The birth of the Geelong Basketball Club took place when a group of local basketball officials decided to look for a greater challenge. Officials of the Geelong Amateur Basketball Association felt that Geelong should be represented in the top Victorian competition, the VBA. For many years Geelong’s top players, seeking the highest level of competition had played with leading clubs in Melbourne. So in late 1977 a group of Geelong men banded together and formed the GBC to give local basketballers the opportunity of playing top level competition without the inconvenience of having to travel to Melbourne for practice session.
The club wanted to achieve the highest possible results on the court, so its founders believed the best way was to be successful off the court as well. Also the club wanted to be in the top half of the VBA ladder, not down the bottom. The club finished sixth in the 1978 Victorian Championship with wins during that year over Coburg, Nunawading and visiting Simon Fraser University. In season 1979, Geelong finished in fifth position with the highlights being an 18 point win over the visiting Colarado University team and a 121-106 victory in a state championship game over eventual national league premiers St Kilda.
Season 1980 was a most successful year for the club. An extensive recruiting campaign saw the signing of 1979 national league’s leading scorer, Cal Bruton and two outstanding recruits, Steven Kelocinski (6ft 8inc), and Ray Shirley (6ft 9inc), combined with the locally bred players to be a formidable combination. That year the side won three major tournaments and had victories over touring American College teams, University of Puget Sound and Oklahoma State. The side was also runners-up in the VBA championships. In 1981 the GBC took part in anew competition- the south Eastern Conference- as well as the Victorian championships. Matches were played in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania with Geelong winning the competition defeating Frankston in the grand final by 11 points. By winning the South Eastern Conference, Geelong was invited to compete in the Converse Super Challenge in Adelaide against Launceston (1981) national league winners, West Adelaide (No 1 team in South Australia) and St Kilda (Australia’s representative in the world championships in Brazil). Geelong proudly emerged victors of the Super Challenge. The club was also the Victorian Summer Championship Premiers with a resounding victory over the national league team Nunawading. With the victory Geelong was accepted into the National Basketball League.
1982 was almost a year of the Great Shape Cat, with its remarkable performance to be runner up in the National League. Dubbed the Cinderella side of the NBL, Geelong almost set a new record for the number of successive wins. NBL coach of the year, Cal Bruton, revved up the Cats for 13 straight wins, falling by a game to equal St Kilda’s record of 14 straight in the NBL inaugural year. The Cats finished 2nd on the ladder after the preliminary rounds and eventually lost the grand final to the West Adelaide Bearcats 80 to 74 after trailing by 22 points.
The club was one of the dominant forces in the NBL competition over the next two years finishing on top of the NBL’s Western Division both years however the NBL title continued to elude the Cats. The club suffered at the hands of ownership problems during the latter part of the 1980′s to the extent that a mass exodus of players at the end of 1987 contributed to a winless season in 1988- the same year the club changed its name from the Cats to the Supercats. At the end of the 1988 season a group of local business men fought together to save the club and as a result were granted a license to ensure Geelongs ongoing participation in the NBL.
With stability restored respected names such as Barnes, Heal and Bateman were signed up as the club began its resurrection. It didn’t take long for the Supercats to get back into the NBL finals with a top three finish in 1991. Unfortunately another exodus at the end of the ’91 season resulted in the club plummeting down the ladder, again finishing last in 1992. During the mid 1990′s the club was never able to rekindle the success of the previous seasons. Ultimately the clubs license was sold back to the NBL at the end of the 1996 season. After 15 years and 388 NBL games the city of Geelong no longer had a representative in the premier basketball competition in Australia.
From 1996 until current day (ABA years)
At the time of the clubs departure from the NBL in 1996 the Geelong Amateur Basketball Association was fielding a strong all Geelong based team in the Victorian Basketball League competition. This presented the opportunity for Geelong to continue its presence in a National competition by applying for entry into the Continental Basketball Association (now ABA).
On the 4th April 1997 the clock turned back 16 years with Geelong’s re-entry into the ABA against traditional rivals Ballarat. The first season back in the ABA was one of mixed success with the club finishing just outside a finals berth with a 12 win 12 loss record. During the 1998 season the club took another step forward by finishing the season with a 23 win 8 loss record and came runners up to Hobart for the South Conference title. The 2nd place finish entitled the club to participate in the National Final series where it lost to eventual champions Cairns in the semi-finals.
The 1999 season was a memorable one. The year commencing with a victory in the “Win Challenge” preseason tournament followed by a first place finish in the South Conference with a 22 win 8 loss record. A Rodney Walker tip in on the buzzer resulted in a 82-81 victory over Nunawading in the South Conference final. In the National Series wins against Cairns (94-93) and the AIS (101-92) were followed by a showdown in the National final against Kilsyth in Canberra. A blistering 3rd quarter (27-7) resulted in the Supercats cruising to its 2nd ABA National championship by defeating Kilsyth 98-78.
The 2000 and 2001 seasons were remarkably similar with finals appearances in both years only to be defeated by Frankston in the Conference semi finals on both occasions. The 2002 season saw the return of Mark Leader to the club as head coach following a stint as a player in the late 1980′s. The club produced a very good record of 15 wins 9 losses during the year to finish the season on 3rd place. Unfortunately the clubs run in the playoffs was marred by an eye injury to import Antwaan Jones who subsequently returned home at the start of the playoffs. Despite this misfortune the club defeated Frankston 136 to 128 at home in the first round of the playoffs then went on to record a fantastic win in the Conference preliminary final defeating a very strong Hume City team. The club then went on to play in its 3rd Conference Grand final that season eventually losing to the AIS after coming back from a 20 point deficit to be just 2 points down with only a few minutes to play. The AIS won the conference title 111 to 100.
