A week and a half ago it was announced that the Townsville Crocodiles would be folding immediately, ending their association with the National Basketball League, which begun in 1993.
The Crocs are the second franchise that Townsville have lost in the last five years. While the short-lived North Queensland Fury were unable to make a dent in the market, the Crocs were a constant through summer, with a Grand Final loss in 2001 the highest honour the club would ever achieve.
It’s hard to see a team you support struggle for success, and it’s worse to see them fold. For me, the Crocs were more than I team I supported, they were my first real sports media experience, with the time I spent with the club during the 2008-2009 season still ranking as one of my favourite experiences.
The Crocs gave me a chance to hone my craft, a seat in the press box and journalistic freedom to write whenever I could find the time to do so. Gameday had its rituals, I was superstitious to the point I might as well have been a member of the starting five. Bus in to the city three hours before tip-off, burger and coke at The Brewery, walk to The Swamp, stopping just before the entrance to stare back across the water and reflect on how lucky I was. A coke and a water in the press box, alternating between the two, frantically scribble notes and pick the brains of the more experienced journos I was around, press conference, walk back into the city, beer at The Brewery, bus home, write copy, job done. It was my favourite day of the week, a day that even now, nearly eight years later, still makes me feel like I am the luckiest person alive.
Townsville will miss the Crocs, they might not realise it yet. There is very little elite sport for Townsville sports fans to attend at that time of year, so it wouldn’t shock me if this is a classic case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone. With the NBL in the shape it is, I doubt there’s going to be a team in Townsville any time soon, and even if there is, they can look like Crocs, play like Crocs and play out of The Swamp, but it isn’t going to be the same.
Since living in Melbourne, I always said I’ll go and see the Crocs when they come to town. I’d had things come up year after year but got their for their first clash against Melbourne United this year, with the benefit of hindsight I would have gone to the second as well, but I’d fallen in to the trap of “There’s always next year”.
The Swamp was a special place to watch a game. Writing this has made me feel like I felt on a November night in 2010, which was also my last night in Townsville.
Sadness isn’t strong enough a word. That night a chapter was closing, four years of my life in Townsville, doing things I love and making memories that will last forever drew to a close, it was fitting that the Crocs were there for me and finished it off with the W.
They may be gone, but my interest in the NBL will live on. I might try to support the Bullets, I never bought into the two clubs being bitter rivals and always wanted them to do well. Try as I might it might not be enough, I might sit down for a Bullets game only to discover that I’m always going to be a Croc, and that my fondness for the NBL will be as a neutral where I can pick and choose who I want to win.
Thanks for the memories, Crocs (and as the Suns on one glorious Wednesday night in November 2008 against the Sydney Spirit).