong Rangers vs Melbourne Boomers

Towards the beginning of the year, or maybe some time in March, a friend of a friend's grandfather had died, and thus a discounted general admission ticket became available for a Melbourne Tigers game against the Adelaide 36ers, which I was able to take advantage of. Now the usual thing for me to do following attendance at such an event would be to write about it, especially because it was my first time at the basketball - but because of the hectic approach of the 2014 season, that never came to pass, though quite why I never wrote about the experience at all, with the intention of putting up in the following off-season I'm not sure. It still might happen at some point, though I can't really remember any of it too clearly. Maybe a eulogistic piece on the death of the Tigers is needed.

All of which is a roundabout of saying that my attendance at yesterday's WNBL fixture between the Dandenong Rangers and Melbourne Boomers was not the first time I'd ever been to the basketball, though it wasof course the first time I'd been to a women's basketball match. How did I end up at this game? Because fellow Australia soccer historian Chris Egan was in Melbourne for business, and as usual the thing to do was to find a 'random' Melbourne sporting event to go to. With the baseball not in town until next month, and Chris not wanting to go to the national volleyball league fixture being played out at St Albans, because it would clash with the A-League, we decided on women's basketball.

So after a trip to Laverton Market, because Chris wanted to see the real Melbourne and venture as far as away as possible from the World's Most Liveable City garbage, we made it to Dandenong Stadium, the home of the Rangers.
The stadium complex is fairly impressive, including the main arena itself - though I did find it curious that as the Rangers game was taking place, there were several simultaneous games taking place on the many other courts in the building. Also strange to see that the pennants for the Rangers' men's team seemed to be larger than women's WNBL titles at the opposite end of the arena. After initially entering via the side of the arena with the cheap seats, we made our way to the other side, with the proper fold out seating. These were located above small corporate booths, mostly filled out by Jayco employees and/or franchisees, the Rangers' major sponsor.

The game itself - part of the Michelle Timms Cup, played between the two teams over the course of the season - was a bit of a disappointment. The Boomers were appalling defensively, and while they managed to get the early deficit back to six points, the lack of an inside presence in particular (but what would I know?) seeing them fall further and further behind. For their part Dandenong weren't that crash hot, but did what they needed to do. Some of their shooting could have been better, but the US import Cappie_Pondexter was impressive, as was the range of scoring options at the Rangers' disposal.

All things considered, the actual match day presentation of the game was of a very high standard. There was a mascot, and the volunteers, announcer, scoreboards and court presentation were all of a good standard, and even though I find the entire concept of a 'matchday experience' anathema - just let the game be the centrepiece and all that - this was less offensive to me than usual. The national anthem being played before the game reminded of the NSL - I'm not sure if they do this for every game, or just for this, the opening home game of the Rangers' season.

The crowd itself was into the game, but there was a definite lack of nutjob, over the top style supporters, maybe two or three for the home team and one for the visitors. Chris noted that the gender balance of the crowd was fairly even, which would be an interesting phenomenon to analyse alongside the probably very female dominated netball crowds, which in Melbourne at least seem to be very healthy nowadays compared to the small crowd at Dandenong Stadium. Perhaps a comparison with the demographics of W-League crowds would be more useful? Hell, maybe just a study of why some women and girls choose to play basketball over netball would be interesting.

What was most fascinating was simply this: the experience of watching how a second tier sporting club by the standards of women's sport - if one counts swimming and netball as top tier in comparison - operates a national league team of any sort, ostensibly out of the working class outer south eastern suburbs. Something interesting going on there.

A better apology than the one Phil Moss dished up/South of the Border public transport saga nos. 562 and 563
Then this happened, and there was really nothing more that needed to be said about yesterday's adventures.
Though people did of course keep saying things - but that's democracy for ya.

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