You’d think that all that hard work would be rewarded with a trophy -“ maybe a nice piece of Waterford crystal. However, the only recognition for the Sydney Spectre’s outstanding season efforts was a runners-up mug, a mug just like the ones you can buy in the supermarket. No matter -“ it could have been a solid silver platter or a crystal bowl and it wouldn’t have made the team spirit any bigger.

Jaye Mitchell founded Sydney Spectres gay basketball club about four years ago, and the team competed at the Sydney 2002 Gay Games. Since then the Spectres have grown to include four registered teams. The club includes Tim, whose claims to fame are that he is straight and also the best point scorer. His team-mates are keen to catch his point score but don’t mind the straight bit, as it fits with the scene they play in. They’ve also got Trevor, an ex-Australian representative player. TJ is the youngest at 16 and the oldest is Kevin at 46. Kevin gets called Nanna by his team-mates and the opposition. In this environment that’s real progress.

At the Gay Games, the Spectres beat the French and the Germans but succumbed to the might of the Americans. Last year the women’s team made the finals in its division, this year the semis. In 2005 two Spectres men’s teams made the finals, no small effort. This was not a cosy low-grade league they were playing in; this was the City of Sydney Basketball Association, Sydney’s top amateur league and full of very serious players very serious about winning. Gays and lesbians open about their sexuality were not always what this league wanted to see but the Spectres saw the scene as just another obstacle to proving how good they were.

The women were disappointed not to be playing in the final. Like the men they had survived fourteen weeks of round robin competition to be one of the four teams in the finals rounds, only to be knocked out in the semis the week before. But here they were, showing club spirit and supporting the men’s team. Division Four men played the Knights, a very professional-looking team with sponsorship logos all over their gear. The Spectres’ Division Three men were playing Nadds, a team made up of mainly security guards and bouncers. It all seemed a pretty tough ask. Sadly, both the Spectres’ teams were beaten, but it didn’t seem to dull the enthusiasm. Every player got a mug. As Brian, who started playing basketball when he was six, said, When we started three years ago we were crap. Now look at us, in the finals, out and proud.

Next season, Spectres will be out to win again in this no-holds-barred Sydney competition. They aim to send at least one team to the Gay Games in Chicago in 2006. They train at the Dulwich High School in Seaview Street at 6:15pm on Mondays. Anyone interested in joining this world of dunks, rebounds and blocked shots should visit the club website or send an email to [email protected] or just rock up for training. Maybe next year the mugs will say Winner. And you never know, if our community can make even more inroads into the sport, we may be able to add a bit more style to the trophies.

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