Saturday 23 September 2017

History

The Island of Guernsey nestles off the northern coast of France and is one of the Channel Islands. It has a population of about 60 000, the capital is St Peter Port and is famous for its horticulture, finance and tourism. In the Island one can see a strong influence of the French, although it is now British.

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The driving force behind the inauguration of basketball in the Island was Joe Wilson who came as a teacher to the Island in 1960. He had coached Loughborough Colleges (UK) in the late fifties, and his experience and enthusiasm led him in the early nineteen sixties to organise inter-school competitions and began adult classes to cater for the increase in interest. To develop the sport Joe arranged competitive matches by hiring the tomato packing sheds at 50p ($0.70) per night. It was far from ideal as there were no markings on the concrete floor. They had to chalk in the lines each week., and the home-made portable rings were transported by lorry. To start with there were two leagues with three teams in each. Names like Caterpillars, Octopi, Strollers, Minstrels and Rebels were used. The following season the badminton hall was built and for the privilege of improved facilities they had to pay the princely sum of £1.50 ($1.10) each week. The court was full size and Joe again built the back -boards. The sport had arrived with now 5 leagues, including 2 junior leagues. Games were scheduled to start at 4.30pm, and by the time the seniors finished the last game it was invariably past midnight. In 1969 the teams competing in the leagues were: Seniors - Cats, Mystics, Forresters Juniors - Lions, Wombats, Pumas, Tigers The badminton hall tournament, staged two years after the tomato packing shed experiment, just about did the trick. The sprung maple wooden floor was ideal for the sport and the game soon grabbed the attention of would-be players, particularly those introduced to it at school level where basketball enthusiasts such as Ian Curle, Robbie Burns, Brian Preston and Tony Taylor drove the sport forward. Financially the badminton hall experiment was a minor disaster and whether it was coincidental or not the man behind the two ventures, Wilson, left the island to accept a post as youth centre manager in the south of England. He was a sad loss but, whatever his frustration, he had lit the flame of a sport which had steadily grown stronger with every passing decade. After Joe Wilson left the Island in January 1969 the Guernsey Basketball Association was formed. The leading figures were Robbie Burns, Ian Curle, Terry Le Huray and Carl Clay. There was a new venue for the 1969 season after the opening of the new St Peter Port School, and for eight years the sport had a base, with games being played two nights each week. The first game in the Guernsey Basketball Association League history was on 7th November 1969 when Zivermeeuw Kats beat Saints 25-13. The majority of scores in the early days of the league were quite low. In 1969-1970 the league teams had the quaint and interesting names of Jargonauts(Junior Winners), Rocky Raccoons (Senior Winners), Zivermeeuw Kats, Zebras, Saints, Breakaways, Electrons, Orbiters and Harlequins. Division One the following season comprised Zivermeeuw Kats, Rocky Raccoons, Black Straits, Fiat Lux, College, Jargonauts, Saints and Die Sechs. There were also two junior leagues of seven and six teams. The top players in those early years couldn't get enough of the sport and on 4th December 1971 entered the National Championships against Ford's of Dagenham but were heavily beaten. The squad was Ally Staples (Raccoons), Julian Patch (Fiat Lux), Terry Le Huray (Jargonauts), Paul Boscher (Fiat Lux), Dave Budge (Kats), Ron Quinn (Raccoons), Ewen Menzies (Kats), Colin Sheehan (Kats), Ted McDonaugh (Fiat Lux), Dave Pattimore (Raccoons), Adie Le Page (Fiat Lux), Ken Baker (Jargonauts). A new chapter began after Robbie Burns became involved. He followed in the footsteps of Joe Wilson and was as equally dedicated to the sport. Being a sports teacher like Joe he spent all his spare time coaching, after going to the UK to qualify. The season after his return he set up a club called Fiat Lux which became the leading club in the Island, and at its height ran 7 teams, all named after the models of Fiat cars at the time - Fiat 124, Fiat 125, Fiat 128, Fiat 130, Fiat 850, etc. In 1972 Robbie became the first graded referee in the Island and set up courses for would be officials. Kerry Mumford from the EBBA passed 7 new referees after the first course. The following year Terry Barnett, a top International referee, examined and passed a further 6 referees. In 1970 the Islands of Guernsey and Jersey began basketball matches against each other. The rivalry was keen, just as it was and still is between the Islands in other sports. Nowadays the matches played are Men, Women, U21 & U19 