Coach Jake Sakalis gives his orders to the 1991 Grafton Vikings when they were entered in the South Eastern Australian Basketball League. The Vikings attracted crowds of up to 700 at home games during their tenure in the SEABL.
Coach Jake Sakalis gives his orders to the 1991 Grafton Vikings when they were entered in the South Eastern Australian Basketball League. The Vikings attracted crowds of up to 700 at home games during their tenure in the SEABL.

New book celebrates rich history of local basketball

THE rich history of basketball in Grafton will never be lost.

Thanks to the efforts of local historians Kerry Wilsmore and Carol Inmon, the Grafton Basketball Association is publishing a 200-page history to commemorate 60 years of the sport in Grafton.

To be released in early December, it contains over 2000 names and hundreds of photos and stories to supplement a great Christmas holiday read for the basketball fraternity.

In 1953, the Grafton Basketball Association formed under first president and life member Mr Jim Thompson, an inspector of schools, who started an eight-team men's competition.

The Daily Examiner noted:

"Basketball may prove to be one of the most popular games in Grafton as it is in many parts of America. It is fast, quick changing and skilful. Already eight teams have been formed in the Jacaranda City."

This proved accurate, as basketball grew to feature more than 100 teams on a regular basis for many years.

This put added pressure on facilities, firstly the Army drill hall, then in 1962 the outdoor, lighted courts at Bacon Street.

The cold winter weather was noted in a letter to the editor in 1968 on the need for an indoor stadium:

"Have any of the citizens of Grafton stood in their backyard around 10 o'clock in the evening clad in only singlet or blouse and shorts and footwear? This is what the basketballers of Grafton are challenged with during our main winter competition."

In 1971 the Garden Theatre was converted into two basketball courts at a cost of $12,000 supported by a loan from Grafton City Council.

"The players renovated their new home with loving care and thousands of hours of voluntary work with deckchairs provided for the spectators," Wilsmore says.

Their pride and joy received a blast from Olympian Eddie Palabinskus at a Grafton Jacaranda Carnival, who commented on television that it was the worst stadium he had played in.

In the meantime, the standard of play improved with the young country association producing State players and hosting State titles on a regular basis.

In 1981, with games being played six days a week, Grafton City Council constructed a new stadium.

With the new complex, Grafton nailed many NSW titles in both men and women, firstly as the Trojans and then in 1991 competing in the SEABL as the Vikings, playing teams from as far away as Tasmania.

In 2000, extensions were made allowing four basketball courts, a large spectator area and for many indoor sports to be played.

A number of constants have remained. In particular two life members in Roma Brotherson and Bruce Leonard, both part of the furniture for more than 50 years.

Wilsmore and Inmon are both Legends of Grafton Hockey and Wilsmore produced the History of Grafton Men's Hockey while Inmon compiled the Women's Hockey History.

As a past president, long-term A grade player and coach of Grafton basketball teams, Wilsmore has relished the opportunity to highlight the wonderful achievements of another major sport in Grafton.

The history will cost about $25 and orders can be made at the Grafton Indoor sports centre.



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