Following the retirement of Adam Lamont and departure of Martin Price to Melbourne for work reasons the 2003 season saw the introduction of a number of new faces into the team from the local GABA program in addition to two new American imports. The team was disrupted constantly throughout the season with injury and suspension to key players. With the club eventually settling into 4th place in the East conference with a 14 win 12 loss record. The 2003 playoff campaign was not as successful as the previous years with a semi final loss to Hume City at Broadmeadows Stadium seeing the clubs season conclude a little earlier than hoped.
2004 witnessed the emergence of many young talented Geelong basketballers – with the likes of Herbert, Owusu, Medved and Reardon taking the next step. After a strong start to the season the Supercats finished with a 14 win 14 loss record. A fourth place finish in the East Conference saw the club head to Nunawading to be defeated in overtime 114 to 107 in the elimination semi final. As host venue to the National Finals the Supercats were granted a wild card entry. The Supercats were eliminated by the Sydney Comets in the first round.
2005 was another banner year for the club, with Jamal Brown returning for his second season, Jarrod Leonard making a comeback and the addition of Chris Lynch, the 2004 league leading scorer from Dandenong. Geelong finished the regular season as minor premiers with a 15 and 11 record and went on to defeat Mildura to secure the SEABL East Conference Championship. Geelong again played host to the ABA National finals and were hoping to perform better than in 2004 after qualifying in their own right. It was not to be, however, as the Supercats again lost to the Sydney Comets in the first round.
In 2006 it all happened for the St Laurence Geelong Supercats. Jamal Brown was back for his third season, the core group of Herbert, Leonard, Reardon Medved and Owusu had been retained as well as veterans Paul Hutchison and Sebastian Loader. Michael Gomez was bought in as the second import but was quickly replaced by 36 year old Trinidadian Shawn Myers when things did not work out. Myers had played in the BBL with Brown over the Australian summer and turned out to be the perfect foil. The Supercats finished the regular season 17 -9 in second place to Canberra but went on to defeat Canberra at Canberra in the Major semi final to set up a home conference Grand Final a fortnight later. Again the opponent was Canberra and the fired up Supercats demolished their opposition 108 to 73 to record their second consecutive SEABL East Conference Championship. Travelling to Newcastle the following week for the ABA National Club Championships the Supercats were supreme defeating QABL Champs Southern Districts and SEABL South Champs Knox on the way to meet Big V Champs Dandenong in the Grand Final. Again Geelong controlled the game from go to whoa recording the victory 94 to 80 and the second ABA National club championship since rejoining the league in 1997 was theirs.
The core group of local Geelong talent and both imports Myers and Brown were retained for the 2007 season although Seb Loader and Paul Hutchison had all retired over the summer. The team was undefeated through the first 17 games and went on to record their best ever season of 22 wins, 4 losses securing the minor premiership with five weeks to play. Canberra sought revenge for 2006 first in the conference semi finals and then again they returned to the Arena in the Grand Final where the Supercats turned on a memorable performance to record an unprecedented third straight SEABL conference title with a 96 to 86 all the way win. Geelong hosted the North Adelaide Rockets in the ABA National quarter finals at the Arena and defeated them by 29 points but then were defeated by eventual National Champions, the Cairns Marlins the following weekend in the ABA National semi-finals.
2008 could best be described as a “rebuilding” year with Jordan Hill retiring, the club found some new big men in Daniel George and import Brad Bridgewater. The team lost the conference semi-final to Frankston and finished the year in third place in the South conference. With Club Legend Jarrod Leonard retiring at the completion of 2008 season with a club record 322 games played, Braith Cox stepped up to take the mantle of team captain as well as the number 1 point guard position. He was joined by a new import combination of Clifton Lee and Isma’il Muhammad. The latter came to the club with an outstanding college record and a NCAA dunk championship to go with it. The team started off the season with mixed results but stormed home to finish third after the regular season and then battled their way through to face frankston for the conference championship. The all conquering Blues were too good for the Supercats on their home court and Geelong was forced to settle for second place.
Jamie O’Loughlin took over as head coach at the start of the 2010 SEABL season. Jamie retained most of the core group of players and he enticed veterans Seb Loader and Keith Harrison back out of retirement. With Muhammad staying on for another season, the club recruited man mountain J’Nathan Bullock to the second import spot. The combination proved ultimately successful winning both the South Conference title against Hobart at home and following that up with a demolition of Bendigo in the SEABL all Conference Final.
Birth of the Geelong Lady Supercats
For the first time in Supercats history, a SEABL women’s program was born in 2011. With Paul O’brien as inaugural head coach, his assistant coaches included Tim Sanderson and Clare Ralph – who later became apart of the player roster – saw an exciting new start to the women’s program of Basketball Geelong and the Lady Supercats. The team came together with a mix of young and upcoming stars, with Geelong BigV players who had just come off winning a championship the year before, and WNBL veteran Deanna Smith hungry for a new beginning and a championship. Over the last 4 seasons, The Lady Supercats have been in 3 conference championships – leaving a long lasting impression to SEABL competitors that the club is to be a feared rival.