Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My Hat Is Off To The Taipan's Players

Many of you may have already heard about the demise of Cairns Taipans and the many side stories that seem to be swirling around the remnants only add to the colour of the whole situation. I debated whether or not to add to the publicity that has already been generated, but came to the conclusion that ignoring it would be along the same lines as the old white elephant.

The story began last week when the Taipans organization dropped the bombshell that they were going into voluntary administration. Much like the Sydney Spirit before them, the players met and agreed to take a 45% pay cut which, when added to the NBL bailout package, would allow them to finish this season.

Imports Dave Thomas and former Croc Larry Abney, however, were not to be part of this plan and were sacked. As recently as Monday, cuts were still being made and Coach Alan Black was relieved of his duties.

It was just the last year or so that NBL circles were talking about the supposed big dollars being thrown toward players to make the move to the Far North, so what caused co-owner and car yard tycoon John O’Brien to pack up his ball and go home?

My personal opinion on the situation is that this guy has just made an intellegent business decision and he was simply allowed to execute the decision.

I am also going to take an educated guess and say that Mr O’Brien pulled up stumps now because it was becoming more and more obvious that the Taipans were not going to play a part in the newly revamped NBL for next season.

The one question that constantly enters my mind about his decision, however, is “Would he have been so hasty in pulling the pin mid-season if the Snakes were sitting on top of the ladder instead of suffering a seven game losing streak?”. This question is obviously a rhetorical one, as now that the decision has been made we will never really know.

Mr O’Brien’s cost cutting exercise has left many players and their families struggling through the next few months in “survival mode” and you can’t help but feel for them.

Taking a paycut of that magnitude midway through the season can be the equivalent of one member of a family losing their job. I am not sure how some of the guys are making it work but my hat goes is off to them. I have been through financial difficulty of this magnitude in my time as a professional athlete and it took my family and I years to recover financially. I would not wish something similar on anyone I know.

The next question I continue to ask myself is, in bailing both the Taipans and the Spirit out, has the NBL set a precident for teams who are not only financially struggling, but who are in doubt over whether they are to be a part of the future of basketball in Australia? Will we see a trend of clubs dropping out early to cut their losses and lining up with their hands out asking for the NBL’s help?

I hope the answer is no for a couple of reasons: #1 the NBL does not need any more of its financial woes brought out in the media. It’s just not good for the league, present or future. And #2 because I can’t imagine the coffers being full enough to support any more franchise collapses.

When you live and love your job as I do, it is always disappointing to see its image painted in dark light. I could fill many pages with my personal thoughts and feelings on the future of the NBL. My first hope for the NBL would simply be that we get on with the basketball and turn our attention to what appears to this season, which right now appears to be one of the most hotly contested races we have had in a very long time.

My article can be found in the Townsville Bulletin every Wednesday.

No comments: