Letter to Dragons fans from Cowan
It is with heavy heart that I sit and write this to you, our loyal members and fans. Today is
truly a sad day for myself, club co-owner Raphael Geminder, and for the South Dragons
I know there has been plenty of speculation in the media about why we chose not to
submit a license for the 2009/2010 NBL season. I'd like to take a minute of your time to
explain why we have chosen not to continue.
When we started the South Dragons in 2006, we were dedicated to bringing a true element
of professionalism to Australian basketball. We wanted to put on the best game night
show in the league. We did that. We wanted to have a first class operation. We did that
too. And we wanted to win. That took a little longer than we thought, but eventually
resulted in last year's NBL championship.
But let's not kid ourselves, despite all of this, the NBL is a mess. In the last two years,
teams in Brisbane and Sydney have collapsed. Singapore pulled out of the league.
Cairns and the Sydney Spirit had major financial crises and were bailed out using funds
that clubs had put aside for other purposes. Fox Sports severely cut its telecasts and
mainstream media interest has waned. Crowds fall every year.
Basketball Australia and the NBL owners decided something had to be done, so we
handed in our licenses on the condition that a reform process would be undertaken. We
expected and believed that BA had a mandate for reform and that it would deliver the
- Teams in each capital city of Australia plus a NZ team
- A proper television deal (ideally with a free-to-air component on One HD)
- A naming rights sponsor for the league
- A review of the number of games in a season, so we have fan friendly schedules
- A marketing plan for the newNBL, with advertising for our product and game dates
- An adequate marketing budget for the NBL
- A plan and vision for growing attendances at games and delivering a sustainable
business model to clubs
None of these things have yet been delivered.
It¼s a tragedy that after being been given the hope of reform, which promised so much, we
instead have been delivered an environment in which we believe clubs will still fall over,
where the competition is going backwards, where many good Australian players will choose
to go overseas (if not this year, then next), where we will no longer have quality imports and
an environment where attendances will continue to fall and corporate sponsorship will go
Two other sports - netball and soccer - have in recent times, successfully undergone a
reform process. Both made fundamental changes and both have improved their situations.
We made a stand at the time when we found out that reform was a non-event and that
further progress was unlikely. We suggested to BA that real reform was still needed and
that further time was needed to plan for it. We supported this view by offering to the BA
Board new high profile Board members and we would even consider sponsorship of the
League in a truly reformed newNBL. We made this offer twice verbally and twice in writing.
We hoped that BA would accept our offer of help, take the decision to sit out a season and
use that time to properly plan reform. They did not.
When we took our position that more time was needed, we also believed other clubs would
do likewise. In fact two clubs apart from the Melbourne Tigers told us they would support
us. Unfortunately these clubs and the Tigers changed their view and submitted for new
In a cruel twist of fate, when we took the decision to sit out a season, we truly believed we
were supporting a much-needed reform and that the Dragons would be there in a newly
revamped league, when what we were really doing was signing the execution order for the
club. We feel it is unlikely that we will be back in the future as it would be really difficult to
start up again after letting all the brilliant people involved in the Dragons go their own ways,
and would not even think about it unless true reform occurs.
The Dragons License has a proud history. It was the same license that was represented by
many great clubs including the Magic, Giants, Saints and Spectres to name a few. In its
time it has won five NBL championships - more than any other license. I would like to thank
Brian and our entire coaching staff, our office staff, our volunteers, and of course the
playing group for the wonderful memories and for winning a championship in just our third
year. I would like to thank our past staff for all they contributed. I would like to thank our
sponsors for their support and our Board members for their wisdom. I would like to
acknowledge Raphael Geminder who has been a wonderful business partner.
Finally I would like to thank you, our supporters and members who have shared the journey
with us. It has been made all the richer for being able to share it with friends.
As part of the process of winding up the club, we have decided to have a huge sale this
Saturday between 9 am and midday to give you all a chance to get some merchandise to
remember us by. We are going to open up the office at MSAC and sell all our remaining
merchandise for $5 per item. There are jerseys, hoodies, t-shirts etc and it¼s all well below
cost. Stock is limited and not all sizes are available. It¼s first come, first served. Cash only.
With regard to staying in touch, we can still be contacted through email:
In summary, it¼s been a privilege to lead this organisation and to provide Melbourne with a
second NBL club. Whilst the immediate future is that the Dragons will exist no more, we
should all be proud of what we achieved together in three short years.
Basketball is a great sport and is thriving at the grass roots level in this country. Let¼s look
forward to the time when true reform eventually occurs as it inevitably will, and then this
league can take its rightful place in the Australian sporting landscape.
Let¼s all hope we don¼t have to wait too long.