Match Report 3: Hellratz vs The Doogs

Match Report 3: Hellratz vs The Doogs

The Doogs came to play.

From the south side of the river, this crew wouldn’t know an organic spinach leaf if it gently slapped them in the face, their parents cook with cubed rather than natural, home-rendered liquid stock, and some of them are even subjected to pasteurised rather than the more gut-friendly cold-pressed milk. In short, they were hungry, tough and high on lactose. A force to be reckoned with.

Led by their talismanic captain, number 80 with his electric mop of blonde hair, The Doogs stifled the Hellratz flow. Known down south as Funk-Yellow, number 80 was everywhere in the first half; slapping, scratching, scoring, and the Ratz had few answers. The loyal Hellratz supporters could only marvel at Funk-Yellow‘s tenacity and commitment and wonder aloud how much more dominant he could have been had his hair not obscured 80% of his vision.

The Hellratz limped to half time with no notable highlights to report. The score was tied 10-10, a fact known to nobody but this reporter because apparently keeping score in an under 10s game leads to hyper-competitive play, sideline arguments and a diminishment of the purity of the game. That’s loser talk, but to avoid developing a ‘tiger parent’ reputation I still surreptitiously keep score on a tiny notepad while pretending to check my WhatsApps. Keeping score and checking WhatsApps mid-game are both scorn-worthy activities for a sideline parent in 2022, but on balance score-keeping is the greater evil.

Regardless, as the Ratz sat on the bench at half time sipping water and talking about Minecraft they knew they were in a battle. The Boss and The Prodigy knew it too and so attempted to motivate their warriors with a stirring half-time speech. As all great coaches do when their backs are against the wall, they reverted to defence, defence, defence. And scoring slightly more than their opponents. For the first time this season The Boss produced a mini whiteboard complete with basketball court line-markings. As her marker danced this way and that with arrows and xs and swirls and loops the boys looked impressed and bamboozled, and then bored.

Early in the third quarter, motivated by the halftime Minecraft chat, the momentum shifter came from an unexpected Ratz player – Smilez.

Funk-Yellow was deep in the paint, doing his thing; jab step, dribble, small travel, pump fake, small travel, jab step. Smilez, seeing an opportunity, lunged at the ball. With surprising strength Smilez latched on and wouldn’t relent as Funk-Yellow shook and lurched like a tethered crocodile. Smilez was eventually flung out of bounds, but not before the whistle had blown for a tie-up. Smilez sprang to his feet, smiling, and received the hugs of gratitude he deserved.

Well, that singular effort turned the tide. Perhaps simply due to an increased level of effort, but also perhaps because of the low GI white bread The Doogs had enjoyed for breakfast, the Hellratz found their shape and intensity in the second half. Back and forth we went, basket for basket, and in the last minute the score was locked at 20-20.

Nobody on the court, or on either bench was aware of this of course so there was no alteration in strategy, effort or vigour. As chance might have it the Hellratz were on offence; pivot, pivot, pivot, small travel, pass, air-ball, rebound, pivot, small travel. As the clock ticked below 10 seconds I, alone, was on the edge of my seat, beyond the edge even. The Baby-faced Assassin had the ball in his hands, on the baseline about 10 feet from the basket. Any advanced metrics would tell you that for such a game situation BFA with the ball in that pocket of the court is precisely what you want. The Boss could not have drawn it up better on her little basketball court whiteboard. And yet it appeared as if The Assassin was just going to let the clock run-out. But then, pulse maxing out at 57 bpm, BFA glanced up at the hoop, squared his feet and stroked the ball into the air. Front rim, backboard, net.

As the clock ticked down to zero, I stifled a fist pump so as not to give away my contraband score card then, as the players walked languidly off the court I etched two more to the Hellratz tally: 22-20. It was then that I looked up and briefly locked eyes with another dad who was doing the same. 22-20? I mouthed to him. He nodded wisely at me and we both went to congratulate our non-plussed children.

I glanced over at Funk-Yellow who looked exhausted and still unable to see much. I am sure he was thinking… if only my mum had eaten my dried placenta in powdered form straight after I was born in order to transfer those dense nutrients to me. Imagine the player I could have been…

Match Report 2: Hellratz vs Wyld Stallyns

Match Report 2: Hellratz vs Wyld Stallyns

The Hellratz started the match with 4 players, a classic Alpha move. In fact for a brief period there were more grandparents in attendance than players. Milo arrived 5th and so strolled directly into the starting 5 (after hugging his grandma).

