JackJumpers and their fairytale first season

Posted by Ben Crowley in Feature Articles

Estimated reading time: 9mins

Tassie’s national sporting history

If you’re from Victoria, Queensland or NSW you’re honestly spoilt for choice in sport. With each state having a national level team in AFL, NRL, A-League, Basketball... and sometimes multiple!

10 years ago Tasmania got its first 20/20 Cricket team – the Hobart Hurricanes which Tasmanians are understandably very proud of, but apart from that we really lack when it comes to true high national level sporting representation – but that wasn’t always the case.

As a young kid I had fond memories of the “Hobart Tassie Devils” our very own NBL team. They were a huge hit in town and played most of their career home games at the Kingborough Sports Centre, a venue where I played a lot of sport as a kid - as it was 10 minutes from home.

The Devils were an interesting team. Their record shows them losing far more than they won, and my strongest memory is them being competitive for a few quarters each game, only to get steam rolled over the last quarter or two. Ultimately, the Devils folded due to financial difficulties with 1996 being their last season.

In their 14 years, the Devils never made the finals, but nevertheless they had a small but dedicated fanbase in Tasmania.

Tasmanian JackJumpers Home Court MyState Bank Arena DEC

The JackJumpers are born

Every few years there seems to be a bit of momentum to get A-League or AFL going in Tasmania, however in Feb 2020 a new basketball franchise was announced – seemingly out of the blue.

No doubt there had been a lot of back and forth over a period, but its clear most Tasmanians were amazed at how quickly talk turned into action when it came to an NBL team!

Tasmanian JackJumpers vs brisbane in the britz

Turns out a very successful businessman named Larry Kestelman was now at the helm of the NBL and was on a mission to build franchises in more areas. Larry had obviously seen potential in Tasmania and knew how much locals yearned for high level sport. Before sport Larry was best known for founding and later selling telecommunications company Dodo.

From the day of the announcement onwards, the media momentum has been fierce. Engaging Tasmanians in naming and voting for the team was a masterstroke, but I can say on behalf of many Tasmanians, I was a bit worried when the name the “JackJumpers” was announced. It’s purely coincidental that yours truly is highly allergic to these ants unique to Tasmania – I’m only one bite away from a trip to the emergency department at the hospital.

Tasmanian JackJumpers defence

Bulk Nutrients and sport

With the growth Bulk Nutrients has experienced over the last 10 years, being part of a locally based national team was always going to be of interest. From day one we've had a love for community sport, and that consistent involvement is one of our core values.

In late 2020, we were approached by the JackJumpers management, we initially looked at an arrangement where we provided products and support to help players perform and recover better, being involved as a major partner in early days was too good to pass up. It was clear everyone at JackJumpers HQ understood the magnitude of the team on the community, and the NBL is active in engaging schools and community groups in the sport.

Tasmanian JackJumpers picking teams 3 on 3 at Bulk Nutrients

In early 2021 we had signed on as the second major partner for the JackJumpers, this video was completed to highlight the launch.

Early 2021 we had signed on as the second major partner for the JackJumpers

A mixed start to the season

True to their word we found the JackJumpers players and management great to deal with. We had players down for tours at Bulk HQ, we even have had the guys officiate some 3 on 3 basketball and involved all our staff in a BBQ with them. It’s a well-worn cliché, but you wouldn’t find a nicer bunch of people to work with, and they all understood the need for pure, high quality supplements that we provide.

Tasmanian JackJumpers BBQ at Bulk Nutrients

All that amounts to nothing if they can’t play though, so you can imagine the anticipation for game 1. It's worth keeping in mind the bookies had given the JackJumpers 400:1 odds of taking out the championship - let's just say the expectations weren't high. NBL predictions

While the media hadn’t given the team much chance of success, the JackJumpers came out with all guns blazing, defeating the Brisbane Bullets in overtime in their first ever game – in front of their home crowd. Being surrounded by family and staff made the occasion that much more special, the energy with NBL back in town after 25 years was simply amazing!

Tasmanian JackJumpers time out with the Coach

Unfortunately, things went a bit pear shaped from there, after 8 rounds we only had one more win yet had lost 6 times. Not looking good the boys regrouped, changed up their game and started winning consistently from that point on. Moving from a game which relied on a lot of 3 pointers, they developed a great inside game, with a lot of players shining, a genuine “team effort” more than the sum of its players.

Rounding the season out with 10 wins from the last 12 games the JackJumpers stormed the house reaching the finals. They did so by knocking the Perth Wildcats out, a team that had not missed the finals in 35 years. If people didn’t take the JackJumpers seriously at first, they sure did now - but just making the finals and winning a game in finals is a different story.....

Tasmanian JackJumpers team

Elation at a first finals campaign

Scraping into the finals is no mean feat, however the way the NBL finals work is a bit different to other codes. In Basketball, the top ranking team of the regular season then play the fourth ranking team in a "best of three" finals series, with positions 2 and 3 doing the same.

It's one thing to beat a team once, but backing it up and doing it consecutively is another. On an absolute high the JackJumpers headed to Melbourne for their first finals appearance. While battling hard and remaining competitive for a few quarters, we were overwhelmed and drastically outscored in the third, giving away too much of a lead. While we managed to bring the margin back to 10 in the last quarter, Melbourne United gained a solid win in game 1.

Tasmanian JackJumpers team work

In game 2 Melbourne had to come back to "The Ants Nest" in Tasmania, and with the JackJumpers knowing they'd beaten Melbourne at home before, confidence was high. In what was one of our strongest performances of the year, the JackJumpers overwhelmed Melbourne with constant pressure and accurate scoring taking the win in front of the home crowd. We'd kept our finals hopes alive and the Tasmanian crowd couldn't be more excited.

With one game to go locked at 1-1 a piece, the JackJumpers once again travelled across Bass Straight to take on Melbourne at Quodos Arena. While the game was in Melbourne there was masses of green in the crowd, with the JackJumpers fans the noisiest in the house. What was a very tight game throughout saw the JackJumpers break away in the last 5 minutes. Melbourne missed some vital opportunities with inaccurate shooting and all we had to do was defend for the last few minutes.

When the buzzer went off, we had done the impossible - we'd knocked the reigning champs out of the grand final series in front of their home crowd. This was a first year team, who's line up had been maligned by the media, ranked dead last, yet we'd now made it all the way to the grand final against Sydney!

For the Tasmanian fans it meant at least one more game in front of their home crowd - in what is a best of 5 series.

How does the JackJumpers Cinderella story end?

The JackJumpers are off to Sydney for the first of the grand final games on Friday the 6th of May, followed by a home game on Sunday the 8th. After that, they'll be back to Sydney for a game on the 11th.

If all goes amazingly well, we'd lock up the series with all three wins! The most likely outcome is that Sydney and Tasmania split some wins early so the series is forced to at least 4 games. As Tasmanian's we'll be hoping for that as it will mean 2 more home games, as opposed to just the 1.

Regardless of what happens and who takes out the title we know any more home games will play to a completely packed stadium with 5,000 JackJumpers fans screaming the house down to see their beloved team play. As a founding partner who have played an instrumental role in building the health and fitness of players, the team at Bulk Nutrients can't be more proud.

We look forward to supporting the JackJumpers into the future and continuing to build a strong sports base in Tasmania for years to come.

Tasmanian JackJumpers bring it in

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