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    WRONG MOVE: Horsham basketball icon Owen Hughan believes replacing a Country Victoria basketball system with regional city development hubs is inappropriate. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Owen Hughan: Country Victoria danger in basketball shift


Wimmera basketball figurehead Owen Hughan fears opportunities for the sport to continue to flourish in country Victoria are at risk under a Basketball Victoria restructure program.

Mr Hughan said rationalistic plans that involved replacing a Country Victoria basketball system with regional city development hubs was inappropriate and would struggle to meet statewide expectations in the sport.

He said the restructure, which he suspected Basketball Victoria would ratify at an annual meeting next month, would make a Country Victoria basketball committee either obsolete or powerless to direct basketball programs in the regions.

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He based his argument on vastly different social circumstances affecting the sport in metropolitan and regional areas and the volunteers needed to make any system work.

“Across Victoria the associations are run by 93 percent voluntary labour, which is possibly higher in the country,” he said.

“When the power is negated this huge voluntary force could dwindle and-or fail to commit to programs. The alternative is to have very deep pockets and pay wages.”

Mr Hughan, a Horsham Amateur Basketball Association patriarch with strong links to influential basketball figures across Australia and beyond, said the danger of the restructure was that it would turn the clock back and old issues of disadvantage in the sport would resurface.

“Fifty years ago Basketball Victoria decided to split associations into metro and country. Country Victoria believed at the time it was not getting the attention needed to develop its players and associations,” he said.

“The result of this decision has been a huge success, producing many elite development programs and many Australian representative players – both boys and girls.

“The assumption that ‘Country Victoria does not know what it’s doing therefore Basketball Victoria will take over all programs’ is demeaning.”

The Wimmera’s long-running success in producing elite national and international players represents a clear reflection of how country systems work and of Mr Hughan’s argument. “In the last Australian men’s team that played in the world championships, three of the players came from small towns in western Victoria,” he said.

“I don’t know where the next Australian players will come from, but any pulling back on programs on what we’ve been doing could have a devastating effect on Australian basketball.

“Setting up hubs in major country cities could come to nothing unless high-performance coaches get out to the smaller associations and develop the talent that has been proven to obviously be there. 

“Basketball, as a whole, is also under threat from a virus, financial pressure and the AFL.

“Attacking a successful program is not a smart move. I have serious doubts that this restructure is appropriate at this time.

“I know there are times when changes are necessary, but don’t fix something that ain’t broke.

“Unfortunately, I can’t help but think that Basketball Victoria has taken advantage of  COVID-19 circumstances in trying to push this through when everyone’s guard is down.”

The entire February 24, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire February 24, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!