Elite NBL plans all wrong: McLeod

Former Hawks great Gordon McLeod fears top flight basketball could be extinct in Australia within 12 months.The club's original Olympian (1980) believes the powers that be deciding the game's future have "got it all wrong"."The sad thing for me is that the NBL hasn't got it right, despite the amount of time they've had to develop and grow the league over the last 30 years," McLeod (pictured) said recently."I might be biased, but basketball has probably always been the most underdeveloped sport in Australia."The reason why the NBL was set up in the first place was to give people an opportunity to progress through junior basketball and play at a senior level in a national competition. But now they're saying clubs that haven't got at least a million dollars in the bank won't be able to play next year. They're making it an elitist sport and I can't see it working. It's crazy, it's ludicrous."Basketball has a very sound club structure with juniors throughout Australia and that's always been the case for as long as I can remember. As a nation, we're number two in the world, and that's an amazing achievement for a small country."I've always believed that you don't try to be what you're not, and that's what the league has to get right. It has to find its niche - where it works and where it fits."The Hawks have never been flush with cash and are in serious danger of being left on the roadside when the new league is finally set up.McLeod, whose No5 playing jersey was retired by the Hawks, said a national competition without Wollongong was hard to fathom."It's terrible that a club that has been there since day one, that has always done the right thing and played by the rules, will most likely be killed off," he said."If you go back and look where the league started, professionalism is probably what's killed it. It's certainly had a detrimental effect."Yes, you do have to grow and expand, and money is a factor in that, but when I was a young boy growing up in Wollongong, there was a system that so many kids came through and we had something to aspire to, and the thing that worries me is that the pathway will all be eroded."The other thing that worries me is the health issues with kids in today's society. I came from a split family, and being involved with basketball and soccer and cricket was a way for my mum to feel comfortable where I was and what I was doing."The skills it gave me for life are immeasureable. It gave me discipline, there was socialising, it gave me the ability to communicate with people and get along in a group environment, and you transfer all that into the workforce and keep those skills for life."The Hawks will apply for a licence to play in the new competition and face a nervous wait over Christmas before learning if their bid is accepted.

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