Explosion of teams swell carnival
TALK to any Grafton basketballer, present or former, about doing anything but playing in the Jacaranda Basketball Carnival every October and they'll look at you like you're mad.
The carnival, in its 44th year, attracts teams from as far as Sydney as Brisbane and the reputation of the weekend is undeniable.
Aside from the intense competition put up by 56 teams in seven divisions chasing $6100 in prizemoney, the greatest appeal of the carnival runs far deeper than just the game - it's about catching up with old mates.
Named in honour of the most vicious of the Vikings (in the historical sense), the Berserkers basketball club was formed to in 2005 to keep the Grafton Vikings ties together as years progressed and several teams will compete under this collective banner this year.
Teams such as the Longboaters, Hagar and Valhalla clearly make the most of the Vikings moniker.
One Vikings old boy, Lincoln Burton, 49, will play in the veterans' competition this year.
"When I became 45 I was 'sent' to the old boys' team," he said.
Asked who his coach was, Burton replied in his definitive American accent: "Whoever brings the beer."
At 203cm (6ft 8 in) tall, Burton always had a certain advantage in the sport.
He was playing for Eastern Washington University at the freewheeling age of 24 when a coach from Chico State University told him he was recruiting for Australian clubs keen to tap into American talent for the Australian Basketball League.
"I said 'I'll go', he said 'OK' and I was on a plane in 10 days," he said. "The opportunity to play for a living was too good to pass up."
Though the Grafton Vikings weren't paying a lot of money, Burton said it was enough, considering he had very few costs as a single young import in regional Australia.
The Grafton Vikings played in the ABL till 1991.
"I had a blast. I kept coming back," he said.
"Now I'm married into the city and I'm still here."
Burton doesn't play hoops too much these days but he did say he had trained on the Wii a couple of times in preparation for this weekend.
"It (the Jacaranda Carnival) has been a big carnival ever since I first arrived and even before that," he said.
Tim Blackadder, who will also compete under the Berserkers banner, was unsure exactly which team he was going to play for yesterday afternoon, not that it mattered.
"That's a good question," he said.
Check out our online photo gallery of the Jacaranda Basketball Carnival after the weekend.