Newcastle Basketball pushing on with WNBL bid despite Aboriginal land claim

Newcastle's reigning women's Waratah Basketball League champions playing at the Broadmeadow stadium last year.
Newcastle's reigning women's Waratah Basketball League champions playing at the Broadmeadow stadium last year.

Newcastle Basketball says it is on track to enter a team in the 2018-19 Women’s NBL despite an Aboriginal land claim delaying work on a $5 million stadium upgrade.

The association has started work on an application to Basketball Australia to join the WNBL from October next year and is poised to appoint a key staff member to help establish the team.

Newcastle Basketball president Greg Luck told the Herald that a WNBL side could play out of the existing stadium at Broadmeadow until new courts were built next door, but he was hopeful this would not be necessary.

The NSW government said in October that it had committed to funding new courts in a new NBL- and WNBL-compliant building on vacant land next to the existing stadium.

Newcastle Basketball has secured development approval for the project, but the Herald reported in May that it had not started building due to a land claim by Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Awabakal has been in administration since October but can still pursue land claims.

It is understood Awabakal has been asked to expedite the claim.

The matter was on the agenda at an Awabakal board meeting last month, but the claim has not been withdrawn and the two parties are in negotiations.

Newcastle has never had a team in the WNBL, which began in 1981, but Luck was hopeful that would change next year. 

“There’ll be positive news shortly for us moving forward to enter the WNBL,” he said.

“2018-19 is still our target. We’re still confident [the stadium] can be done. It’s a nine-month project.

“We could do some work on the old stadium, and it holds 2000 people, so it would probably qualify knowing that the new one’s getting built.

“They’re pretty keen to get us in, because it gives you that second team in NSW.”

Grant recipients can lose their funding if they do not start work on a project within two years. 

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said he had written to NSW Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts to let him know about the delay.

“Initially there was discussion that they might have been able to negotiate their way around it without a land claim, but apparently their members voted to proceed with the land claim,” MacDonald said.

“I won’t say there’s no urgency, but there’s no pressure on basketball at this stage to get a particular box ticked.

“I’ve made the planning minister aware that it’s going to take a bit of time. I haven’t got anything back to say that that’s a problem.

“I’m not pressing the panic button at this stage.”