Pioneers knocked back from elite basketball competition

ONE OF THE BEST: The Pioneers Basketball Club is one of the strongest in the country and has been rejected from participating in an elite competition.
ONE OF THE BEST: The Pioneers Basketball Club is one of the strongest in the country and has been rejected from participating in an elite competition.

The Pioneers Board, which is part of the South East Amateur Basketball League (SEABL) were notified that their application for inclusion into the new Victorian Elite League was not successful.

The Pioneers Basketball Club has always strive to play in the highest national competition as possible and been successful.

The Pioneers Board is devastated by the decision. A spokesperson said application to Basketball Victoria was compliant with all conditions of entry and went above and beyond to demonstrate that the Pioneers will be competitive and sustainable.

The Pioneers were the only existing SEABL team which applied for the new Elite League that was unsuccessful.

“We understand the major sticking point for the selection committee was our ability to demonstrate that we could establish a competitive Women’s team within the short time-frame required,” Pioneer’s president Tom Kosch said.

The Pioneer’s application provided detailed budget modelling which demonstrated our understanding of the revenues and costs associated as well as a detailed strategy outlining how a Pioneers Women’s team could be competitive as early as 2019.

“Our successful Men’s strategy provides the foundation for what would be a successful Women’s team. It is impossible to demonstrate one’s abilities without a suitable platform to do so,” he said.

Under the SEABL it has not been a requirement to enter both Men’s and Women’s teams. New entrants were admitted with one team only on the basis that the other team would enter within a reasonable period. Mr Kosch said the Pioneers were never pressed by Basketball Australia on the issue of entering a Women’s team.

“Basketball Australia (BA) should not have allowed the Pioneer’s application to be compromised on this basis. The Pioneers were completely disadvantaged by the BA decision,” he said.

The decision of BA Board to dissolve SEABL, a league that had existed since 1981 and been viewed as the premier winter basketball competition, has angered its supporters.

“It has left the Pioneers and our 30 year history in the cold. It threatens our community with the loss of a much loved community asset that continues to enrich the lives of many and has done so since 1988,” Mr Kosch said.

“BA’s conduct has been unconscionable at the very least and it has delivered devastating consequences. It confirms that all actions taken by the Pioneers Board to date have been due and justified.

“The Pioneers Board will not rest on this decision and will continue to take action with a view to preserving the Pioneers and the many benefits, through the generous support of the community, the club is able to provide to Mount Gambier and the greater region.”

For over 30 years Mount Gambier have competed in largely a national and premier winter competition – being the most successful team in the league history, winning their first championship in 2003 and between 2013 and 2017 winning five conference finals and three championships in five years.

The decision for Basketball Australia to relinquish SEABL, has resulted in the Pioneers now facing extinction.

“What you don’t understand is the pressure is the magnitude the decision has made on a community who are in disbelief knowing that it is now unlikely they will ever see the Pioneers play again. The consequences of Basketball Australia’s actions have had a direct impact on a community that has made your sport great,” Mr Kosch said.