A BRIEF HISTORY OF BASKETBALL IN DARWIN
By Maisie Austin, OAM, ASM
The first basketball court was built on an unofficial rubbish dump in Cavenagh Street in 1942 by members of the Darwin Chinese Recreation Club (DCRC), but was not used officially until 1948 when people returned to Darwin after World War II.
Early in 1948 the North Australian Workers Union, who leased the land, built a boxing stadium around the basketball court. A group of girls wanted to form (women’s) basketball in Darwin, so they approached the NAWU. They were advised that they could have unrestricted use of the ‘Stadium’ (as it became known) for training without charge. While the women used it for their competition, Charles See Kee organised men to play “American style Basketball”.
The NT Basketball Association (NTBA) was formed at a general meeting that year, the future of which was largely dependent on the availability of the playing court at the ‘Stadium’.
When the court was demolished in 1952, basketball moved to Daly Street on land offered by Town Management under a Special Purpose Lease. Building of the Daly Street court was completed by many voluntary workers and assisted by local businesses. The court was officially opened on Saturday 12 June 1954.
A total of 26 men’s and women’s teams took to the courts that first year. Games were played seven days a week. The Men’s teams were: Army, St. Mary’s (2), Urgers, DCRC, Waratahs (2), Pioneers (2), Navy (2), Rusty Valley, Bagot, tigers, PMG, Health & RAAF. The Women’s teams were: Galahs (2), St. Mary’s (2), Eagles, Kookaburras, Marrenah, Debs & WRANS.
In the early hours of a February morning in 1954, more than 1500 people were treated to an exhibition of basketball skills by the Harlem Globetrotters. Also in 1954, a Darwin men’s team – the first NT sporting team to participate in an interstate competition – went to Brisbane to compete in the Australian Basketball Championships. The coach was Albert Chan, manager Wellington Chin and players Ray Yee, George Sarib, Ted Egan, Rim Gasiunas, Phil McLaughlin, Joe Sarib, Cedric Chin, Bill Roe, Terry Lew Fatt, Don Bonson, John Angeles and John Mayo.
The men’s teams continued to attend Australian Basketball Championships from 1959 to 1966. Darwin would have hosted the 1969 Australian Men’s Championships had it had an indoor stadium.
Teenager Michael Ah Mat, who represented Darwin at the 1959 Australian Championships, was invited to play for South Adelaide, which he did in 1960. He represented S.A. in senior men and U/18 State teams at Australian Championships. The basketball fraternity in the NT was thrilled and proud when he represented Australia at the Olympic Games in 1964 and 1968.
They were also proud when Bennie Lew Fatt and John Bonson represented Australia in New Zealand in 1961. In 1962 & 1963 Steve Cubillo refereed at the Australian Men’s Basketball Championships and became an accredited Australian and FIBA (International) badge holder.
In 1959 the Darwin Women went to Toowoomba for the Australian Basketball Championships. The coach was Herb Lee, manager Joyce Cornwall and players Vicky Bonson (capt), Louisa Roe, Ruth Angeles, Rose Peel, Jacqueline Sevallos, Evelyn Baird, Vivienne Nickels, Patsy Bonson, Dot Daby & Rosanne Ruddick.
These men’s and women’s teams remain the only senior teams to have participated at National Championships.
The first NT Championships were held in 1962.
Basketball was administered by the Northern Territory Basketball Association (NTBA) until 1963, when its Constitution was amended, and the Darwin Amateur Basketball Association (DABA) was formed in 1963. The lease on Daly Street was transferred from NTBA to DABA in 1974.
Many teams visited Darwin and played matches at Daly Street, some of which included Australian Olympic Team, Tel Aviv, New Zealand, The People’s Republic of China, Washington (State) Spiders, St. Clairs, American All-Stars, American Forces teams.
In 1976 a subcommittee was formed to investigate the possibility of an indoor stadium and Geoff Rowston was appointed negotiator to meet with various Government officials. In December 1983 the DBA (as it became known) moved to the Spectrum Stadium, Abala Road, Marrara and was officially opened on 30 March 1984.
The move to Spectrum saw the change of style and standard and an increased interest in basketball. In that first year, approximately 90 teams competed in the Championship Season, with senior players numbering around 1000.
It was also the beginning of development programmes for juniors, with the commencement of U/12, U/14, and U/16 divisions to complement the U/18 division which had been in existence for a few seasons. The first Junior Committee was formed under the leadership of Lorraine (Docherty) Adams and Wally Nickels.
In the next few years, the Management Committee lobbied the Government, negotiated and worked tirelessly for DBA’s own office and change rooms. These were constructed in 1987.