Men and these matches are played in each Island on alternate years. The annual Inter-Insular matches against Jersey are the highlight of the year and details can be seen on the Inter-Insular page. In September 1976 Guernsey opened the Beau Sejour Leisure Centre in St Peter Port and basketball moved once again. The progress of the sport has been rapid since that time. With the advent of 'summer schools' many of the young players have improved the skill level locally, and in 1997 there were 120 senior players and 100 juniors. There are now four divisions with 20+ teams competing, playing on two evenings per week, the schools leagues continue with matches at three age groups and a junior basketball programme "Future Stars" hosts 170 children every Saturday between the ages of 5-15. Trevor Pountain, a FIBA referee, has visited us from the UK to run officials courses, and coaching courses have also been run thanks to the sponsorship from NatWest. Since Trevor Pountain there have been several refereeing courses held by Roger Harrison, John Wells and Steve Wheatcroft - top FIBA and EB officials of many years standing. Rob Batiste in a series of three articles in the Guernsey Press in Feb/Mar 2010 highlighted selected teams from different eras in the development of the sport. The pre1969 team was Ally Staples, Ron Quinn, Joe Wilson, Ken Baker, Graham Garland with Ewen Menzies, Dave Budge, Dave Leafe, Les Littleford and Micky Weyson coming off the bench. The 70s and 80s team was Tony Masterton, Ian Robinson, Coloin Fallaize, Bryan Preston, Julian Patch, Charlie Archenoul, Colin Sheehan, Jules Le Gallez, Phil Keutzer, Tony Taylor. Subs would have been Phil Babbe, Brian Rumens, Keith Trimble, Adie Le Page, Phil Diligent and Ted McDonaugh. The 90s and 00s were Chris Lamb, Craig Dunning, Tony Cranchi, Simon Le Blancq, Lee Savident, Dan Cavanagh, Martin Yabsley, Shek Sesay, Jason Hooper, Jan Renouf. Others who would have been on the subs bench were Chris Bale, Pierre Jehan, Kerry Smyth, Martino Braico, James Tracey and Michael Beausire. One of the endearing aspects of the sport is that it is never very long before a team changes name. Sponsorship inevitably plays its part in this renaming but there have been outstanding teams over the years such as Fiat Lux, Jargonauts, Black Straits, Channel Express, Archenoul Decor, La Fraternelle and Collins Stewart. 16 years ago the Channel Islands Club Championships was started between the winners of the basketball league in each Island. The winners are currently Cross The Finish Line from Guernsey with the title wins standing at 16-5 to Guernsey. The women's champions match started a little later, there are no current holders as Jersey do not currently have a Women's League and the standing so far is 8-2 to Guernsey. The Island of Guernsey takes part in a biannual 'Island Games' event. The inaugural Games were in the Isle of Man in 1985. In 1989 Guernsey held them for the first time, and in 1997 they were in our sister island of Jersey. Basketball made its appearance as one of the 14 sports for the first time in Gotland in 1999. The Guernsey men's team took part, there were 9 men's and 4 women's teams, Guernsey finishing 9th. In 2001 the Games were held in the Isle of Man where 8 men's teams and 6 women's teams took part. The men finished 8th and the women's team were proud and deserved bronze medal winners. Guernsey were the hosts for the Games once more in 2003 and Guernsey women's team won the gold medal. In 2005 in the Shetland Isles basketball was very disappointingly not been included but Gibraltar kindly volunteered to hold a tournament. In 2007 the Games were in Rhodes where the men finished 10th and the women 4th. 2009 saw the games held in Aland where the women's team won silver losing to Menorca but the men did not send a team. In 2011 the games were in the Isle of Wight where the women again won bronze and the men finished sixth. Neither team went to Bermuda as there was no Basketball Competition and in 2015, The Games returned to Jersey where both Women and Men narrowly missed out in bronze medal playoffs, both losing out to Gibraltar. The island women ventured into the English Basketball Association National League division 2 Midlands and South-West in 2008-2009 where they finished half way up the table. In 2009-2010 the men joined the women in this initiative and played in division 4 South-West. Both teams ended just below half way in the table but gained valuable experience. In the following season the men pulled out of the league at Christmas but the women completed the season before also calling it a day in this particular venture. The cost of travelling without a major sponsor was prohibitive. In 2012 Terry Le Huray passed away and with him another chapter in the history of basketball. Now in 2015, Basketball remains in a strong position and continues to develop, creating new legacies to leave to the next generation of Basketballers.