Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 Aussie Basketball Tour: Notes from Adelaide and Wollongong

Game Day in Adelaide and Wollongong
Each week I'll be heading off to a different NBL city until the season wraps up in mid-February. I'd only ever watched NBL games at arenas in Sydney and Melbourne so I'm looking forward to experiencing the basketball community in other markets. My first two stops in Adelaide and Wollongong, both storied franchises didn't disappoint.

Support from the neighbours:
BadBoy Burger Bar in Adelaide and Illawarra Brewery in Wollongong
I shared the bus ride to Titanium Security Arena with a senior 36ers supporter decked in some classic gear. I got off one stop earlier to grab a milkshake at the BadBoy Burger Bar. I customarily check out nearby haunts to soak in the game day lead up with fans and perhaps find some memorabilia. The arena is in an industrial neighborhood and was a lonely walk via Public transport. Once you turn the corner you're greeted to a sprawling parking lot and a field teeming with festival atmosphere. Kids shooting around as fans trickle in.
Winning time!
In Wollongong the arena is by the beach with a parade of bars and restaurants filled with Hawkheads getting their fill before the game. The Illawarra Brewery attached to WIN Stadium is where I pre-gamed. I'm always impressed by the amount of local team gear people rock, all the different eras and players being repped. It's a good primer on who the fan favorites are, who to look out for on the court. At the Sixers game, the standout was Majok Deng who piled on 16 fourth quarter points. Igniting the crowd with each clutch three. The Illawarra Hawks fighting for a postseason berth sent back the visiting Breakers. None more impressive than AJ Ogilvy who had the house shaking with his blocks.

The stars interacting with fans after the game
I've been quite the lucky charm on my tours, boosting slumping and underdog home teams to unexpected victories. On my NBA visits I'm 12-1. For this NBL jaunt I've watched consecutive 11-point wins by home teams battling finals contenders. Adelaide over the Wildcats and Illawarra beating the Breakers. Competitive games and team success certainly enhances the game day experience. Both Adelaide and Illawarra showed great initiative in giving supporters intimate access to it's players post-match. A team lap of honor signing jerseys and high-fiving awaiting fans soon after the final buzzer.

Jersey finds in Adelaide and Wollongong
As expected there's also plenty of assorted NBA gear to be found. At the Illawarra game I spotted 2 'Nique' throwbacks and even a Pittsburgh Steelers tee. Gotta respect the mascot kinship. Whilst the NBA remains the standard-bearer it's heartening to see a local appreciation for the game being cultivated. One of the things I noticed traveling North America was the prevalence of locals repping their region's Sports teams. A strong sense of hometown pride which forms a big part of their identity. It's not something we really do here in Australia.

Street art finds
Game day ultimately accounts for a small part in my experience of a place. Traveling with friends on my first NBA tour, we sometimes spent our lone night somewhere watching a game. I knew moving forward I'd aim for more time in each place to explore and a get a holistic impression of the city. Besides catching the game live. I scavenger hunt for jerseys, hoops and street art. I'll hit up a nice eatery and try the local beer, usually where I can watch sports. I'll seek out the local comedy, pro-wrestling or board game scene when I can. Being on the road is exhausting so indulging in my pet hobbies helps. I like to play it by ear, though I do keep an eye on events and festivals in upcoming cities. Ultimately the memories that endure are the connections I make with people and the moments of serendipity. Basketball's a nice pretext to get me there.

The 2018 Australia Tour (NBL and FIBA)
Round 13, Jan 4: ADL def. PER 97 - 86
Round 14, Jan 13: ILL def. NZB (90 - 79)
Cairns and Brisbane are my next stops. It'll be the only leg on my tour where I won't be returning home to Sydney in between Rounds. I hear they like to party, not to mention Australia Day long weekend is worked in there too. Let's see if I can bring some luck to the Queensland teams. Looking forward to meeting the Orange Army and Brisbane fans up north.

- Follow my daily snapshots on the @30HomeGames Instagram and hashtag #30HGoztour
- Check my game day posts in Adelaide and Wollongong

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