Justin Nelson, GM at Melbourne Boomers WNBL, believes basketball – and sport in general – is extremely important. Life-changing, even. He makes the point that leisure time is all about choices: “You choose how to spend your leisure time.” And, through working in sport for 20 years – as a commentator and administrator, across AFL, soccer, softball and V8 Supercars – he’s learnt that those who spend their leisure, or even professional time, involved in sport, cope better with the struggles in their lives.
“I’ve got two daughters, and I think the one thing that you learn to appreciate when you’re bringing up girls as a parent is that we need to continue to provide healthy opportunities,” says Nelson, who’ll be speaking at upcoming sporting industry conference Money In Sport, on the Gold Coast, Nov 12-14, 2017.
“You know, when you sit there and listen to elite-level players talk about their struggles as teenagers – you know, battling anorexia, battling body image, trying to work through all the things in their life be it schooling, be it work, be it relationships, indecision, mental health issues – the one thing that provides, or can provide, great social aspects, a healthy environment, enjoyment, enthusiasm, is sport.
“For me, women’s basketball, it provides so many young girls out there with healthy positive role models and a chance to be actively involved and connected to a sport. That’s the reason I love it so much.”
And also the reason he’s excited about the Women's National Basketball League (WNBL) comp being back on national TV this year, after two non-broadcasted seasons. Basketball Australia entered a new three-year partnership with Fox Sports that’ll see a live game broadcast each week. Tune in from October 2017 to January 2018 – and in the lead-up, grab some insights from Nelson…
Why are you excited about having women’s basketball back on TV this year?
I think we’re really fortunate in this country to have one of the very best and most elite level women’s basketball leagues in the world, and the televsision gives the game, the league and the players some real credibility. And given that basketball is the second highest team participation sport in Australia, with a 40 per cent female participation base, it’s terrific that the game will be accessible to many more people around the country and internationally.
Are you excited about having Liz Cambage back playing for the Melbourne Boomers this season?
Absolutely, you know, to have one of the very best players in the world back in her home city playing for her home club, I think is exciting not only for us but for everybody connected to us, and certainly for those sports fans who might be casual observers as well. Liz was the best player of all teams, of all countries, at the Rio Olympics, so it’s fantastic that she’s back home amongst her family and friends and in her home city playing basketball again.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t usually watch basketball to get them watching this season?
Everybody who comes to see the Deakin Melbourne Boomers play for the first time is amazed at the athleticism, the power, and the incredible skill of the players. There’s not a person I’ve spoken to at their first game who isn’t totally blown away by how competitive our players are, and the elite level of the WNBL. I think the exciting thing this year is that 11 of our 14 players are from Melbourne.
Which team do you think will give the Boomers the biggest run for their money this season?
I think when you look at the rosters that have been assembled, certainly Adelaide. Townsville, I expect, to be frontrunners as well.
How do you feel about the state of women’s sport in general at the moment?
Really good. There’s been a really big focus on women’s sport over the last two to three years. I think it’s about time given 50 per cent or more of our population are females. I think that the corporate world needs to walk the talk, I think there’s a lot of people who talk about the need to support women in sport, but certainly not everybody is walking the talk, and I think that that’s the next step. I think particularly for the next generation coming through, the availability and choice of sport and the levels that you can get to both domestically and internationally, is really exciting.
And how are you feeling about women’s basketball?
Terrific. We’ve got more players than ever before playing internationally. The WNBL this season, with the players that have been attracted to it, both local and international players, is as good as if not better than ever before in the history of the WNBL. The grassroots numbers continue to expand, and especially here in Victoria, more than 50 per cent of all players come from this state across Australia.
What will you be speaking about at the Money In Sport conference?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work in a sport at a time that’s seen enormous change, and so much of that change has centred around dollars. It’s amazing the impact and the influence that money has in sport and now, particularly, in women’s sport. I’ve been right in the middle of that with the longest-running elite-level women’s team in Australian sport – that’s any sport. The Boomers have been going for 34 years, they are the longest-running elite-level women’s team of any sport, and right in the middle of that time with them was dragging them back from the brink of extinction. So they’re the main things that I’ll focus on.
You know that at WH, we love our sport. The Money In Sport conference unites sporting industry leaders and decision makers from around the world to provide relevant discussions about and insights into sport, as well as networking opportunities. To find out more about Money In Sport, click here: Money In Sport