The Awards night. It’s a time-honoured sporting tradition. Athletes, Coaches, Administrators and officials get dressed up, share a meal, maybe a drink or two and celebrate all the hard work that goes into a season. And, recognise those who’ve been outstanding performers. Rugby has the John Eales Medal, Cricket has the Allan Border Medal, AFL has the Brownlow Medal (I think you get the point).
The WNBL, on the other hand, decided that it would not hold an awards night in 2019/20 season. Instead, it would recognise award winners at press conferences and prior to the beginning of the finals. This stance led to one of the more bizarre press conferences announcing Kia Nurse as the leagues MVP. You can watch the video below but in it, you’ll see 2018/19 MVP somewhat awkwardly announcing and congratulating Kia (the first import to win the award) on her new title. Even more bizarrely, Nurse was not presented with a trophy or a medal (as is league tradition). According to a report in the Canberra Times the medal had been posted to the Basketball Australia Offices in Canberra (Located at the AIS). However, at the time of the press conference, it had yet to arrive. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether Nurse has received her physical award.
Athletes, fans and officials took to Twitter to voice their displeasure at the cancellation of the awards. This backlash led to former WNBL MVP Lauren Jackson (Head of the WNBL) to take to Twitter and defend the league’s decision. However, rather abruptly, changed her stance and tweeted the below.
We are having an event but we are doing when it is the most convenient for everyone –
— Lauren Jackson AO OLY (@laurenej15) February 15, 2020
In the same Canberra Times report, Jackon was unable to provide any details on the event.
Jackson and the WNBL then followed up with this statement. I won’t go into too much detail however it states that the decision to no hold an awards night was largely due to:
- Players heading off overseas after the season
- So that award winners could be recognized appropriately, in front of their fans and on TV
- To maximise media exposure
All of these reasons are perfectly reasonable and had that been expressed to the athletes and the fans perhaps there would have been such a huge backlash.
Then on Monday around 4.50 pm, without warning the WNBL released this article on its blog. Naming each of the remaining award winners all at once. I would like to congratulate each and every one of these women on their accomplishments this season, each and every one of them belongs on this list. However, I can help but feel releasing the list all at once late on a Monday afternoon without informing the media, has done them a disservice. Additionally, by releasing the list all at once actually minimises the opportunity for media exposure.
Yep, and it came through too late to make the deadline for our bulletin.
— Caitlyn Chalmers (@caitlynchalmers) February 17, 2020
It’s just a little disappointing. It’s taken some of the sheen off of what has been an otherwise brilliant WNBL season.