Thursday 21 June 2012

Hansard of the Legislative Council

Special Interest Matters


Mr FINCH - Madam President, in November last year, the Launceston women's basketball club, the Tornadoes, was in financial difficulties and on the brink of closure. It was disappointing because that club had been going for 17 years and had become pivotal for women's basketball development in the Launceston and northern Tasmanian region. In fact, they had been national premiers of the SEABL - South East Australian Basketball League - back in the early days of their establishment.

The community, to their credit, was determined to prevent its demise. A businessman, Mark Thurlow, was one of those who stepped in to save the Tornadoes. He was reading the newspaper, saw something about the closure of the Tornadoes and said this cannot happen. He made a few phone calls. He was responsible for the restructure of the Launceston Football Club. I joined him as a colleague there and it was a great journey. Over a period he took the club to a position where last year they won not only the senior statewide league premiership but also the under-23s and the colts as well, along with many other awards. Much of that credit must go to Mark Thurlow.

He said, this is not going to happen; we need to keep this team going for the sake of the development of girls and young women in the basketball community. One of the other community leaders, Heath Butt, was the interim chairman at that stage and he was equally as determined to keep it going. The club was then restructured under the banner of the Northern Tasmanian Amateur Basketball Association and we started raising money. A new board was announced in January this year, and that board included Alana Fulton, Craig Perkins, who is the vice-chairman, Colleen McGann from St Luke's Health, Michele Gibbins from the Institute of Sport, David Daking, a retired financial adviser, then Heath Butt, Mark Thurlow and last, by all means least, my very good self.

It did involve a lot of effort. The Launceston Tornadoes board created a business plan that resulted, among other things, in the approval of a grant of $15 000 from the Launceston City Council. I have just been talking with the member for Mersey about the difficulty of councils being able to support sporting clubs and sporting individuals. I know that the member for Launceston was part of the panel of councillors who made the decision on the grant. They did give us that grant with strings attached, and they were: the linkage of the funding to the delivery of measurable targets established to market Launceston as a tourist destination in all the activities undertaken by the Tornadoes; the club also continuing to compete in the elite South East Australian Basketball League division; and the club demonstrating its commitment to provide the pathways to local talented women basketball players. Those strings, I suppose, reflect a heated debate that occurred in the Launceston council, but that is another story. The aldermen decided to help support the Launceston Tornadoes in this instance.

Numerous others - it was an interesting story - Bec Walsh of the Sports Arena called around Heath Butt when he was interim chairman and said she had a donation to make to the Tornadoes. She presented him with a cheque for $20 000 to help the club . That is amazing in these economic times, that she recognised the importance of retaining the Tornadoes for the community. We were able to get Europcar and Bendigo Bank to come on as major sponsors as well.

We went into a debt this year of $55 000. It will be wiped off by the time we start the 2013 season, as the club's chairman, Craig Perkins, said a few weeks ago in a media statement:

We're in a position now which is really positive in that we know that we can get through the remainder of the year in a sound financial position and we can start thinking about 2013. To start planning the structures including the board, the playing group and coaching and formalising junior development for next season.

We limited the number of imported players and we think that we've got that mix really well, giving some quality players an opportunity to share their skills but also giving local talent the chance to play.

Local talent, too, includes those from the north-west coast as well, so it really is about the northern half of Tasmania.

The Tornadoes team members have been buoyed by the community and financial support. They have had some recent success on a road trip over the weekend, and those who know basketball will know that it is very difficult to win two away trips. We have done that with the team and we face Bendigo at home this week. However they finish this season they know the future of the club is secure and they can concentrate on their game. Most importantly, the Launceston Tornadoes basketball club has survived and will continue to provide opportunities for talented girls and women basketballers in northern Tasmania.