The Eighties and Nineties saw more junior representative teams competing at various championships; and senior teams attending the South Australian Country Championships, Masters Games, and tournaments in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia; courses and clinics for coaches, referees and administrators; DBA paid employees, a Development Officer, Gatekeeper and Duty Officer; the formation of Darwin Basketball Referees Association, and basketball accepted into the Australian Institute of Sport elite programme.
As a result of the elite programme, many juniors left Darwin to compete at State, Continental, and National levels, and in competitions in the USA. Toni Gabelish was a representative of the Australian Under 21 team, Travis Haslam became an NBL referee, and Tim Duggan, Gary Booknikoff and Blake Truslove became NBL players.
Teams visiting Darwin increased, including Australian men’s teams from the NBL (National Basketball League), which now have scheduled fixtures in Darwin during the NBL season. The Australian Women’s Team, the Opals, have also taken up residence in Darwin on occasion while in preparation for World Championships. Others included Bangkok women representatives, youth teams from the USA and Hong Kong, and those participating in the Arafura Games. Spectrum Stadium has also hosted the National Schools Exchanges/Championships, a Filipino Association competition, Customs National Titles and Police National Titles.
The Management Committee was replaced by a Board of Directors which governs senior and junior club committees.
Les was a member of the first NTBA executive committee and served for ten years. As NTBA President, he was instrumental in obtaining the land at Daly Street, against strong opposition. He then organised the raising of finances to build the first court. He was one of the many voluntary workers involved in the planning and construction of Daly Street court, which he considered a great team effort.
Les played for the original Urgers team, which in four years lost only one game- the one which would have won them their fourth premiership.
Charles See Kee
Charlie was one of the members of DCRC who built the first basketball court in Cavenagh Street. He was instrumental in organising the first NT Championships in 1962, became NTBA President as well as President of the newly formed DABA in 1963, retaining that position 21 times.
He also coached the men’s teams that went to the Australian Championships from 1959 to 1966.
Charlie was very involved in all work at Daly Street court and contributed greatly to numerous NT Championships and the sport in general.
Walter Nickels (1967)
Walter was a member of the DBA Committee from 1950 to 1967, and one time as Vice President. He involved himself in a number of subcommittees, assisting players in coaching juniors. His ideal and foresight were to involve junior players in organised competitions and to introduce Indigenous people to basketball. He was thrilled to help Bagot (an all native team) join the DBA competition in 1953, and was ecstatic when two Bagot players, Peter Marrego and John White represented the NT at the 1959 Australian Championships.
Walter was awarded the DABA Life Membership posthumously.
Gabe Hazelbane (1967)
Gabe was a longstanding member of the Pioneers Basketball Club as a committee man and coach/player of Men’s A Grade. He played and coached that team to 13 premierships.
Gabe was also one of the voluntary workers involved with the building of Daly Street court, and was a member of the DABA Committee as well as an NT selector. He coached Darwin men’s teams on several occasions.
Sandra Lew Fatt (1975)
Sandra was a DABA administrator for more than 20 years, holding the position of Registrar, Secretary and Vice President, assisted many new committee members in their duties, organised fixtures, registrations, etc., as well as Presentation functions. She was Manageress and Selector of Darwin teams on several occasions and worked tirelessly at NT Championships. She also served on the NTBA Committee.
Geoffrey Rowston (1976)
Geoff was DBA Vice President 3 times and President on 7 occasions. He also held the position of NTBA Vice President and President, was the official Rules Interpreter for many years, and attended numerous Australian Basketball Federation meetings.
Against very strong opposition he was behind the lease on Daly Street being transferred from NTBA to DBA. He also worked tirelessly in all negotiations with various Government Departments in obtaining Spectrum Stadium and the transfer of the lease on Daly Street Courts.
Geoff remained DBA President until 1984 and it was fitting that the name he chose for the stadium “Spectrum” was the one selected by a special committee.
Steve Cubillo (1977)
Steve has been involved with Darwin basketball for over 40 years, initially as a foundation member and player with Pioneers. He played in 18 grand finals, with 12 premierships, and coached a number of Pioneer teams.
Steve was a DBA Club Delegate as well as NT Rules Interpreter, represented Darwin as a player and referee and coached a Darwin women’s team (against an Australian (unofficial) touring team) that defeated the Australian team!
He became the first Territory born official to attain both State Level status and an International badge; was one of 9 referees to be officially recognised as the first accredited Australian and FIBA (International) badge holders in 1962, and refereed at the 1962 & 1963 Australian Men’s Championships. He is also a qualified accredited ABF Educator Level 2 and continues to assist other referees.
Dean Dempsey (1979)
Dean was DBA President 3 times, DBA Secretary and Vice President on other occasions and NTBA Registrar.
