Protests, tribunal hearings and multi-year bans could end up defining 2020 for one Port Macquarie sporting association.
There is unrest among basketball ranks with Port Macquarie Basketball Association (PMBA) facing backlash after banning three coaches and two junior players.
The annual general meeting of PMBA was to be held in August 2020. A group of concerned parents of junior players made moves to bring their concerns to the meeting in a bid to seek a resolution.
Basketball parent Janine Handley said Port Macquarie has strong history and successful roots in basketball at both a local and state level. This success, she said, had relied on the input and support of the community of families and volunteers who give back to the sport.
"I proactively nominated to volunteer for a position on the Board because I knew they had vacancies. I wanted to give the parents of junior players a voice in decision making and could see that the work of keeping people informed through the COVID challenges was making things even harder," Ms Handley said.
"Just looking at the Association website where the latest news hasn't been updated since 2017, shows that more volunteers are needed."
More than 35 parents attempted to join the Association as paid members to have a vote on the future of the sport, but their memberships were rejected, according to Ms Handley.
The AGM is yet to be held.
"We requested several times for the AGM to be reinstated and filed a formal grievance with Basketball NSW. PMBA has ignored our requests," Ms Handley said.
All representative training and activity was subsequently cancelled, despite neighbouring clubs hosting carnivals.
Three coaches, who attempted to rally parent groups to sign up as members and participate in the AGM, were banned for a cumulative 12 years. They are coaching director and under 18s women's coach Nick Prior, under 14s men's coach John Collins and under 18 men's coach Patrick Carey.
Prior was banned for five years from volunteering as a coach, having any involvement in the Association and entering the stadium to spectate or supervise his own children.
Collins was banned for two years and Patrick Carey was also ejected from the association and banned for five years.
Several of the junior players who were aware of the issues, expressed their disappointment by adding slogans to their playing jerseys in protest.
Finn Carey, a junior representative player, said the protest was an expression of their frustration.
"As players we felt so frustrated by what has been happening and the fact that our training had been cancelled. We came up with the idea to put messages on our jerseys and spread the word via social media. Heaps of kids got on board from different teams and even some of the A grade men," Finn said.
Two under 18 representative boys were banned as a result. Their playing future depends on a pending appeal through Basketball NSW.
According to the coaches and players, they were banned under clauses in the PMBA Code of Behaviour, Zero Tolerance Policy and the PMBA Member Protection Policy (MPP) By-Laws - specifically, not to use PMBA to promote their own beliefs, make statements or stage demonstrations that bring PMBA into disrepute, not compromise the integrity and reputation of PMBA and not engage in conduct that his harmful to the interests of basketball and/or PMBA.
"My dad, our coaching director and now two of my team-mates have been banned. I'm only 15 and basketball is a huge part of my life, but I don't see how there is a future to play here. No coach for five years, no teammates for three years. It's over and I'm devastated," Finn said.
Basketball NSW has been advised of the current situation at the club and have recommended a mediation plan for PMBA.
"To date the Board of Port Macquarie Basketball Association has ignored the wishes of its members, parents, coaches, players, volunteers and its parent body Basketball NSW," Nick Prior, former PMBA coaching director said.
More than 700 people have signed a change.org petition on the issue.
"The members have requisitioned a Special General Meeting which means the Board would have to explain its actions and we can vote on a motion to dismiss the current Board and start again. The petition will help to strengthen this call for an opportunity to vote for change," Mr Prior said.
"This saga is far from over and the longer it festers the opportunity to work together as volunteers to share a passion and run a country sports club is being lost."
Several Board members were asked for comment on the concerns raised by parents and former coaches, the reasons behind the bans, its response to the petition and proposal for mediation. They have declined to comment.
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