There is only a tenuous connection between Australian Rules football and the game of basketball, that being that height is considered an advantage. That perception apparently is enough for the NBL to look at AFL clubs as possible sources of expansion opportunities.
Two Melbourne clubs are in the discussion that would see the NBL expand by four teams in the coming years.
The Collingwood Magpies are one of the clubs that would seem to fit the bill quite naturally. They already have a netball team and a side in the women’s AFL, so they are experienced at heating several irons in one fire simultaneously.
The Melbourne Storm is the other team from Victoria’s capital to be mentioned in the conversations, although the connection between basketball and rugby is even harder to fathom.
Much of it comes down to the idea that managing a professional sports club requires skills that can easily move from one sport to another.
Other potential candidates include Fremantle, which could potentially welcome a second NBL franchise to complement the Wildcats, who have been drawing big crowds during the early stages of the NBL season.
Along with the concept that managing a professional franchise can transfer to other codes, having an existing club membership base opens up the possibility of a built-in audience for a new team.
NBL owner Larry Kestelman has expressed that expansion is a very real possibility. The NBL’s chief executive, Jeremy Loeliger, says it is too early to name interested clubs, quoted as saying it was, “A bit early at this stage” to drop any names of clubs, but that more than a few “Had put their hands up and were quite keen.”
Loeliger told Sportsday radio, “There’s no mystery as to why it makes good commercial sense and I guess there’s nothing new about the conversations either, other than the fact that they’re starting to gain a bit of momentum now.”
Another big selling point for an AFL or NRL club to get involved is that it would give the club something to do during the footy offseason.