BITTER basketball rivals Newcastle and Maitland will temporarily cease hostilities next week to join forces as co-hosts of the Australian under-14 club championships for boys and girls.
The national titles have been running since 1970 (boys) and 1981 (girls), but this is the first year Basketball Australia will conduct the tournaments together in the same region.
Australia’s top 24 boys’ and 24 girls’ teams will compete in 184 games between Monday and Saturday at Newcastle Basketball Stadium and Maitland Federation Centre.
Newcastle were crowned national boys champions when they hosted the event in 1990. Maitland staged the Australian under-14 girls’ club championships in 2002.
“It is great that we are able to bring over $5million into the City of Newcastle for what is the largest junior basketball tournament in Australia,” Newcastle Basketball general manager Neil Goffet said.
“When you take into account the number of teams that are involved in the qualifying stages, it is one of the largest junior sporting events in the country.”
Newcastle Hunters will contest both the boys’ and girls’ tournaments, and Maitland Mustangs will compete in the girls’ championships.
As hosts, Maitland girls will play the first game of the tournament against Geraldton Buccaneers at 10am at Maitland on Monday, immediately after the 9am opening ceremony. Their other Pool D opponents are Canberra Capitals and South Adelaide Panthers.
The Hunters boys are in Pool D alongside Diamond Valley Eagles, North Adelaide Rockets and Townsville Heat. Their first game is against North Adelaide at Maitland at 2.30pm on Monday.
Newcastle girls will play their first game against Gold Coast Waves at Broadmeadow at 4pm on Monday. Their other Pool C opponents are Knox Raiders and Darwin Cyclones.
Hunters senior men’s and women’s captains Josh Morgan and Sophie Kleeman presented their excited under-14 clubmates with their jerseys at training on Thursday. The Newcastle boys and girls are coached by Eathen Kibble and Catherine Turner respectively.
Tickets are available online at the Newcastle Basketball or Basketball Australia websites or at the door at Broadmeadow and Maitland.
Basketball Australia junior championships manager Renee Narcis said the national titles were an important first step within the sport’s elite junior pathway, “giving our budding stars an introduction to representative competition at a national level”.
“The likes of Dante Exum and Ben Simmons have already gone on to international success in the NBA through the pathway, while Lachlan Dent, Callum Dalton, Kody Stattman, Miela Goodchild, Samantha Simons and Abby Cubillo were just some of the past under-14 representatives to play for Australia at this year’s under-17 world championships,” Narcis said.