BY any measure basketball is the second largest team sport in the world.
Most research suggests basketball is the second-largest participation sport in the world behind soccer for those playing in organised competitions.
There are legitimate claims in cricket circles that millions are playing the game in India who are not included statistically as they do not play in organised competitions.
However, the same could be said for a large number of Americans playing basketball in non-registered games in the USA.
According to global exposure experts, basketball is again second to soccer and also in popularity rankings that are extremely subjective and need to be consumed lightly.
Interestingly basketball is still second (212 countries), this time to volleyball (218 countries), in the list of national federations for each respective sport (2015 figures).
The basketball community cannot wait for this amazing development to be completed
No matter where you look, basketball is the second-ranked team sport in the world and those figures are also true for Australian children. AusPlay data lists basketball as the second most popular team sport of choice for children aged 6-13 and 14+.
In the Hunter Region, and throughout the majority of NSW, basketball is more like a second-class citizen than the second largest participation sport in the country.
To give you an idea of the great divide in this state, there are 53,000 registered soccer players under the Northern NSW banner alone and only 60,000 registered basketball players in the whole of NSW.
Victoria is clearly the biggest base for basketball in this country with more than 450,000 registered players. Newcastle Basketball has almost doubled in size over the last three to four years to reach 3500 members while several Victorian associations have in excess of 10,000 members.
Newcastle Basketball is in the process of changing that. Aussie Hoops is the entry level program for basketball in Australia and Newcastle is the No.1 provider of this program in NSW. Continuing our targeted approach to get more kids off their devices and into organised team sport, we are also at the forefront of providing basketball in schools. In 2017 Newcastle Basketball was the No.1 ranked provider in Australia and we slipped back to No.2 in the country last year.
This all makes for good reading and something to talk about at conferences but the real measure of basketball in this region is about to begin.
It is anticipated our association will reach 5000 members within six months of our $25 million stadium opening its doors at Hillsborough in 2021 and will only gather momentum from there.
The basketball community cannot wait for this amazing development to be completed so they can leave behind the dilapidated remains of Broadmeadow.
The current stadium was opened in 1969 and is well past its effective operational life with only two of the six courts meeting standard size requirements.
The main court can no longer host national or international matches because of the court specifications, the roof is almost rusted through and the facilities are archaic.
Despite this Newcastle has been able to achieve some outstanding results in the representative arena over the last five years with several junior and senior state titles.
Nothing will compare to the complete dominance of the 1960s when Newcastle won four consecutive women's state titles and the men claimed nine championships in 11 years. These championship banners will all hang proudly in the new stadium that we are hoping to complete in 2021.
We also want to open a new chapter in the decorated history of Newcastle Basketball by entering a team in the Women's National Basketball League (WNBL).
Newcastle has never had a team in the WNBL and we will continue talks with Basketball Australia about their expansion plans in the likelihood they will include a Newcastle-based team.
The state government are to be commended for making such a significant investment in sport in this region and Lake Macquarie City Council have been incredibly supportive. When completed the new stadium will inject almost $10 million annually into the region's tourism industry which is great news for Lake Macquarie and the broader Hunter Region. There will be construction jobs and additional full-time and casual positions created when the new stadium is complete.
Perhaps the great contribution this project will deliver to the region is better physical, mental and educational outcomes for children. We want to deliver to the community a place that will allow children from every socio-economic background the same opportunity to benefit from the many rewards team sport brings.