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10-Year Anniversary: Commonwealth Games

Today marks the 10-year anniversary since the Boomers won their first Gold Medal at a major tournament - and it happened in Australia’s own backyard. In 2006, basketball was featured in the Commonwealth Games for the very first time in Melbourne, and it will reappear at the next Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in 2018. All 12 players that represented their country on Friday 24 March had just completed an NBL season – that ended with the Melbourne Tigers sweeping the Sydney Kings in three Grand Final games. Despite falling short of the Championship, Mark Worthington had an incredible debut with the Sydney Kings and was named the 2006 NBL Rookie of the Year. “Wortho” is the only remaining player from the historic team, and he remembers the momentous occasion fondly. “It was very exciting. I guess my initial memory was the opening ceremony and walking out on the MCG. Traditionally the host nation walks out last and the Boomers were at the very end of the Australian contingent so we were at the very back coming in,” he recalled. “All the pop and fizz of the crowd cheering as you walked out had sort of died by that point, but I just remember walking around and being amazed at what the MCG looked like from ground level looking up. “And of course, it turned out to be the start of a really memorable tournament for all of us.” It was no surprise that Australia would end up facing New Zealand in the Gold Medal match and true to form, both sides came into the final game with perfect 7-0 records through the preliminary rounds. In what turned out to be a thrilling contest, the Boomers came from behind to win the Gold Medal 81-76 in one of the best games ever played between the trans-Tasman rivals. “The memories that stick out for me is Luke Kendall sticking a three, and then we got a steal and hit another three straight away. That completely changed the momentum of the game.” Worthington scored 14 points off the bench in a solid tournament that saw him average a valuable 10.8 points per game. His teammate Kendall topped the scoring that day with 17, while Pero Cameron led the Tall Blacks in scoring with a game-high 22 points. “Anytime you win a Gold Medal no matter what the competition is, is great. And to do it in your home country in front of a home crowd is even better. “To win the Gold Medal against the Tall Blacks team that is always well coached and very disciplined was very special. They were up for most of the game.” While Worthington’s NBL career has not yet come to an end, he is already beginning to prepare for life on the other side of the white line. Next month he officially begins his coaching career by becoming head coach of the Cairns Dolphins women’s team in the Queensland Basketball League. “Coaching is the next step in my career after I’ve finished playing and I’m pretty excited about the year ahead and just seeing where we can get to.” Worthington is so keen to to get his post-playing career off to a strong start he went straight to the States following the conclusion of the 2015/16 NBL season, to study some quality coaches and programs. “I went over there to learn a bit as a coach and to go watch some college basketball. I always had the intention of meeting up with some of the coaches to learn as much as I could. “I went to Loyola-Marymount and also to the University of Arizona. “But I also got to see the Gonzaga vs St Mary’s final for the West Coast Conference and the entire Pac-12 tournament.” Worthington will make his debut as head coach for the Dolphins in Mackay on April 30.

2006 Commonwealth Games Gold Medal Team

CJ Bruton Brad Davidson Russell Hinder Jacob Holmes Luke Kendall Sam Mackinnon Neil Mottram Brad Newley Paul Rogers Tony Ronaldson Jason Smith Mark Worthington Head Coach: Brian Goorjian

Image courtesy of Lisa McGinnigle/Basketball Australia.
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