After a quarter-century wait, Tasmania is finally set to re-join the NBL with the launch of the Tasmania JackJumpers for the 2021/2022 season.
The team has already captured the hearts of the Tasmanian public, with over 2300 Foundation Members as of November 25, 2020.
But the announcement goes beyond the realms of basketball, with the JackJumpers impending arrival not only countering old narratives that see the state all too often forgotten by the sporting world, but by presenting a uniquely Tasmanian team for locals to get behind.
After being constantly told why a professional Tasmanian sports team shouldn’t exist, the announcement of a basketball team was a gratifying experience.
Tasmanians do not need an NBL team or even a widely talked about AFL team to know how great our state is, but it is still something to be excited and proud about, reaffirming our belief in the strength and greatness of our state.
We are not oblivious to the structural issues that come with being a smaller state, but feel we are better placed to have genuine insights on the viability of a Tasmanian sports team, rather than the same generalizations always trotted out against the idea.
The NBL has shown a commitment to investing in the state, countering a reality that Tasmanians had been forced to accept from most other major sporting codes.
The seeds for a team were sowed when the NBL brought its pre-season competition, the NBL Blitz, to Tasmania in 2019.
The tournament took place in multiple around the state by going to Devonport, Ulverstone, Launceston and two locations in Hobart.
This showed a commitment to engaging the whole state and utilised local sports facilities, drawing great crowds.
It’s still surreal to think that the likes of LaMelo Ball (pick three in the 2020 NBA Draft) and R. J. Hampton (pick 24 in the 2020 NBA Draft) played at venues that many of us called home during our sporting lives.
Once again, Tasmanians are not automatically beholden to any organization or body who shows them some attention, but the efforts of the NBL stood out among a sea apathy from most other sports organizations.
The success of the NBL Blitz was parlayed into officially announcing a Tasmanian NBL team later that year.
It was rewarding for both the NBL and Tasmanian public, each entity had invested in the other and reaped great success from it.
More was revealed about the team this year, that it would be adorned in traditional green and gold colours and sport the name “Tasmanian JackJumpers”, reflecting a Tasmanian identity.
While many people from interstate didn’t know what a jack jumper was, most Tasmanians knew all too well.
If anything, we have a forced respect towards the name due to countless days terrorised and ruined by the insect’s painful sting.
While the name was polarizing upon announcement, one aspect that was widely praised was the brand narrative the team established.
The promotion of uniting 500,000 Tasmanians like a marching army of ants is a clever one, especially when one of the arguments always used against a Tasmanian sporting team is the supposed divide between the North and South of the state.
Even the mascot, an animal that might be small in size but packs a serious punch, lines up perfectly with Tasmania in relation to the rest of Australia.
In the JackJumpers, Tasmanians have a team that we can truly invest in because they will represent our state.
Kids will have local players to look up to and something in front of them to strive towards, while an older generation will have the team they have been waiting for.
Unlike other “Tasmanian” teams, whose relationship with the state is based on convenience or business deals, the JackJumpers will be permanently based and involved in the community.
Everyone who grew up or lives in Tasmania is unashamedly from our state, just like the JackJumpers will be.