MORE than 300 basketballers, coaches and support staff from as far away as New Zealand packed Port Macquarie Sports Stadium yesterday for the opening ceremony of the Pacific Coast Slam.
Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peter Besseling was on hand to kick proceedings off for the 12th annual slam, before the players hit the courts for the first full day of the week-long competition.
But the talent isn’t just limited to the players. Some high-profile coaches have made a trip into town to help the next generation.
They include Peter Lonergan, who helped guide the women’s national team, the Opals, at Olympics and World Championships.
Lonergan is a Griffith boy, and Davidson commended his presence in Port Macquarie.
“That’s how he’s putting back into the sport,” Davidson said.
Wendy Brown and Jim Noud are also at the tournament. Brown is the under-16s national team coach, while Noud is in charge of the 20s team.
Then there’s the referees, who often don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Paul Beale ran a referees course over the weekend. Beale refereed the first ever match between Russia and Australia, Davidson said. This year’s Slam has the biggest family contingent in the tournament’s history with the school holidays attracting a bumper crowd, according to tournament director John Davidson.
The Kiwis have the biggest contingent, with 101 players and 24 coaching and support staff.
The tournament is a stepping stone for some of the best young players’ future careers.
It’s not all about what happens on the court, coaching sessions ensure the players learn plenty, before heading off to the even-age championships in Albury.
“The standard is always good, but it’s the potential of the age groups, that’s what we look at,” Davidson said.
Mr Besseling’s presence was timely this year, with Mr Besseling speaking about the imminent upgrade of the stadium facilities.
A meeting is set down for January 31 to finalise the extension plans, Davidson said.
The Slam continues all week, with plenty of games every day. The closing ceremony is at 3.15pm on Saturday.
12.30pm: New Zealand Rimu v NSW Kookaburras (court 1); NSW Explorers v
NSW Ospreys (court 2)
12.30pm: New Zealand Rimu v NSW Kookaburras (court 3)
2.15pm: New Zealand Kauri v NSW Waratahs (court 1); NSW Explorers v
NSW Osprey (court 2); New Zealand Rata v Northern All Stars (court 3)
Brisbane Capitals v NSW Waratahs (court 1); New Zealand Rimu v Northern All Stars (court 2)