Back in the 1990's Horsham was a regular pitstop for National Basketball League teams hoping to fine-tune their skills before the start of the season.
NBL teams and players would travel to the basketball-mad town to take part in practice matches usually against other NBL sides in front of packed crowds.
Situated half-way between Adelaide and Melbourne, Horsham was an ideal place for Victorian and South Australian teams to meet for pre-season clashes.
With Horsham still as passionate about basketball as ever, it's interesting to note that we haven't seen NBL teams play here in a long time.
While these matches were extremely successful from a promotional point of view, they weren't cut-and-dry when it came to organising them.
25 years ago in 1996, an Adelaide 36ers side in the middle of a month-long Olympic break, made the trip south to take on the Mildura Mavericks on a Wednesday night at Horsham Stadium.
The Mavericks' side included Horsham Hornets American imports Paul Tapp and David Hamilton, while the near full-strength 36ers' side boasted the likes of NBL stars Mark Davis, Rick Brunson, Martin Cattalini, Nathan Hawkes, Brett Wheeler and Leon Trimmingham.
Unsurprisingly the local basketball side was no match for the professional outfit, going down 117-73 in the end, however the match-up was no deterrent for the "healthy crowd" that turned up.
The match was a resounding success however it almost didn't take place.
Initially the Adelaide 36ers had hoped to play the Melbourne Tigers in Horsham however negotiations fell through and the Mavericks team stepped up.
But just weeks prior to the scheduled date organisers were still unsure of whether the match would go ahead.
At the time, the Wimmera Mail-Times said a week out from the game "hectic negotiations" took place and the "chances of a game plummeted earlier in the week but an Adelaide offer to pay half the team's accommodation reopened discussions which appeared to be at a standstill".
Organiser Denis Weily said before the match the Horsham Amateur Basketball Association could not afford to pay for the side's accommodation costs because of the late notice.
"Now they have offered to pay half their costs, so the game is going to take place," Weily said at the time.
These days you would expect a professional NBL franchise to be able to afford to pay their accommodation bill, but unfortunately Horsham basketball coaching legend Owen Hughan believes that "we wouldn't have a facility to hold" such an event.
"The amount of work associated with it would be colossal," Hughan said.
"It was pretty regular we did it a few times and it was very well received here. The work was just tremendous to do it. It became a bit too much. Their demands were becoming more and more.
"It was quite a big thing to put on because we had to move the stands and do everything like that. And as it went along it got dearer and dearer to do everything."
Still, Hughan recalls that players and spectators did enjoy the exhibition games.
"The NBL teams were pretty interested in doing it because they felt they were far and away, that no one could see what they were doing," he said.
"It was a success as far as getting people along, the work to do all that type of thing was just too big."
The 36ers were just a number of professional franchises that visited Horsham for games.
Hughan recalls teams like the North Melbourne Giants coached by former Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown coming to town, while the Melbourne Tigers were another team that visited.
Because of the high costs involved, the regional location of Horsham and the increasing facilities needed to house such an event, it is understandable why we don't see NBL games in Horsham anymore.
However with regional cities like Bendigo hosting NBL games in recent years there is still hope that we might one day see players of the highest level performing in front of a Horsham crowd, even if it is just a practice game.
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