Ipswich basketballers part of new elite link to NBL
IT'S all systems go at the Ipswich Basketball Association as city officials prepare to share in the benefits of next year's new elite NBL 1 North competition.
The Ipswich Force men's and women's state league sides have been invited to join the enhanced competition designed to improve basketball's profile in Queensland and around the country.
Ipswich Basketball Association president and men's head coach Chris Riches is excited about what is being finalised for 2020.
"Essentially the NBL and Basketball Queensland have come to an agreement where the NBL is going to revamp what was previously the QBL,'' Riches said.
Riches said with two less teams (Gold Coast and Gladstone no longer playing), the NBL 1 North concept has been touted to bolster the sport's pathway.
"It's about improving the pipeline between what is our top level competition in NBL and the next level. It clearly defines that,'' he said.
The experienced coach and administrator expects having a second tier to the NBL will make the former state league more professional.
"It will greatly improve things like resourcing from the back end side of the competition,'' he said.
"It will improve aspects such as the way in which it is marketed . . . it will be a lot more higher level involvement around things like social media, various other bits and pieces.''
The NBL 1 North competition is scheduled to start a week earlier in 2020 with Riches and long-serving women's mentor Brad George back to provide coaching stability in the new league.
He said with the NBL being televised, people can "see there's a direct link between that level and where we are''.
An NBL 1 South competition is also being planned.
Riches took on the association presidency after Jon Simpson stood down earlier in the year.
Having considerable experience with Gold Coast and Ipswich senior and under-21 teams, Riches is keen to see the IBA capitalise on the new opportunities.
He's been encouraged by the support and renewed focus preparing for the 2020 season.
"We're just looking to gear up for the next recruitment phase, players coming in, in the new year,'' he said.
That includes a more active sponsorship drive and appointing a new referee participation officer to assist court officials.
"It's very, very positive at the moment with where our focus is going,'' he said.
"There's a lot of people working very hard behind the scenes to try to improve the association.''
The recent junior grand finals provided another boost after an increase in more than 100 players across all age groups this season.
"Any time you can bring that many people together to celebrate the sport in the region, it's a really positive thing,'' Riches said.
"The sport is really starting to kick on and now that it's actually on free-to-air TV like SBS, it's helped promote the sport and makes it more acceptable to the average person.''
Riches said having the Bullets relocate to the Queensland State Netball Centre at Mt Gravatt improved access for Ipswich basketball fans.
Applications for Ipswich's SBL coaches will be assessed in the new year.
Riches plans to launch his team's pre-season in late January.