As he prepares to coach the Hawks in their 1000th NBL game in Wollongong on Saturday, coach Gordie McLeod has thrown his support behind new NBL chief executive Fraser Neill’s ambition to double the number of teams in the league.
The Hawks are the NBL’s only remaining foundation club after being rescued from the brink of collapse in 2009. Their opponents on Saturday, the Townsville Crocodiles, also barely survived financial ruin last year but McLeod said the failures of the past shouldn’t force the NBL into its shell on expansion.
But as Neill revealed a vision to expand within the next five years, McLeod said the sport needed to grow again in Australia.
‘‘You’ve got to have that vision,’’ McLeod said.
‘‘I think it’d be great to have more teams in the league.
‘‘I don’t think you’re going to get heaps and heaps but like any business you want to continue to grow.
‘‘If you can grow it and make it sustainable it’s what you’ve got to do.’’
Neill, who took the reins following the NBL’s historic demerger with Basketball Australia in September, said the newly privatised league cannot afford to restrict growth in a competitive sports market.
‘‘I don’t see why we can’t double these teams in the next five years and be the only sport to have teams across the whole country – that’s my ambition,’’ Neill said.
McLeod began his coaching career with the now defunct West Sydney Razorbacks before returning to the Hawks at the beginning of the 2009-10 season and said that any new teams must be sustainable for the long-term health of the competition.
‘‘Obviously it’s about teams being sustainable and that’s always been a problem,’’ he said.
‘‘The problem for the NBL is competing with all those other sports for those sponsorship dollars.
‘‘When we did have all those teams other sports weren’t where they’re [now] at.
‘‘The AFL was basically in Victoria, the NRL was basically in NSW and then rugby union was basically a club sport and there was no Super 14.
‘‘Basketball has had to compete with all those sports for the sponsorship dollar and that makes it very tough.’’
McLeod said that the NBL, still without a major sponsor, needs to find it’s own place in the competitive market.
‘‘Basketball needs to find its niche,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve been around for a lot of years, a lot more than some of those other sports have and we’ve got a lot going for our sport.
‘‘It’s a fantastic product.’’