Just months after being crowned SEABL champions, the Hobart Chargers basketball team have suspended operations — the shock announcement coming in an extraordinary spray at the competition's governing body by a tearful club president, former Tasmanian premier David Bartlett.
Bartlett — who was the Labor premier of Tasmania between May 2008 until January 2011 — said the club would not take floor in 2019 after a falling out with Basketball Tasmania over the conditions of entry into the new Victorian Elite League.
In an emotional press conference, Bartlett told parents of young fans that "when the kids at Christmas ask who killed Rex the Rhino [club mascot], tell them it was Basketball Tasmania grinch".
"It's over, it's dead, it's buried, and it's all down to the peak body of the sport we are trying to inspire kids to play."
Basketball Tasmania wants the state's three top-tier basketball clubs to affiliate under its banner as a requirement for entering the league, which is set to replace the South East Australian Basketball League, which disbanded this year.
But Bartlett is adamant that by affiliating, the Chargers' status as a standalone club will be stripped, and would lose control over the handling of its revenue and junior programs.
Bartlett said Basketball Tasmania had "effectively asked us to break the law to ensure they get control of assets, to ensure they get control of all the inspirational work we've been doing, and we're just not prepared to let that happen".
"At best that's naive, at worst it's pure evil."
Through tears, Bartlett said the blood of the Chargers was "on the hands" of Basketball Tasmania, and that "someone should be blamed for it".
"I'm deeply and desperately sad for our volunteers, for our families, and this is a destructive and terrible thing that's happened to the Chargers."
While the Chargers best men's players will likely join the Southern Huskies in the New Zealand NBL, the Chargers' decision to withdraw will have dire consequences for southern Tasmania's best women's players who will have to play elsewhere.
Sport's peak body fires back
But Basketball Tasmania chief executive Chris McCoy said he took no responsibility for the Chargers' decision to cease operations for 12 months.
"I'm disappointed, but certainly don't take direct responsibility," he said.
"I think we've acted very appropriately in what's best for basketball. What's best for the Hobart Chargers is quite different."
In the memorandum of understanding for entry to the new league, Basketball Tasmania requested clubs pay the travel costs of referees and instructed clubs they were not permitted to run development programs or academies for players under the age of 18.
It also requested "financial visibility" over the clubs, with clubs given 12 months to sign up.
"Our SEABL clubs have had a history of financial difficulty over the past 20 years, and we think it's wise if we all work together over the next 12 months to have some visibility over their finances," McCoy said.
The state's two other top-tier clubs — Launceston Tornadoes and North West Thunder — have also been required to sign the MOU but are yet to do so.
Hobart player hopes dashed
Hobart resident Bridget Vandekamp, whose daughter is a keen basketballer, expressed her dismay over the news of the Chargers' bowing out, with the only option being Launceston, 200 kilometres away.
"Who wants to tell my daughter that the pathways to playing high-level basketball in southern Tasmania just got less for her?" Ms Vandekamp posted on social media.
"It already costs us a fortune to facilitate basketball pathways for her. We have spent $12,000 in 12 months on her training, trips, uniforms and fees."
She said her family, who "are about to spend our fourth weekend in a row in Launceston for basketball" would need to consider moving to Launceston "or interstate it seems".
"Now I wonder why we do what we do, if there is nothing for her to aspire to."