MANILA, Philippines – The chief executive of Basketball Australia on Tuesday disputed the claims of the Philippine team that the Boomers triggered the brawl at the Philippine Arena with their actions during the pre-game warm-ups.
The FIBA World Cup Asian qualifier, which Australia won by default 89-53, devolved into a melee with four minutes left in the third quarter. A hard foul by Roger Pogoy on Chris Goulding was apparently the spark, as Australia’s Daniel Kickert retaliated by decking the Filipino swingman.
From then on, the situation escalated as Gilas players swarmed the court, with Jayson Castro, Andray Blatche, and Calvin Abueva all getting their punches in. Matthew Wright chased an Australian player all the way to the other end of the court. Even those who were not activated for the game, such as Allein Maliksi and Jiovani Jalalon, got involved.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes claimed after the contest that Australia’s Kickert had sparked the brawl by hitting the Filipinos during warm-ups, while Cong. Robbie Puno, the vice-chairman of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, also noted that Goulding had been taunting all the Gilas players.
“We already restrained the players before the game, we already told them, ‘huwag niyong pansinin,’” Reyes said. “But after what he did in the third quarter, it’s hard to restrain them anymore.”
“Nakakita ka na ba ng kalaban na tumira sa warm-up? Sa lay-up line? Round-robin, hindi pa nag-uumpisa, pinagtitira na tayo. What do you expect us to do?” he added.
However, Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore on Tuesday refuted Reyes’ statement in a press conference.
“We heard the coaches' comments, the Filipino coach's comments in relation to incidents in the warm-up. We absolutely refute that. That's a conversation we had with team management. That's something that we absolutely don't believe occurred,” said Moore.
“That will come out as part of the tribunal process of FIBA,” he added.
Moore admits that Kickert’s actions – his blindside hit on Pogoy that triggered the entire brawl – is “a challenging one to defend.”
“It was unsavory act,” he acknowledged. “That’s something that will be addressed in FIBA’s review.”
There are speculations on social media that the brawl may have been orchestrated, as Reyes was heard during a timeout exhorting his players to “hit somebody, put somebody on his a**.” Moore was reluctant to jump to conclusions, however.
“I’ve seen media speculation about those comments, but to translate from a coach’s action to be physically aggressive in our sport to actually going and hitting and assaulting players… I thought that was a bit of a stretch,” he said.
However, Reyes’s comments will surely be brought up to FIBA as well, said Moore.
“It’s certainly something that we'll be waiting to see what FIBA says through their investigation and those types of comments,” he said.
Regardless of who started the brawl, there is no doubt that Basketball Australia’s reputation took a hit with Monday night’s incident, admits Moore.
“It’s a setback for us,” he said. “It’s a pretty dark day yesterday.”
“We need to work incredibly hard to repair our image,” Moore acknowledged.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.