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Remember When: Launceston won Tassie’s first title

02 Apr
4 mins read
The JackJumpers have brought NBL silverware to Tasmania, but they're not the first team to taste the ultimate glory.

The Tasmania JackJumpers have officially been crowned as the NBL24 title winners, and while the championship success may be the first tasted by the club, it’s not the first tasted by the state.

Tasmania already had a storied history in the NBL prior to the addition of the JackJumpers in NBL22. The Hobart Devils had spent over a decade in the competition throughout the golden era of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but never made an appearance in the Finals, let alone won a title.

The state’s first NBL success was tasted all the way back in 1981, when Launceston Casino City dominated the Nunawading Spectres by 21 points in the single-game Grand Final.

Launceston was the second side in history to be named NBL champions following St Kilda’s back-to-back triumphs in 1979 and 1980, but just two years after its title triumph, the club was out of the NBL.

1981 Launceston001 (1)
Launceston's 1981 title-winning team.

St Kilda looked like near certainties to establish a three-peat of titles in the NBL’s first three years of competition, following its top of the ladder finish in the 1981 regular season. The Saints ended the season with a 17-5 record, while Launceston finished second with 14 wins and eight losses for the season.

The Saints decided to forgo its chance at a three-peat to compete in the 1981 Club World Cup, where they eventually finished sixth behind winners Real Madrid (Spain), Sirio (Brazil), Clemson (USA), Atletica Francana (Brazil) and Ferro Carril Oeste (Argentina).

This meant the Saints’ Finals spot went to the fifth-placed Brisbane Bullets, and Launceston entered the post-season as the competition’s top seed.

The 1981 Finals series consisted of single-game semi-finals and a single-game Grand Final, and the Bullets almost pulled off a monumental upset in their final four clash with Launceston.

A 24-year-old Leroy Loggins in his first season with the club starred with 31 points for Brisbane, but Launceston held on for a two-point win at the Apollo Entertainment Centre, off the back of 23 points from Jim Ericksen and 18 points from former All-NBL First Team nominee Ian Davies.

A Rob Mayberry-led Spectres side defeated NBL legend Al Green’s West Adelaide Bearcats by three points to set up a Grand Final meeting between the two sides.

Both teams were contesting their first ever Grand Final in 1981, but Launceston dominated Nunawading to become the first ever Tasmanian side to win a championship in an Australian national sporting league.

Just like in the semi-final, Ian Davies added 18 points in the decider, however this time it was Cliff Martin who top scored in the win with 25 of his side’s 54 points.

Mayberry added 16 points for a Spectres side that also contained the likes of future NBL legends Brendan Joyce and Damian Keogh, but they couldn’t inspire Nunawading to a maiden NBL title.

The legend of Launceston’s title win has only grown with the advent of the JackJumpers, and the long-lost championship pennant only recently resurfaced, and now hangs proudly in Launceston’s Silverdome – which is a venue the JackJumpers play some of their home games at during the regular season.

Dean Draper was a member of that Launceston title-winning side, and he told The Mercury about the mysterious flag.

“It hung on the wall of the old Dowling St courts and when they renovated down there it just got packed up and nobody knew what really happened with it,” he said.

“It seemed it just got put into a box by one of the contractors, got thrown in a garage and a couple of years ago someone was tidying up and found it.

“It’s lucky it’s around again and it will be great to see it hanging up again.

“It (1981) championship was one of those unbelievable things that will never happen again, not in Launceston at least anyway.”

Getty Images 1457312886
Tasmania and South East Melbourne clash at the Silverdome in 2023. The red 1981 championship pennant can be seen towards the top of the image.


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