He represented Darwin on approximately 13 occasions at NT Championships, Timor, S.A. Country Championships, Bali and Indonesia. He coached the Darwin Men’s team to the 1977 SA Country Championship grand final and also coached several clubs.
He was responsible for arranging the initial trip by Darwin teams to play in Bali and later in other areas of Indonesia.
Peter Carvosso (1979)
Peter lived in Darwin on two separate occasions and both times served on the DBA and NTBA Committees, becoming NTBA President. He contributed many voluntary hours with behind-the-scenes work at several NT Championships.
Peter played for Nightcliff Nationals, than transferred to Waratahs and then the Kay-Jets where he led them to a Men’s League premiership.
Terry Lew Fatt (1983)
Terry represented Darwin at the Australian Basketball Championships in 1954, then from 1959 to 1967. At the 1961 Championships in Melbourne, he top scored in the series. Until 1973 he represented Darwin at NT Championships, against visiting teams New Zealand, Australia, Tel Aviv, China, American Navy, Timor and a Mormon representative team.
During his career, Terry participated in 16 grand finals and enjoyed winning 11 of them. He also coached Pioneers Men’s A Grade to a premiership. He also represented Darwin at the Central Australian Masters Games.
Maisie Austin OAM, ASM (1984)
Maisie has been involved with basketball since 1963 as a player, coach, referee and administrator. In 1966 she helped form the Waratah women’s A Grade and remained with the club for 17 years where she was also Secretary, Vice President, President and was awarded Life Membership.
Maisie represented Darwin from 1973 to 1987 at NT Championships, China, St. Clair, S.A. Country Championships, Hong Kong, 1991 Arafura Games, Central Australian Masters and Australian Masters Games as a player and coach.
Maisie has played in 14 Dry Season and 13 Wet Season grand finals, several as coach/player. She attained an A Grade Referee badge in 1987 and also coached several Darwin junior teams, club women in A Grade and League, and a men’s League team. In 1993 she became the only female with a National Level 2 Basketball Coaching Accreditation in the NT.
Maisie has held several positions on the DBA Committee, becoming the first female DBA President in 1984, a position she held on 4 occasions. She is still actively involved as a player and coach. In 1993 she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal.
Lorraine (Docherty) Adams (1986)
Lorraine has been involved with basketball since the early Sixties and for many years was a member of the Kay-Jets committee where she was awarded Life Membership.
Over a period of 20 years she has been DBA Assistant Secretary, Club Delegate, Secretary, Junior Committee Delegate and President of the DBA Junior committee. She was totally involved with Junior development at Daly Street and Spectrum as an administrator, organiser, coach and referee and in one season coached five junior teams. She was responsible for the development of many junior players who later advanced to League.
Lorraine has represented Darwin as a player at NT Championships, S.A. Country Championships, Mt. Isa, Dili Timor and continues to be a representative at Central Australian and Australian Masters Games.
Rhonda Miatke (1986)
Rhonda became involved with North Darwin Basketball Club in 1976 as a delegate then Secretary. She became a Life Member of that club which later changed to South Darwin. She was President for many years and was awarded Life Membership.
In 1978 she joined the DBA Committee and over the years was Secretary (Junior Committee), Registrar, Club Delegate, Secretary, Assistant Secretary and Junior Committee Delegate.
Rhonda also represented Darwin as a player and manager at S.A. Country Championships, NT Championships and Bali.
Kay Flavel (1987)
From 1974 Kay played basketball for North Darwin, Kay-Jets, RSL and Ansett. In 1986 she was appointed Vice President of Ansett and later served as President for three years.
Kay became the DBA Registrar in 1977 and held that position for ten years. She represented Darwin as a player and manager at several NT Championships and S.A. Country Championships. Kay was also a delegate on the DBA Senior Committee.
Ron Harris (1987)
Ron was a member of the Vikings team in 1970. That team later merged with the Kay-Jets. Ron remained with the Kay-Jets for a number of years before moving to Ansett where he became President.
He represented Darwin on many occasions at NT championships, Dili Timor and against a visiting WA Country All Stars team. He coached Darwin and club junior teams and coached the Darwin men’s team at the S.A. country Championships.
Ron was a Club Delegate on the DBA Committee for a number of years and NTBA Treasurer for two years.
Evelyn Ottley (DBA 1987-BNT 1991)
Ev commenced basketball in Darwin in 1975 with Pints then transferred to RSL. She became Treasurer of RSL, a position she held for 18 years. She was awarded a Life Membership in 1980.
In 1976 she became the DBA Assistant Secretary and remained on the committee until 1987 and was also a Club Delegate, Treasurer and Match committee member. She was appointed NTBA Treasurer in 1982 and held the position until 1992. She became a Life Member of NTBA (now BNT) in 1991.
