19/04/2024

MyState Bank Arena home of the most recent NBL expansion team Tasmania JackJumpers. (Photo: Tasmania JackJumpers/Facebook)

With the announcement that the National Basketball League is eyeing expansion to a 13-15 team competition, locations for these new or rebirthed franchises raises many possibilities.

League owner Larry Kestelman described the NBL expansion as “aggressive” with the vision of the new teams coming into the competition over the next five years.

Off the back of success with the Tasmania JackJumpers and strong growth on and off the court, interest from major cities across Australia is at an all-time high.

The Inner Sanctum looks at five possible destinations for new clubs.

Cannons ready to fire again

In April 2022 Kestelman compared the JackJumpers as the model for a Canons 2.0 team returning to the NBL. He also has expressed that the 11th NBL licence could indeed head to Canberra.

An original foundation club in the NBL, the Canberra Canons ran from 1979-2003, winning three championships along the way. Like Newcastle there are constant talks of a new arena being built in the nation’s capital, and ideas of a Canons team playing out of Thoroughbred Park, Kestelman also flagged AIS Arena as a potential location if upgrades were made.

Throw in rumours of Patty Mills being linked to a Canberra franchise, and it could well see a return of professional basketball to the ACT.

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Goldie ready to rollie

It’s the city that every Australian sports league has tried to break into, and the NBL are no strangers to the Gold Coast with former clubs the Blaze, Cougars and Rollers all having stints in the national competition.

Back in 2022 news broke that the Gold Coast were putting forward a pitch for an NBL licence and were looking to join the competition in 2024, it now seems unlikely that a team will be admitted in that time frame, but interest for a team in the city is high.

Furthermore, Kestelman visited the Gold Coast in early 2023, speaking to key people and sponsors about a possible expansion team.

A growing city with a population of over 700 thousand residents, the Gold Coast could be a perfect fit to relaunch an NBL team.

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A return to Pivot City?

A region that is a basketball stronghold in Victoria, whenever there is a mention of the NBL expanding Geelong is always a location that makes the list.

Home of the former NBL franchise, Geelong Supercats, basketball in Geelong is big business with a passionate fanbase.

In the NBL1 South competition, the Supercats still draw strong crowds, selling out Geelong Arena with 1,500 spectators. However, for a team to work in the NBL a new arena would need to be built, as the current venue for the Supercats just isn’t suitable for top-level professional basketball in Australia.

Geelong would be the third team based out of Victoria; however, they have a point of difference and a big catchment for player recruitment.

Hoops for the Hunter

What gives Newcastle an edge when it comes to NBL expansion is the backing of Larry Kestelman, who back in March 2023, was full of praise for a potential team in the Hunter Valley.

Newcastle are not strangers to the NBL, with the Falcons (1979-1999) and Hunter Pirates (2003-2006) all competing in the competition.

In the region there are 11,000-12,000 signed up playing basketball, a new 12-court $30 million indoor stadium on the way, and the possibility of a brand new 11,000-seat stadium proposed.

A sports-mad city and region Newcastle seem a likely destination and front-runner for licence approval.

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The Thrill of the Ville

When you have a 5000-seat stadium already available Townsville is a location that is going to get mentioned whenever NBL expansion is touted. A city with a former franchise in the Townsville Crocodiles (1993-2016), it has a strong history of basketball and is home to the WNBL team Townsville Fire.

Financial difficulties saw the Crocodiles fold in 2016, however, the current NBL layout is in a much healthier position that it could open the door for a return to Townsville.

With former player and MVP, Corey “Homicide” Williams, a prominent part of the NBL media, it could be an easy home run for the league if Williams put his hand up to become the face of a rebirth.

There are many factors that make Townsville appealing, which could see the return of the Crocs.

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