Home Australia Tasmanians daring to dream as JackJumpers on brink of basketball history

Tasmanians daring to dream as JackJumpers on brink of basketball history

0 comment
A basketball player talks to the media off camera.

It was the shot that league legends, experts, fans and even some players have called the greatest in National Basketball League history.

But Jack McVeigh’s astonishing half-court Hail Mary, which sent the Tasmanian JackJumpers into a potential decider against Melbourne United, will be quickly forgotten if his team fails to “get the job done”, according to the man himself.

Jack McVeigh says he’s watched some replays of his shot to “see the reaction of the guys on the bench” and the fans.(ABC News: Jake Grant)

“I’ve gotten messages from people I haven’t talked to in 10 or 15 years and it’s been amazing,” McVeigh said.

“I’m grateful, but it’s been strange because the shot is irrelevant if we don’t do the job.”

McVeigh says he’s only watched replays of the shot a handful of times, and instead of focusing on the miracle, his eyes wandered to the reactions of his teammates and the crowd when the ball hit the bottom of the basket.

“My phone has pretty much been on silent and thrown under my bed,” he said.

“The night I did it I saw him several times, checking the reaction of the guys on the bench, the reactions of the crowd, laughing at Mags (Will Magnay) and Drim (Anthony Drmic) on the bench and him running to take my head off, just enjoying those little moments.”

The 35-footer, superbly assisted by Milton Doyle in the dying breaths of Sunday’s Game 3, will be etched in Australian basketball folklore if the JackJumpers win one of their next two games to claim an impressive inaugural title.

A basketball player talking to the media off camera.

Captain Clint Steindl has backed McVeigh’s decision to shoot, rather than try to advance the ball.(ABC News: Jake Grant)

Captain Clint Steindl says McVeigh’s decision to take the shot, rather than advance the ball or attempt a higher percentage of play, was the right decision.

“You have to make decisions on the fly,” he said.

“Jack made a decision. He’s done it before. I think everyone knew Jack was going to film at some point, and I think looking at it now, it’s like ‘good decision, Jack.'”

The rest is history.

Loading Instagram content

Coach Scott Roth echoed McVeigh’s sentiments that the shot will result in little more than a “what if?” if Tasmania fail to clinch the title, whether that happens at home or in Melbourne on Sunday.

“It hasn’t been talked about at all. It’s just one of those things, it’s a great moment, but it doesn’t really make sense at the end of the day,” Roth said.

“If we don’t win a championship, the shot won’t mean anything.”

Roth’s predilection for cigars and nachos is well known, but ahead of tomorrow night’s potential decider, he is keeping his lid tightly shut on any championship talk.

“For us it’s just another Thursday night game. It’s officially the last home game for us and we want to play well at home,” he said.

A coach talks to the media off screen.

Coach Scott Roth says he and the team are treating tonight’s final like just another game.(ABC News: Jake Grant)

Steindl hopes the pace of the series continues uninterrupted, with a physical fight against Melbourne United and the championship being decided by inches.

“It’s extremely physical. Guys attack the basket. After the game, you can see how physical it has been,” he said.

“It’s just two bulls facing this. It’s going to be crazy.”

“If you can create two, three extra possessions that can change a game and turn it into four, five or six points, the most important thing is work rate.”

A basketball player about to drop a basketball into a rack on an indoor court.

Jack McVeigh practicing at the Kingborough Sports Center in Kingston.(ABC News: Jake Grant)

For McVeigh, the extra attention won’t disrupt his usual pregame routine.

He will turn to an unlikely ally for motivation before tonight’s battle.

“I’m currently working on the Lord of the Rings series, listening to it, so I’ve been enjoying it. So Aragorn has been cheering me on as we move towards a championship,” he said.

Growing pains as history calls

The JackJumpers like to evoke the spirit of the underdog, but make no mistake, the club has gone from a fledgling start to a competitive giant in just 3 seasons.

On Tuesday, Thursday night’s Game 4 sold out in just 10 minutes, marking the 49th consecutive sold-out home game for the club, dating back to the team’s first game in October 2021.

Fans on court during Tasmania JackJumpers basketball game.

Fans on the pitch during a Tasmanian JackJumpers match.(ABC News: Luke Bowden )

The JackJumpers are supported by $2 million per season through sponsorship from the Tasmanian Government, have strong corporate and community support and have been able to tap into the imagination of an entire state of people.

“My job was to connect the state, from top to bottom, which they said couldn’t be done,” Coach Roth said.

“They said if you went north of Launceston you had to drink Boags beer, and if you went south of there you had to drink Cascade.

“‘Defend the Island’ has now become a motto not only for basketball, but also for work, things like youth groups and something to be proud of representing this state.”

Tasmania-themed mural with JackJumpers graffiti on the side of a building.

A JackJumpers mural in Hobart, with the words “JUST ONE MORE”, painted before tonight’s game.(ABC News: Jake Grant)

The club’s off-field operation has translated into slick on-field production, with three consecutive finals appearances seeing demand for seats at an all-time high.

This led league chief executive David Stevenson to label Tasmania “the most successful expansion club in any sport”, while last week league and club owner Larry Kestelman told ABC Sport that it expected a review of the 5,000-seat MyState Bank Arena to take place. to determine the steps to follow for a possible expansion.

“We have 3,500 people who have paid for potential membership. The bad news is that unless someone passes away, there won’t be any free seats. We need to expand it,” he said.

An expanded arena, along with a planned $15 million high-performance facility, as well as a shiny new trophy in the cabinet, could take Tasmania from a minor market upstart to the NBL’s destination club.

Yellow and green shoes with the JackJumpers logo painted on them.

Custom JackJumper shoes by Simon Hall.(ABC News: Jake Grant)

Superfan enthusiasm for team success

Another hallmark of the club has been the acceptance of local basketball fans and the emergence of JackJumper superfans like Hobart resident Simon Hall.

Simon Hall holding custom painted shoes.

Tasmanian JackJumpers superfan Simon Hall.(ABC News: Jake Grant)

Hall, a passionate old-time Devils fan, was so desperate to attend the JackJumpers home opener that he and his partner rescheduled the birth of their second child to ensure they would be there.

“The JackJumpers staff still laughs and says, ‘I can’t believe you scheduled the birth around the game,’ but you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Three years later, young Spencer is truly indoctrinated.

A young man holds a basketball.

Spencer, Simon Hall’s son.(ABC News: Jake Grant)

Hall, who owns custom cleats, season tickets to the court and has vowed to get a championship tattoo, says the team has taught him to “believe” again.

“I was a fan when the Devils were here in Tassie and I’ve been involved in basketball all this time since then. It’s made me believe again that basketball is the best sport in the world.

“It has made me very happy”

The Tasmanian JackJumpers play Melbourne United in Game 4 of the NBL Championship series in Hobart starting at 7:30 tonight, with a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 series.

The fifth game, if necessary, will be played in Melbourne on Sunday.


You may also like