Before sporting champions reach a demi-god like status and worldwide acclaim, they begin at a local grassroots club somewhere, and that’s what Graeme Willingham’s novel Not Bad Thanks captures.
Willingham explores the Australian sports culture and gives an incredible insight into the club camaraderie experienced at Not Bad Thanks (NBT), an Aussie Melbourne basketball club he launched in 1980.
“The characters are 100 per cent real, so is the club name and events.
The conversations and narrative also took place but are ‘fictional’ as far as I wasn’t there with a tape recorder,” Mr Willingham said.
“What’s real is the demonstration of mateship, the fact you’re playing a game – that’s the common thread – and socialising after. Our socialisation program was fairly extensive, lots of dinners, going out after games and supporting each other; you talk about the game for a minute and then you share your lives.”
NBT has been playing for 38 years (77 seasons) in the Victorian Business Houses Basketball Association and was formed after a group of Melburnians (including Willingham) returned from working in London during the 70s.
Lindsay Gaze (Australian basketball champion) launched the book on November 14 at The NBT Clubrooms (aka The Emerald Hotel in South Melbourne) where capped players sang The NBT Anthem.
“This is an essential addition to the library of Australian sports culture because, among other things, I believe it’s the first book to delve into grassroots basketball,” he said.
“It’s worth reading for anyone who has an interest in sport, especially the thousands who play for fun, yet compete for their version of glory. I expect readers, like me, will feel I would like to play in this team.”
NBT has also received rave reviews from ABC Radio’s Rafael Epstein who said: “Love the book, not only because it’s well written, but also because it’s about things we don’t normally read about… all of us just actually having fun in a local sporting club”.
SEN 1116’s Gerard Whately said, “It will speak to people; I’m sure you’ll get letters for years from those who have played in teams like this, with their own rituals. It’s fantastic. Graeme’s done a great job with this”.
Willingham said NBA great Magic Johnson, The Harlem Globetrotters, notorious British Great Train Robber, the late Ronnie Biggs, and triple Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva all have unlikely roles to play in story.
“The book tells how the club grappled with tragedy, authority, an outing, generational challenges, equal opportunity, skill shortage, globalisation, an aging workforce, dysfunctional patrons, brushes with fame, media scrutiny… and, premiership droughts,” he said.
“Premierships were won, though, but in weird circumstances. More so, the book is about commitment, combat,
conflict, challenges, fun and camaraderie, the cornerstones of sporting club life.”
Not Bad Thanks is available in local bookstores and via notbadthanks.com.