Sunday, 3 June 2012

A night out with the Bandits

Another weekend, another sport ticked off the list. This time, we took our seats courtside for a basketball double-header at Albury's Lauren Jackson Sports Centre, named after the local girl who has become one of Australia's top professional players. At the start of the evening, I was very much an outsider; by the end of it I was fist-pumping and perched on the edge of my seat.

The Commercial Club Bandits, respresenting Albury and Wodonga, have men's and ladies' teams and both were in action on this occasion. The Lady Bandits (sky blue) haven't won all season but they pushed Bendigo (white) close before losing 79-70. Almost the whole game was accompanied by a soft-dance soundtrack featuring David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Basshunter.

We spent the evening in a corporate box, arranged by Jane (above, left) - a friend from church and regular at Bandits home games. The 'experience' included front-row seats, an eski (cool box) of drinks which was regularly replenished, two trays of hot food and handshakes with players from both Bandits teams.

The tempo of the music changed when the men appeared for their warm-up. After a bass-heavy hip hop mix, volume and testosterone levels were cranked up in equal measure as the players ran out to the strains of 'My Hero' by the Foo Fighters.

Before play got under way, everyone stood for the Australian National Anthem. Oddly, no-one joined in with the blonde-haired songstress.

It was a physical contest. The Bandits had won the last meeting between the sides and Bendigo were clearly out for revenge. Only the proverbial cigarette paper separated the teams after three hard-fought quarters.

The crowd probably exceeded 500 and it was good to see so many young people out supporting their local team, both boys and girls.

With time running out and Bendigo leading by just one point, the Bandits called a time-out and huddled round the coach to hear his final tactical instructions.

Ultimately, though, their efforts were in vain. Bendigo landed a three-pointer with only seconds remaining to clinch a 91-87 win. As we walked back to the car, the unmistakeable feeling of deflation told more clearly than any words of the emotions we had invested into 'our' boys in sky blue.

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