1983 | Height Is No Worry For Gaze

Published on: May 31 2018
Author: FDBA

The below is a flash back piece from Boti Nagy website. Its a feature piece, part of the National Basketball League’s (NBL) 1983 Media Guide about Frankston Blues, then called SABA Bears, SABA being the naming rights sponsor.


SABA BEARS coach Tony Gaze has scoffed at sceptics who claim his team is too small to be a success in the NBL.

Although he has refrained from rash predictions about the Bears winning the NBL title or even getting as far as the playoffs – he’s a very conservative sort of bloke about things like that – Gaze is confident his team will win more games than they lose.

“I don’t go along with people who reckon our team is too small for the NBL,” Gaze said.

“They said it in 1981 and we were runners-up to Geelong for the South East Conference title. They said it again last year and we won the SEC.

“Sure we’re small compared to some of the teams but we’re also quick and a good shooting side.

“By the time the season comes around we plan to be so fit that we’ll run the legs off the giants in the  teams we play.

“But don’t get me wrong. I realise the NBL is a very tough league to play in. Every game will be hard.

“I have always believed that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And that’s the Saba Bears to a tee.”

Although he has never coached an NBL team before, Gaze’s ability as a leader and his knowledge of the game is beyond question.

For years he and his brother Lindsay, the national coach, played for Church Tigers in an era when the Tigers were the outstanding club in Victoria, if not Australia.

Tony had great success as a coach in women’s basketball and won nine State titles with the original Comets including four in a row (1963-66) and seven in eight years (1959-61 and ’63-66).

He also coached the national team that went to the 1967 World Championship in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1971 Gaze made his first appearance on the coaching scene in men’s basketball.

His team, Dandenong Rangers, finished sixth of nine teams in the Victorian Championship that year but possessed the season’s leading scorer in American George White who averaged 26.1 points per game.

Gaze coached the Rangers for eight seasons during which he produced and cultivated some outstanding talent including Peter Lawler, George Jolly, Michael Tucker, Mel Dalgleish, Rod Hind, Rocky Naughton and Paul Davis.

Tucker and Dalgleish went on to play for Australia.

Tucker led the State championship scoring in 1975 with an average of 16.8 points per game. He outscored many fine shooters for that honor including St Kilda’s David Lindstrom and Tony Barnett, Melbourne’s Doug Dodge, Ray Tomlinson and Bruce Case, Nunawading’s Brian Bestul and CYMS’s Gary Fox.

The Rangers’ best year under Gaze was in 1976 when they finished in fifth place in both the 1976 State championship and the Australian Club Championship in Sydney. Their record was 17-7, with one game drawn.

Tony left the Rangers after 1978 and offered his services to the young Frankston and District Association which until then had only played in country competitions.

He was given a readymade first division team when most of Dandenong’s senior players decided to follow their coach to Frankston.

After a modest start, the Frankston Bears went from strength to strength. They finished seventh in the State championships in 1979 and 1980, climbed to fifth in 1981 and fourth in 1982 after sharing top position with Nunawading at the end of the regular season.

Their overall win-loss record in the four State championships is 40-37 with one draw but their 48-8 in the SEC is even better.

On their way to playing in the SEC and Victorian championships, the Bears picked up the last two VBA summer season titles.

The Bears have worked hard to get where they are today and owe their success to their ability to play together as a team rather than to the individual brilliance of the players.

However every successful team must have one player who stands out above the rest and in the Bears’ case that player is superguard Wayne Burden.

Originally from North Carolina, Burden fell in love with Australia when he toured this country with Chico State in 1979. It wasn’t long before Burden was back here wearing a Bear uniform.

His scoring statistics are really remarkable. In 3 and a half seasons in the State championships and two in the SEC, Burden has shot a total of 2,330 points at an average of 25.6 ppg.

He holds all of his club’s scoring records including the high-game of 44 points against Lithgow last year.

A serious knee injury which resulted in cartilage surgery in 1980 threatened to end Burden’s basketball future but he bounced back even better than before the following season.

Last year he won the Bears’ MVP award and was runner-up to Chelsea guard Brad Bainter for the Ken Watson Trophy awarded by the VBA.

One of the reasons Burden has been so successful with the Bears is the fact he has good players around him to relieve a lot of the pressure.

Players like Mel Dalgleish, Mark Gaze and David Leslie could get court time with any other NBL side.

Dalgleish and Gaze were members of the national team that won fifth place at the 1982 World Championship in Colombia. Mel has been in every national team since the 1978 World Championship in Manila but Mark is a comparative newcomer to the international scene.

He made his international debut in senior basketball at the 1981 Oceania Series in New Zealand although he had been to Brazil with the Australian Under-20 team before that.

The Bears are lucky in that they have a deep well of talent. In 19-year-old Steve Davis, for instance, they have a centre-forward who may one day play for Australia.

Steve’s brother Paul is a handy forward who has won quite a few games with his ability to hit clutch shots. He and guard Ian Stacker alternated on being the first player to come off the bench last season.

Peter Ioannou and Wim Broekhoff saw more action with the Bears’ second division team than they did in the SEC or State championship last season but their games improved as the season wore on.

The Bears’ 38-7 overall record in the 1982 Victorian championship and the SEC was the best in Australia.

The club announced it was changing its name from Frankston Bears to Saba Bears after their major sponsor, Saba Furniture Expo handed them a package deal worth $150,000 spread over five years.

The Bears’ new uniform of blue, white and yellow will carry the insignia of Saba and also that of Nautilus, Melbourne’s pacesetter in the field of physical fitness.

Bears Playing Roster

Wim Broekhoff  195cm  Forward
Wayne Burden  188cm  Guard
Mel Dalgleish  198cm  Forward
Paul Davis   194cm  Forward
Steve Davis  198cm   Centre/Forward
Mike Dyslin   194cm Forward
Mark Gaze   182cm  Guard
Peter Ioannou  200cm  Centre
David Leslie   191cm  Forward/Guard
Rocky Naughton  195cm  Forward/Centre
Ian Stacker  181cm Guard
Coach: Tony Gaze
Team Manager: Graham Burke

Playing Venue: The Bears’ Den, Bardia St, Frankston

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