|Arena||Townsville Entertainment Centre (1993–2014, 2015–2016) |
Townsville RSL Stadium (2014–2015)
|Capacity||TEC – 5,257|
RSL – 2,500
|Team colors||Green, yellow, blue, red|
|Retired numbers||2 (7, 21)|
The Townsville Crocodiles were an Australian professional men's basketball team based in the North Queensland city of Townsville. They competed in the National Basketball League (NBL) and played their home games at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre. Between their inception in 1993 and their final season in 2015–16, the Crocodiles enjoyed financial stability and sustained community support, but on-court success eluded them.
1986–1992: Gaining admission into the NBL
Former Brisbane Bullets guard Mark Bragg, a Townsville resident, began campaigning to bring an NBL franchise to Townsville in the late 1980s. The franchise adopted the name of Townsville's State League team, becoming the Townsville Suns. The NBL was ready to admit the Suns, along with fellow Queenslanders the Gold Coast Cougars, in 1990, but financial backing for the Suns' venue fell through.
Local government then got behind Bragg's bid, and the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre was completed in time for the Suns' debut in February 1993.
1993–1998: Early years
With Bragg at the helm as head coach, the Suns struggled during their debut season, but it only took five games before they recorded their first-ever NBL win, a victory over the Newcastle Falcons. Townsville broke the mould in 1993, becoming the first Australian team to hire an 'import' player from a country other than the United States; Lithuanian player Rimas Kurtinaitis was a crucial part of the team during their debut season. The Suns finished 4–22 and took the wooden spoon.
Townsville would not reach the playoffs in its first six seasons, although they came perilously close in the 1997 season; needing only one win from their final six games to ensure a historic playoff appearance, the Suns went 0–6 after centre Clarence Tyson suffered a season-ending knee injury in Canberra. After a disappointing 1998 campaign, Mark Bragg was sacked as head coach. With 151 games played out of the Suns' 164, Jason Cameron was the only player to have played in all six Suns seasons.
Throughout, Townsville fans stuck by the team, ensuring the club set an Australian record for attendances; the Suns sold out their first 69 games at the "Furnace" (capacity 4,141), a streak that was only broken after the venue was expanded for the 1998 season.
1998–2001: Name change and finals basketball
It was a very different team that took the court in the 1998/99 season. The team had been involved in a dispute with the NBA's Phoenix Suns, who held the "Suns" trademark in Australia. Faced with the prospect of paying Phoenix royalties on merchandise sales, the team changed its name to the Townsville Crocodiles. New head coach Ian Stacker took the reins, and immediately attracted top-name talent like Australian Olympic player Sam Mackinnon, but it would take one more season before Townsville's long-suffering fans saw playoff basketball.
The Crocodiles finished second in the NBL in 1999/2000 with a 22–6 record, meaning they got a first-round bye in the NBL playoffs. But they faced a battle-hardened Perth Wildcats team in the semi-finals, and were defeated 2–1 in front of their disappointed home fans. Perth would go on to win the championship.
The Crocs again went 22–6 the following year and, under the league's new playoff system, eliminated both the Sydney Kings and the Victoria Titans. It came down to the grand final series, where the team lost 2 games to 1- 95–92 in the final game- after a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback by the Wollongong Hawks.
2002–2006: Missed opportunities
Townsville missed the playoffs in 2002 and the 2003 season looked no better, but the Crocodiles strung together a 16-game winning streak to again finish second on the NBL ladder. (The streak equaled an NBL record.) Townsville lost the opening-round series 2–1 to Wollongong, but by virtue of NBL rules, got a second chance to advance; they were then finally eliminated by the eventual champion Sydney Kings.
After another disappointing season in 2005–06, Townsville head coach Ian Stacker's contract was not renewed. The Crocodiles again failed to make the playoffs.
Trevor Gleeson was appointed coach and the team improved on their failed 2005–06 season by making the play-offs. They won their first final against one of the newcomers in the Singapore Slingers but lost their second to the Sydney Kings.
2006–2009: Return to finals
2007–08 saw the Crocs struggle in their first ten games, only winning three matches. Before the season, the team was struggling with injuries to both 7-foot centre's Ben Pepper (back) and Greg Vanderjagt (knee) along with swingman Bradley Sheridan (back). The team ended up losing newly signed import Rosell Ellis who suffered a freak of an injury when he tore his pectoral muscle during a weight session just after two matches. In those two matches saw Ellis get 27 points and 11 rebounds in both matches. The Crocs then brought in streetball legend Corey 'Homicide' Wiliams which saw the Crocs turn back into a strong team. With also help from the crocs bench saw them finish the season in fifth place with a record of 17–13. But just like the 2006–07 season, saw the crocs win their first game against another newcomer Gold Coast Blaze but were once again saw them smashed by the team who finished one win higher than the Crocs in the Perth Wildcats 96–78.
