On 22 November 2002, a 43 member touring party left Sydney for a 19-day tour of China, which included stops in Beijing, Shanghai, Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, Nanjing, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. The touring party consisted of a men’s veterans team, and youth women’s and men’s teams.
The veteran’s team participated in the 18th World Basketball Invitational for Chinese, which was held in Yangzhou, in Jiangshu Province, between 27 November and 1 December 2002. Yangzhou city has a population of over 9 million and a history dating back to the 4th Century BC. Today, the city is famous for its Yangzhou fried rice, and the fact that it is the birthplace of the former President of China Jiang Zemin who was the leader of the Republic between 1993 and 2002.
Whilst the veteran’s team did not manage to win the tournament, the goal of the members of the team is to participate in the game they love, and along the way to make new friends from different countries around the world. Friendships were also renewed from previous tournaments.
The youth teams played eight exhibition games each during the tour against the city, or university representative teams. The local teams were of a very high standard – some of the teams were semi-professional, and practiced no less then five days out of seven each week – and provided our youth teams with a physical style which was reflective of how important the game is to the Chinese. Whilst both ACBA teams returned with a losing percentage from their eight games, both were able to show the traditional Australian tradition of giving it all they had during each game.
Playing in front of crowds of more than 3,000 in some cities, the players provided the locals with the highlight of the week, and it was not unusual for the local boys and girls to approach the members of the youth teams to ask for their autograph. For young referee Robyn Plunkett, the experience was even more meaningful as she learnt to interact with local referees during games, and how to handle herself during close games before a vocal, and very patriotic local crowd, who had all come to watch their hometown team teach ACBA a lesson in basketball.
Whilst basketball is the main reason for the tour, some timeout was also taken to take in the major tourist sights in each city. During this tour, the tour stopped at Tiananmen Square, The Great Wall of China, and several historic temples, whilst also finding time to enjoy a night cruise along the main river in Guangzhou.
All members of the tour have enjoyed the experience and have come back with unforgettable memories, as well as developing their game against players of a high standard.