Hellratz were without Stretch for this one, but with the Wyld Stallyns small, slashing line-ups the analytics probably would have pointed to extended rest for the lanky rim protector anyway. In his place we welcomed back Smilez, another junior member of the squad growing in confidence week by week. Don’t let the perpetual smile fool you, he is ready to do whatever is necessary to get a Hellratz W, including cuddling the opposition.

The most noteworthy aspect of the Stallyns unit in the early going was their coach. Some people might say his approach was somewhat more direct and forceful than is required for the world of under 10s basketball.. But those people would be losers. Coach Stallyn knows where he wants his squad to be and Coach Stallyn is prepared to make the aggressive, outlandish, arguably abusive public pronouncements required to get them there. Coach Stallyn was wearing red bike shorts under his other, also athletic shorts and a Woody Harrelson-esque tank top which suggested he had just come from his game, or was on his way there after dealing with the upstart Hellratz. Although I fear it was neither.

The Hellratz quickly established their groove, raining buckets on the Stallyns like there had been an explosion in a nearby bucket factory which caused many of those buckets to be flung into the air, only to shortly thereafter rain down on people standing around in the nearish vicinity.

Although I did not attend training this week in either a journalistic or ‘hanging around waiting for my son’ capacity, it is clear the theme of the week was pivot foot. One, two, sometimes seven times the Hellratz propped and pivoted, this way and that, flouting the three second rule, bamboozling the Stallyns. “Take it! Take the ball Keith!” Coach Stallyn would yell with increasing ferocity. But Keith could not take the ball. He slapped helplessly at air as Smoov and The Big Fundamental pivoted around, sometimes in a full circle, before making the perfect pass for The Magic Man or Pocket Lightning to finish in the lane.

Towards the end of the second half Milo found himself the recipient of one such pass; a crisp, wrist snapper from Smoov. In a classic example of Squircle Offence Milo was perfectly positioned somewhere towards the middle of the key with his back to the hoop.

He was wide. open.

In one smooth motion Milo spun around and caressed the ball into the air. Up, up it went with an atypical sideways rotation. The crowd gasped, Milo held his breath, Coach Stallyn yelled and then, just as it reached the climax of its journey, I am pretty sure the ball looked at me and winked before splashing through the twine.

Well, the roof of the stadium literally turned into confetti and tumbled down upon us all as the multiple grandmas roared in unison, the disgruntled siblings looked up from there ipads and smiled and even Coach Stallyn nodded with a you did good look of respect. The rest of the Ratz, intuitively understanding the gravity of the moment turned towards Milo and celebrated with him, The Big Fundamental even reaching down to give him a cuddle at the free throw line. Delightful stuff.

The second half saw the Stallyns increasingly ignore their coach’s carefully considered directives “Run! Make Space! Help him! Spread out! Run!”, and they did so to their detriment. Due to their lack of running, space making, helping, spreading and running the Hellratz ran riot. It must be said Milo missed several defensive assignments in the second half due to his skipping and double arm windmilling but he can be forgiven for this week only. He will need to quickly put that swish behind him and look to next week as the match-ups get tougher, and the coaching more nuanced.

One small postscript; in the dying stages, with the game well under control there was a moment of exasperation between The Baby Faced Assassin, not known for gesticulation or indignation, and Magic Man. Magic, dribbling at full speed on a fast break missed an opportunity to feed the ball to the Assassin for an easy lay-up and instead faded out of bounds and hurled the ball into the side of the backboard. Magic Man, to his credit, acknowledged his error, but this is something we will need to keep an eye on in coming days and months.

Final score, Hellratz 26 – Wyld Stallyns 10

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Match Report 1: Hellratz vs The Deadly Dojo

Match Report 1: Hellratz vs The Deadly Dojo

Welcome everybody to another season of Hellratz basketball. The team looks rested and feisty after a short break and ready to take on the challenges that await them in this shortened summer season. There’s no doubt the Hellratz surprised a lot of pundits during the long, arduous winter season, during which undershirts and in-game tracksuit pants abounded, but there will be no surprises this time around. Everybody knows what the Hellratz are about and the whole league will be out to knock them from their lofty perch.