Ev represented Darwin as a player and manager at NT Championships and continues to represent Darwin at Central Australian and Australian Masters Games.
Paul Rousham (1993)
Paul joined the DBA Committee as Treasurer in 1981 and later became DBA Secretary. During this time he coached RSL Men’s League, taking them to two grand finals, coached Waratahs, Ansett and an NT Police Representative team. He enjoyed winning four premierships. He also coached Darwin teams at NT Championships and found time to referee club fixtures.
Paul became NTBA Treasurer, then Secretary, was a member of the Board of Control, NT Rules Interpreter and Umpires Coach and later became President of BNT in 1991.
Shirley Lew Fatt (1999)
Jeff Larson (BNT 1996 & DBA 2000)
Jeff joined the Darwin basketball scene in late 1981 and has since that day been a part of the game in the NT. Jeff is still at it, albeit from the east coast of Queensland.
A life member of Basketball NT the DBA & the Eagles Basketball Club, Jeff has played, coached, administrated, managed and promoted basketball through his love of the game. He has been involved locally, nationally and internationally with representative teams, promoted the game through radio, newsprint and even a local newsletter.
Jeff continues to sell the game to the media with a summary of DBA League games played each week. He also updates all the statistics for the League on the DBA website.
Jeff was nominated for the Northern Territory 1984 Sports Star of the Year Award, was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000, and he was voted the Male Administrator of the Year by Basketball Australia in 2009 at the 17th Junior Basketball Awards.
Gary Shipway (2003)
Jeannie Carlton (2003)
Michael Ah Mat (2003)
Donna Hurst (2004)
Bruce Crawford (2004)
Greg ‘Muscles’ Adams (2005)
Greg“Muscles” Adams has been involved in Darwin basketball for almost forty years, commencing as a junior at the Daly Street courts.
Since then, he has played and coached both senior and junior grades in the DBA competitions, represented Darwin and the Northern territory as a player, coach and referee, was a club delegate on the Darwin Basketball Association committee, and involved in the Darwin Basketball Referees’ Association for many years.
Dahlia Docherty (2011)
Dahlia has been involved with the DBA for over 25 years. She is absolutely passionate about the game and has served the association greatly as a representative player, coach, team manager, administrator, delegate, volunteer and referee. She is also a Director on the DBA Board. This is in addition to being involved as a club player, coach and administrator.
Dahlia has represented the DBA at national level as a manager and an assistant coach with under 14’s, 16’s and during the Arafura Games. She has also been the first League player, men or women, to play over 700 League games. She has also scored more points than any other woman, been given the DBA League MVP award (1995), chosen as the Basketball NT Female Player of the Year (1995) and won medals during the Arafura Games in 1991, 95, 97 & 99.
Dahlia has also been, at different times, the secretary, senior delegate and President of the Tracy Village Jets Basketball Club between 1991 thru to 2010.
Grant Matthews (2011)
Grant has been the DBA Finance Director since 1999, representing 12 years of consecutive service. The Finance Director role is intensive and requires significant personal sacrifice on an almost continual basis.
Grant has made a number of other significant contributions to the Association. As a Boardmember, Grant was a driving force behind;
1. Construction of the air conditioned stadium in 2003
2. Establishment of development opportunities for junior members through tours of Asian countries
3. Elimination of a huge debt to the NT Govenment
4. Retention of the DBA’s ownership of its facilities
5. Establishment of the DBA Office
6. Construction of the new canteen
7. Implementation of contemporary information systems
8. Establishment of the Casuarina All Sports Club Basketball Fundamentals Program
Grant’s dedication and service to the DBA has laid the foundation for the future prosperity of the Darwin Basketball Association.
Donelle Dingo (2011)
Donelle Dingo has been involved with basketball in Darwin for the last 25 years. Donelle has served as the Lightning Club representative on the DBA delegates committee over the past 8 years.
Donelle has also been involved in the following capacity for both the Lightning Club and for the DBA;
1. Junior coaching
2. A score bench official in both Junior competition and League competition.
3. A qualified Level 3 Bench Official
4. Has represented the DB A and NT as a bench official at the U/16 National Titles in
Perth, W.A., U/14 Nationals in Darwin, N.T. and at the two Australian Schools Tournaments held in Darwin, N.T.
5. Bench official for all NBL Perth Wildcat games held in Darwin, N.T.
6. Bench Official of the Year for DBA’ Donelle was also part of the original committee that formed the Lightning Basketball Club and is currently the Vice President of the club.
PRESIDENTS of the Darwin Basketball Association
(1984 – 2005)
Geoffrey Rowston x 7
Maisie Austin x 4
Lesley Ilett – 2005/6
Photo: Pioneer Premiers 1953 – Photo courtesy of Joey Bonson