EXCLUSIVE: Pioneers get ball rolling

SHOOTING HIGH: Pioneers captain Tom Daly hopes Mount Gambier Pioneers Basketball Club can slot into a new elite Victorian-based league to cement its future. Picture: SANDRA MORELLO

TEAM SUPPORT: Mount Gambier Pioneers Basketball Club vice president Travis Fatchen, president Tom Kosch and club team captain Tom Daly, with his daughter Gracie, 2, rally behind the 30-year-old regional sporting organisation ahead of a decision on its future next week. Picture: SANDRA MORELLO

THE Mount Gambier Pioneers Basketball Club will make its biggest play in history by attempting to slot into a revamped Victorian-based league.

The club’s future has been at the crossroads following the national basketball regulator scrapping the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) and moving towards state-based competitions.

The major shake-up has left the successful club in limbo since mid-August with little public information flowing from Basketball Australia.

In a new development, the Castec Rural Pioneers have now been invited to submit an application for the 2019 Victorian league.

But the invitation expects all nominating associations to include a women’s team.

The club is expected to be notified of its future mid next week and will hold a public forum this Monday to garner community support.

Pioneers chair Tom Kosch said the invitation offered to the club was positive, but cautioned it did not mean a seamless transition to the new league.

“While the invitation does not guarantee the club’s entry, the Pioneers are excited at the opportunity to provide our application for acceptance into Basketball Victoria’s new competition,” Mr Kosch said.

“All existing interstate clubs, including Hobart, North West Tasmania, Launceston and Albury Wodonga have until this Sunday to apply.

“The applications will be reviewed with Basketball Victoria notifying all successful and non-successful clubs by Wednesday.”

He said the proposed league’s structure had a maximum of 20 teams and would be launched in March/April next year with a completion of finals by August/September 2019.

“While the criteria does provide some challenges in the short timeframe expected, the Pioneers board has understood the addition of a women’s team would be a requirement and are excited about the opportunity that exists for our community,” Mr Kosch said.

The club has already begun work on putting together a women’s team and sourcing suitable coaching applicants.

“We are confident that we will be able to have a very competitive team that is well coached and is an asset to the local community, as well as the new competition,” Mr Kosch said.

Amid the looming decision by Basketball Australia, the Pioneers board has been proactive and had regular contact with Basketball Victoria in regards to expectations for clubs in the new competition.

“Financial modelling has already been carried out to understand the viability, of which we are confident, given the support the club received the addition of a women’s team to guarantee the club’s future is achievable,”
the club president said.

“We are confident the model delivered in our men’s team could replicate a competitive women’s program.”

In recent years, the Pioneers has focused on attracting talented basketballers – including local talent – from South Australia and in particular Adelaide willing to relocate to Mount Gambier to play at the next level, work on their game and be live within our community.

“We have begun working on our application and we are confident our recent success and 30-year history in SEABL should provide a strong case for the Pioneers to be included in the revamped league,” Mr Kosch said.

“The Pioneers are genuinely excited at the possibility to be part of this new league and believe the club’s that have existed within SEABL will largely be included in the new Victorian league.”

Mr Kosch called on the wider public and business community to show their support by attending the forum this Monday at the Comfort Inn Silver Birch, starting at 6.30pm.

“Please come along to guarantee the future of the club,” he said.

The Border Watch contacted Basketball Australia for comment.