Champion sportsmen to hit the court for Big River basketball
ONE HAS faced up to some of the best footballers in the world, playing for Australia in both rugby league and union.
The other has tackled the Tour de France on multiple occasions and was crowned Australian Road Race Champion in 1996.
But Mat Rogers and Nick Gates will tonight face up to one of their biggest challenges - Big River Basketball.
"I've never played," Gates said as he practised jumpshots at Raymond Laurie Sports Centre yesterday.
"I was too busy with the bike to think about playing basketball."
Gates was one of Australia's premier road race cyclists, riding with Robbie McEwen in the Tour de France in 2003 and 2004.
He clinched several big victories over the remainder of his career, his last being in the appropriately named Nick Gates Classic at Townsville in 2008.
Gates is still involved with several teams and also commentates for SBS and Fox.
"I'm still following the NRS and there's a few riders in Europe I have an interest in," Gates said.
"I've got the young bloke into road racing. Armani (Gates' 14-year-old-son) has already raced at the state titles."
Gates could be a surprise packet for the Yamba Shores Tavern team.
He started his practice missing easy jumpers and hitting plenty of board, but half an hour later had a half-dozen baskets - including a layup - to his name.
Mat Rogers carved out a reputation on the football field but has had little to do with the sport since retiring in 2011.
"I don't have anything to do with footy anymore," Rogers said.
"I've got four kids and they keep me busy enough."
He has recently delved into marathon and ironman races, and lists qualifying for the Hawaii Ironman as one of his major goals.
"I've charged Nick with getting me there," Rogers said.
"After playing team sports for so long, I like the solitude. You don't have to depend on anyone else.
"Hawaii is the ultimate goal but I wouldn't mind coming back to do the Yamba Tri next year."
Moby Dick Motel owner Russell Leary played a hand in getting the pair to Yamba.
During his time living at the Gold Coast, Leary rubbed shoulders with superstars like McEwen and Rogers, and that association has secured several visits from high-rated athletes.
"My aim is to promote Yamba," Leary said.
"Rogers is staying at the Moby Dick and some have been here before. It's a matter of raising Yamba's reputation as a holiday destination and I try to help push that."
There are rumours two Brisbane Lions could take the court, with Jonathon Brown and Jed Adcock both expressing interest in playing Big River Basketball.