Critically the front office has done a wonderful job of keeping the group together so we will be running it back as they say, with the same line-up that the loyal group of sideline-parents and disgruntled younger siblings in attendance against their will have come to know and love. By way of quick recap here is the unit on hand for round 1:

The Magic Man – Audacious, competitive. Never saw a shot he didn’t like, or couldn’t make.

The Big Fundamental – All foot-work and focus. Not afraid to put his body on the line for the Hellratz.

Baby-faced Assassin – Smoothest jump-shot in the comp. Heart rate oscillates between 55 and 57 bpm.

Smoov – Sideline parent favourite. Effective, unpredictable style. Hyper cool flowing hair.

Stretch – Intimidating length, calm and reliable. A feared inside presence.

Pocket Lightning – His age is a mystery. Legend has it not yet 5, but absolute electricity across the pine.

The Boss – Representative player and coach. She demands excellence and receives it.

The Prodigy – Assistant coach, mentor, hype-guy.

Milo – The protagonist of this story, and one of the junior squad members. Given the Hellratz rookie squad is under 10s Milo has a full 5 more seasons to compete at this level. He and Pocket Lightning are undoubtedly the future of this franchise and, pending injury and general disinterest, could form a special combination for years to come.

Match Report

Well, the Deadly Dojo looked sharp in the warmups. Despite their legendary focus and professionalism, the Hellratz couldn’t help but take an envious look down the court. Really nice Dikembe-era Hawks-like uniforms, and multiple flash haircuts including undercuts, mini-mullets and arguably even a squirt or two of hair gel. The Hellratz unis are mining-industry orange interspersed inexplicably with multiple shades of blue. Yuck.

Smoov aside (whose style is irrepressible), top to bottom utilitarian haircuts under the Hellratz hoop. Deadly Dojo won the early instagram battle.

Once the ball was tipped (or gently passed in from the sideline as is the practice of our times) it was clear there is to be no season 2 hangover for the Hellratz. The Magic Man took over early, relentlessly dribbling this way and that through the entire Deadly Dojo squad, launching high arching bombs from all corners, delivering his signature ‘come and get it’ hand-gesture celebration. The Baby-Face Assassin, looking passive and possibly asleep swished everything he touched, involved team-mates with crisp passing and suffocated his man on defence.

When he wasn’t comparing heights with Milo (he has grown a little in the off season) Pocket Lightning was everywhere, leaving little tracks of fire behind him as he burned around the court, stealing, dribbling and generally terrorising everybody. Pocket Lightning’s signature moment came in the period shortly after the half time siren had sounded. Deadly Dojo’s power forward had not heard the siren, was delighted to see a wide open lane appear in front of him and dribbled apace towards the hoop. Pocket Lightning, giving up three quarters of a body length in height, pursued and harassed him for 15 seconds, achieving a held-ball while everybody else had already sat down for half-time water and Minecraft chat.

Interestingly, not content to rest on their season 1 success, The Boss and The Prodigy have implemented two significant tactical amendments to the summer game plan. Firstly, in the half court the Hellratz have adopted the legendary 90s Bulls-era triangle offence. However, the structure has been astutely modified to better suit the Hellratz style of play. Rather than a triangle they form more of a flattened squircle around the three point line which moves and oozes this way and that until somebody decides to jack up a shot. Borderline unstoppable.

Secondly the Hellratz have taken on a straight line Uruk-hai inspired defence, with devastating effect. They form a straight line, spread out across the width of the the court just their side of half-way. There they lie in wait for the opposition to dribble tentatively forward. As soon as the poor ball handler crosses that half-way line there is no going back. The Hellratz descend, hollering and waving their arms around, and amidst the ordered chaos the ball-handler is overwhelmed, generally flinging it to The Magic Man or Pocket Lightning who finish things off at the other end. It is like a half-court trap with more terror, and may revolutionize basketball.

Well, the second half was more one way traffic. The Big Fundamental took over as he usually does when energy begins to flag and discipline evaporates. Fundamentals deliver in the 39th minute as they do in the 1st. Jump shot, lay-up, jump shot, including a beautiful swish from 15 feet into the opponent’s hoop. The Big Fundamental was somewhat dismayed by his oversight but he needn’t have been, it was yet another glorious display of technique and focus.

