Just over two years ago, one of Australia’s leading basketball commentators Matt Russell partnered Boomers Basketball legend Shane Heal to call what should have been a stock standard FIBA World Cup Qualifier – before an all-in brawl broke loose.
With a sold out crowd expected at Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, Philippines, the match was part of the 2019 World Cup Qualification.
The Boomer were heavy favourites going to the game with talented NBA stars Matthew Dellavedova and Thon Maker in the Green and Gold line up.
Russell joined Heal at a Fox Sports studio in the middle of the night to call the game.
“It was the dead of the night and the qualifier was going to be fairly innocuous. Australia were meant to win it and win well – but the exciting part was the prospect of 50,000 people turning up to the area,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the ticket prices went up and it wasn’t a sold-out crowd – it was totalling deflating.”
The game played out exactly the way everyone thought it would.
Australia’s Chris Goulding topped the scoring with 20 and Australia were up by a fair margin.
The home side were behind 48-79 when Fillipino player Roger Pogov hit Goulding with a hard foul.
Suddenly, Australia’s Daniel Kickert retaliated by charging Pogov – before anyone knew it chairs were literally being thrown at Australian players.
Suddenly, the call came to life.
“When all hell broke loose, it was kind of like a cricket bat to the face. You aren’t expecting, or anticipating, anything like this to actually happen. Then you think ‘hang on, this could be big’,” Russell said.
“We knew we just had to remain objective, remain cool and call what we saw. I didn’t want to leave my lane – we needed to own the moment. I didn’t want to get carried away in hysteria, I just kept watching what was gong on and keeping it straight.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Shane Heal. Here’s a competitive bloke who has played for Australia – it would have been easy for him to get carried away. But he didn’t.
“It was a weird night. I couldn’t sleep when I got home and then I did about 30 radio calls asking my take on the incident. I think Australia held its head high that night and their players got off very lightly.”
Match officials would eject 13 players that night – four Australians and nine Filipino players.
With just three players left, and a bizarre FIBA mandate that matches must continue unless there is just one player left, two more Filipino players would foul themselves out of the game.
The game was called off with time to run in the third quarter.
The final images of the night would feature the home side taking selfie on court before leaving the stadium – much to the frustration of the Australian side.