The crocs have now made a push to make it to the top four in the 2008–09 season when they re-signed imports Williams and Ellis and also signings Brad Williamson and Steven Broom from the Brisbane Bullets and former Boomer Russell Hinder.
The 2008/09 season saw them struggle to have a full roster with Bradley Sheridan (ankles), Ben Pepper (personal reasons) and Steven Broom (shoulder) leaving the club before the season had even began. The local fans were able to rally behind the club to finish 5th. The Crocs were unable to make the grand final series as they were knocked out by eventual champions South Dragons.
2013–2016: Financial troubles and disbandment
On 8 April 2013, the Crocodiles announced that Barrier Reef Basketball Pty Ltd was relinquishing its National Basketball League license, putting the Crocodiles' 2013–14 season in doubt. In September 2013, the Crocodiles re-entered the league as a community owned club under head coach, Shawn Dennis.
In June 2014, the Crocodiles announced that the Townsville RSL Stadium would be their new home court for the 2014–15 season. Following the 2014–15 season, the Crocodiles decided to place themselves into Voluntary Administration. On 21 May 2015, they re-entered the league for a second time after regaining control of the Deed of Company Arrangement and subsequently received NBL approval to re-enter the competition. The Crocodiles also announced that they would be returning to the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre for the 2015–16 season. In February 2016, the Queensland Police seized a compressed air launcher use by the team for over ten years to launch folded T-shirts into the crowd, after the device was deemed to be a category B weapon.
|NBL Grand Final appearances:||1 (2001)|
|NBL Most Valuable Players:||Robert Rose (2001), Corey Williams (2010), Brian Conklin (2015)|
|All-NBL First Team:||Clarence Tyson (1997), Ray Owes (1998), Sam Mackinnon (2000), Robert Rose (2001), Larry Abney (2006), Corey Williams (2010), Brian Conklin (2015)|
|NBL Coach of the Year:||Ian Stacker (2000, 2003), Trevor Gleeson (2011), Shawn Dennis (2016)|
|NBL Rookie of the Year:||Brad Newley (2005), Nick Kay (2016)|
|NBL Most Improved Player:||Andrew Goodwin (2000), Todd Blanchfield (2015), Clint Steindl (2016)|
|NBL Best Sixth Man:||Ben Knight (2000), Brad Newley (2005)|
Season by season
Kevin Sugars Medal (Club MVP)
- 1993 Ricky Jones
- 1994 Darryl Johnson
- 1995 Derek Rucker
- 1996 Clarence Tyson
- 1997 Derek Rucker
- 1998 Derek Rucker
- 1999 Robert Rose
- 2000 Sam Mackinnon & Robert Rose
- 2001 Robert Rose
- 2002 Robert Rose
- 2003 Pat Reidy & Wayne Turner
- 2004 Pat Reidy
- 2005 John Rillie
- 2006 Larry Abney
- 2007 Larry Abney & John Rillie
- 2008 John Rillie
- 2009 Corey Williams
- 2010 Corey Williams
- 2011 Luke Schenscher
- 2012 Peter Crawford
- 2013 Gary Ervin
- 2014 Brian Conklin
- 2015 Brian Conklin
- 2016 Jordair Jett
Source: Award Winners
- Larry Abney
- David Blades
- Will Blalock
- Jason Cameron
- Chris Cedar
- Brian Conklin
- Peter Crawford
- Gary Ervin
- Wayne Turner
- Russell Hinder
- Rimas Kurtinaitis
- Luke Nevill
- Josh Pace
- Robert Rose
- / Derek Rucker
- Luke Schenscher
- / Corey Williams
- "Suns History – 1993 to 1998". Crocodiles.com.au. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
- Crocs NBL Future in Doubt
- Statement on the National Basketball League Archived 11 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Townsville Crocodiles granted NBL licence Archived 27 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- One giant step forward for Crocs Archived 11 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Maccas keeps the Crocs legacy alive Archived 15 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- Crocs sign import center Mickell Gladness Archived 6 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- Townsville Announcement Archived 12 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine
- Crocodiles to participate in 2015/16 season Archived 24 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine
- Townsville Crocodiles confirm NBL future but may lose star Todd Blanchfield
- Stephens, Kim (5 February 2016). "What a croc: Queensland Police seize Townsville Crocs t-shirt launcher". BrisbaneTimes.com.au. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
- Townsville Crocodiles will not field an NBL team in 2016/17
- Townsville Crocodiles out of 2016–17 NBL season
- TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES ANNOUNCEMENT Archived 18 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine