The Melbourne Tigers have for a long time been referred to as “the family club” and with good reason. During basketball’s heyday in the 90s, charismatic personalities such as Andrew Gaze and Lanard Copeland could often be seen out and about in the public domain. Whether the Tigers were appearing at the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal or perhaps Melbourne’s Moomba festivities, they (as well as players from the South East Melbourne Magic and North Melbourne Giants for that matter) were characters as well as star athletes.
People in recent times have opined that those days are long behind us, and trust me when I say I’ve spoken to a lot of fans with that particular view. Whether it be from a person who has wandered away from basketball or a fan of a now-defunct team who feels lost without it, there is still a palpable sense of bitterness. This bitterness however, is still mixed with a hint of excitement in their voice as they recall their favourite memories of the NBL.
Apart from the nostalgic Tigers supporters, there’s also a telling mix of Giants, Magic, Victoria Titans and South Dragons fans. There is a strong undercurrent of former fans still passionate about the game, despite them having no team to support.
Basically, at the heart of it, these people all still LOVE HOOPS.
It’s not easy to change teams, especially after following yours for so long. Melbourne Tigers fans are indeed lucky that their team is still functioning and viable. Up until very recently, basketball had been experiencing decreased exposure and a lot of past fans of the game (especially those supporters of Melbourne’s now-defunct teams) had perhaps turned their attention away from the NBL in general.
Some had even gone as far as to say that Melbourne was no longer “the family club” after a couple of tumultuous seasons.
In keeping an eye on all NBL teams across social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, I saw a really great post back in July. The Melbourne Tigers had posted an image of a young boy by the name of Lachlan who had participated at a “Mini Shooting Stars” session run by Tigers player Lucas Walker. While scrolling through the comments, I noticed that Lachlan’s mum Fiona had also posted a comment, explaining that Lachlan and his brother Tom had had an amazing time at the clinic.
I got talking with Fiona and she revealed that Lachlan has autism. We spoke about the boys’ love for of basketball and some of the challenges that Fiona faced in trying to get everyone involved. Fiona also revealed that she had followed the NBL for some time herself, being at one point a Spectres fan, then a Magic fan and then most recently a Titans fan. Seeing the fun that her boys were having with “Waxy” and the Tigers, she realised she was on a one-way track to being a new Tigers fan!
After speaking with the Melbourne Tigers staff, I was able to secure two signed basketballs for Lachlan and Tom. I drove them out one afternoon and sat down for a chat with Fiona.
When Channel 10 showed the Melbourne Tigers’ road game against the Adelaide 36ers live last Sunday, Fiona and her family were able to enjoy a great couple of hours of entertainment. Everything was going wonderfully until the boys’ favourite player Lucas Walker suffered a shoulder injury but overall, everyone enjoyed the live coverage.
The fact is there are a number of families just like Fiona’s living in Melbourne that were, at some stage a part of (from a Tigers perspective) the “other 50%” of basketball fans loving the NBL.
With her boys’ new found love of the sport, Fiona says she’ll no doubt make a trip or two to some Tigers games this season.
A little bit of effort that has gone a long way to bringing more smiling faces to both the Cage and Hisense Arena this season.
Who are you going to bring?