Any opportunities that the Deadly Dojo briefly identified in the second half were hunted down by the prowling pair of Stretch and Smoov, and snuffed out by superior length and athleticism.

A final note on our protagonist. It would appear Milo has de-prioritised tucking his arms inside his singlet for warmth this season and is starting to deliver on his significant potential as a feared defensive stopper. His focus and increased confidence were notable, involving himself with timely passing and smothering, demonic efforts on the defensive end. Milo scored two baskets in his debut season and is hungry for more this summer. Based on what we saw in game one, Milo would be a strong overs bet and the future is bright.

Final score, Hellratz 33Deadly Dojo 10

Which shows length and switchability on the wings will beat sweet haircuts and classy uniforms every day of the week.

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The 3 types of junior sport participants… and their parents

The 3 types of junior sport participants… and their parents

Our first two efforts at encouraging Milo into organised sport were not successful. First was soccer; he picked up the ball mid practice because I failed to brief him on that whole key tenet of soccer. Coach wrote him off as a trouble maker and the whole thing spiraled from there. I must accept my portion of blame for that. Second was karate; Milo waited until he had the sweet uniform then quit. Well played Milo.

Attempt number three is basketball and it seems to be going well so far. In Australia junior basketball is affectionately known as ‘Aussie Hoops’. This is entirely non-competitive, learning the rules and skills and hugging each other, and buying merch. Great.

Even within this benign environment I have already noted several categories of both participant and parent. This is what I have learned so far:


There are three types of participant, as follows:

Flossing Kid

The Flossing Kid is either flossing, or thinking about flossing, or chocolate milk, or comparing their height to the other kids, back-to-back. Basketball has occurred to the Flossing Kid zero times and he or she is the most likely person in the gym to cop a basketball to the ear. Flossing Kid does not seem to mind when this happens.

Cheaty Kid

Cheaty Kid has incorrectly deduced that the objective of each drill is speed. Cheaty Kid will carry the ball and run if he or she thinks the coach is not looking, Cheaty Kid cares not for the violation that is double dribble, and Cheaty Kid will slide gently ahead of other patient participants in the lay-up queue if they are distracted by Flossing Kid requesting a height comparison. Cheaty Kid would actually be pretty good at basketball if they focussed on the fundamentals.

Bewildered Kid

Each week Bewildered Kid seems genuinely surprised to be at Aussie Hoops. This is what Bewildered Kid’s eyes say “Oh, I have the ball. That’s interesting. Oh, do you want the ball? What’s that? Oh, I should… I should keep the ball? OK, I’ll keep the ball. OK we’re sitting down now. OK now I’m sitting down.”


As far as I can tell there are also three categories of parents.

Volunteer Coach

Volunteer Coach played division 2 basketball at school. They have a Fleer Ultra Michael Jordan Rookie Card in their top drawer. They think it’s worth $20,000, “at least”. It’s not. Volunteer Coach mingles around with the kids at shoot around, occasionally dunking on the 8 foot hoop and returning rebounded shots, snapping their wrists properly and thudding the ball into their appreciative 7 year old’s chest. During practice Volunteer Coach yells out helpful guidance like “Keifer! Dribble hand off! Dribble hand off like I showed you”, when the drill is pass the ball gently to the small child you just met and ideally don’t make them cry. Volunteer Coach would be drinking Pepsi through a straw if Volunteer Coach was not wearing a surgical mask.

Instagram Parent

Instagram Parent is only waiting around because the stadium is in the middle of nowhere, the session is only 45 minutes and there is not enough time to go anywhere interesting and besides it is really hard to reverse the SUV out again with all those little kids everywhere. Instagram Parent scrolls their phone and is the second most likely person in the gym to cop a ball in the ear. Instagram Parent certainly minds if this happens.

Aggressively Supportive

Aggressively Supportive yells out non-sensical votes of encouragement like “Oh beautiful jump hop Prudence” and “wonderful posture Mikey. Daddy loves you!” Aggressively Supportive will build rapport with the teenage coaches after the session and buy ice cream on the way home.

Interestingly the participants and parents don’t seem to match up exactly as you might imagine. For example, Cheaty Kid doesn’t seem to go home with Volunteer Coach in a Ford Ranger as often as you might think. So far my favourite combination is Bewildered Kid with Aggressively Supportive.

More to come.