Boomers tactics debatable but end result could be worth it

More than most, Australian guard Joe Ingles knows how hard it is to beat the might of the United States. Picture: AFP

More than most, Australian guard Joe Ingles knows how hard it is to beat the might of the United States. Picture: AFP

The impossible was seemingly unfolding before my eyes.

Somehow, caught up in the realms of fantasy, the Australian basketball team had conjured an 11-0 run against the mighty USA, featuring LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.

The Boomers had cut the lead to just three points and were daring to dream of a London Olympics miracle.

"Have you seen their team? You guys probably think we're crazy but we believed we could win that game," Joe Ingles said afterwards.

Sitting in the media section at the O2 Arena at the time, this reporter had joined the on-duty Fairfax scribes just to catch a glimpse of some of international sport's biggest names.

The sell-out crowd was now on its feet in the hope of one of the great upsets of all time.

Of course, it didn't happen.

However daring the Aussies were, the sheer class of the US ensured they would not be beaten.

The Americans ended up winning by 33 points, even though the scoreboard did not tell the tale.

Fast forward to Thursday night and the Boomers have been accused of "tanking" at the World Cup against Angola, to steal the well-worn phrase from the AFL.

Australia lost 91-83 after resting several of their best, including Ingles, for the knockout stages.

The result meant the Boomers avoid facing the US until the semi-finals and have a realistic chance of a medal, provided they can beat Turkey and Lithuania along the way, but there's no guarantees there though.

Slovenia star Goran Dragic, who expected to meet the US in the quarter-finals, didn't hold back when taking to social media.

"Basketball is a beautiful sport, there is no room for fixing the game like today Australia vs Angola!! FIBA should do something about that!" Dragic posted on Twitter.

Quickly - and predictably - discussion about the result developed into an argument about the Australian character.

The thought of the Boomers' alleged manipulation of the result for their own advantage went against everything this great nation stands for, apparently.

Coach Andrej Lemanis denied the fix was on.

"We always, as Australians, compete the right way," he said.

It's difficult to gauge Australia's standing on the international stage when there is an immovable object blocking the path of a medal contender at every major tournament.

The Boomers found this out the hard way in London.

But the opportunity to keep players fresh for the key games is irresistible, especially when it means they also benefit with a loss, by avoiding the all-conquering greats of the NBA for as long as possible in the process.

It may contradict the Australian legend of taking on the world anywhere, any time, but the Boomers aren't alone in looking after their own interests by keeping players out of the action.

With the minor premiership in their keeping, last Saturday the Sydney Swans had five players, including key forward Lance Franklin and Canadian ruckman Mike Pike, on the sideline as Richmond completed their fairytale run to the AFL finals.

A Tigers loss would have opened the door for interstate rivals West Coast and Adelaide to be part of September instead. All five will play on Saturday in the qualifying final against Fremantle.

No-one will care about the reasoning if the Swans win the premiership.

Or the Boomers finish with a bronze medal.

FITTING FINALE

Two teams holding nothing back on Sunday will be Thirroul and Helensburgh.

It's hard to believe a grand final could be every bit as tense as last year's thriller when scheming five-eighth Sam Duggan's last-gasp field goal sealed the deal for Collegians.

A year on and Helensburgh return intent on removing the doubts of the past.

For a six-team competition, where Dapto, Corrimal and even Collies have struggled to be competitive with the top teams, it's still been an outstanding season.

It's amazing to think it's the first time Helensburgh and Thirroul have met in a grand final.

But the northern derby has provided an old-fashioned build-up of decorated shop-front windows and community pride before Sunday's showdown, which is expected to attract the biggest grand final crowd in years.

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