Aussies ‘feared for their safety’ during wild brawl
AUSTRALIA'S FIBA World Cup qualifying match against the Philippines erupted into a vicious all-in-brawl, then descended into a chaotic farce on Monday night as coward punches, kicks and chairs were thrown in wild scenes at the Philippine Arena, south of Manila.
Nine Philippine players and four Boomers were ejected from the game after the nasty brawl was sparked when Australian guard Chris Goulding was sent to the floor with a heavy shove with four minutes left in the third quarter.
Goulding, Nathan Sobey, Daniel Kickert and Thon Maker were the Australians ejected after the shocking fight.
In farcical scenes, the match continued with just three Philippine players still eligible to be on the court.
They then deliberately fouled the Australians so they could gradually be disqualified from the game and bring an early end to the drama that ended with an 89-53 win to the Boomers with 1:57 left in the third quarter.
All hell broke loose when Kickert appeared to strike the Philippine player that hit Goulding with an elbow, and which saw the home team clear the bench and start a virtual street fight in a stunning over-reaction.
They furiously chased Kickert around the court as fists, feet and chairs started to fly. Australian guard Nathan Sobey was pinned under a courtside chair and punched by a number of Philippine players.
In disgraceful scenes, Goulding was also set upon by a number of Philippine players as the fight dragged on for more than a minute and the referees losing complete control.
NBA player Maker also appeared to try and kick Philippine players who were punching Australian players from behind, as the fight spilt off the court and close to the grandstand.
Bizarrely, as officials checked replays to decide on a course of action, Philippine players posed for selfies.
A long delay followed as officials from FIBA and both countries engaged in a discussion, leaving the score in Australia's favour at 79-48.
A local official appealed to the crowd to remain calm and show the Boomers respect.
The referees eventually returned to the court with a notebook full of punishments.
The win helped Australia finish on top of Group B in first round of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
The nine Philippine players ejected were Roger Ray Pogoy (who shoved Goulding and was elbowed by Kickert) Japeth Aguilar, Jeth Rosario, Terrence Bill Romeo, Matthew Wright, Calvin Abueva, naturalised American Andray Blatche, Carl Bryan Cruz and Jayson Castro.
"Basketball Australia deeply regrets the incident in [the] match between the Boomers and the Philippines in Manila. We are extremely disappointed with what happened and our role in it,'' Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore said.
"This is not the spirit in which sport should be played and certainly not in the spirit in which we aim to play basketball. We apologise to our fans and will await the penalties to be handed down."
Chris Goulding was left "battered and bruised" and "appalled" by what took place, according to his agent Daniel Moldovan.
"He is (OK)," Moldovan said.
"He's a little bit bruised and battered, but he is OK. He's a tough one. He's shocked and appalled, as we all are, at what took place."
He said Goulding was at one point pinned down as a dozen people attacked him.
"That was just Chris - alone, underneath 12 guys stomping him, punching him, kicking him, the American on the team was holding his leg down so he couldn't get up," Moldovan said on SEN.
"What took place from those that flew off the bench out of sight and out of mind for those involved in the fracas, the team officials, managers, equipment guys, waterboys, whoever they were - going in in the fashion that they did, that's where I take serious offence to what took place and that's where I want to see FIBA come down with a very, very heavy hand."
Moldovan said he had seen his fair share of on-court fights in his time - but nothing like this.
And he would hesitate in sending players back to the Philippines unless FIBA hands down an appropriate penalty and has not ruled out legal action.
"Serious measures would need to be put in place for me to feel comfortable to allow them to go there again," he said.
"It's unheard of - here in America the amount of security that runs on to the court in an incident is overwhelming.
"It's hard for me to even fathom (that no security stepped in). If FIBA's response isn't adequate, I'm going to pursue my own legal avenues to protect my clients. Serious measures would need to be put in place before I'm comfortable to send players to these environments again.
"Fines are inadequate., There would need to be serious sanctions against the federation."
There have today been calls for criminal charges against those involved.
Fox Sports reports that Chot Reyes head coach of the Filipino side, also reacted post-game, telling reporters:
"Well, it's unfortunate. We didn't want that to happen. It's absolutely unacceptable, but the reality is, Kickert was hitting our players during the warmups. He hit Carl Bryan Cruz, he hit Matthew Wright, he hit Pogoy, and he hit Calvin Abueva, during the warmups. So, when he did that, the foul of Pogoy on Goulding was called a foul; offensive foul, it was a basketball play. But, he was the one who came in, then (Kickert) decked Pogoy, for the fifth time. You can't expect to do that to a team for five times, and not expect to be, to retaliate. So, that's what happened. Unfortunately, that triggered entire brawl, and unfortunate as it is, like I said, it's something that, you have to be there to know what really went down. I know a lot of other Filipinos, especially a lot of PBA players, are saying their piece, but they don't know what happened. You don't really know what went on. That's all we have to say."
Basketball's international governing body has opened disciplinary hearings against Australia and the Philippines." FIBA will now open disciplinary proceedings against both teams. The decisions will be communicated in the coming days," FIBA tweeted on Monday.
Basketball Australia's Chief Executive Anthony Moore issued a statement following the match to apologise for the Boomers' involvement in the violent incident.
"Basketball Australia deeply regrets the incident in tonight's match between the Boomers and the Philippines in Manila," Moore said.
"We are extremely disappointed with what happened and our role in it. "This is not the spirit in which sport should be played and certainly not in the spirit in which we aim to play basketball.
"We apologise to our fans and will await the penalties to be handed down."
Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore has confirmed that Australian officials are working with Filipino counterparts to ensure player safety and that the Boomers will depart today.
"It was on a knife's edge," he said.
"Players and coaches were fearful of their physical safety.
"That's how significant the issue was last night postgame.
"Every time we play the Philippines ... they're really physical games. They're tough, competitive games. But we have had nothing like this.
"There was nothing like that in the first half that even indicated that this is about to happen."
Moore said he had been in close contact with team management all night, the local federation and FIBA. The Australian ambassador for the Philippines attended the game and the embassy has been working closely with the team in the wake of the incident.
That's the most concerning part - you've got an on-court incident ... this was ugly in an on-court sense and what occurred once it spilled into the side of the playing arena, where you've got security who I'm not quite sure what they were doing ... and Nathan Sobey assaulted by a fan - there's no other word for it - and then having a chair thrown," he said on SEN.
"It's that sort of security that no doubt FIBA will look at as part of their overall sanction. That was perhaps the most alarming part to us - it escalated out of the players' side, and into fans and officials. That was quite alarming. You've got Chris Goulding laying flat on the floor with about 20 blokes on top of him. That's pretty alarming."
After a shock one-point loss to Japan on Friday night, the Boomers were stung into action and blew the home nation off the court early at the half-full 55,000-capacity Philippine Arena.
Australia went with same starting five from the loss to Japan with Matthew Dellavedova, Goulding, Kevin Lisch, Nick Kay and Maker setting a much better tone from the opening tip.
The Boomers could not buy a jumpshot against Japan but quickly found their range against the Philippines and jumped out to an early 19-10 lead with eight field goals from just 10 attempts on the way to a five-point lead at quarter-time.
With greater intensity in defence and crisper execution in offence, Australia kicked away at the start of the second quarter and extended their buffer to 12 points.
Australia's advantage got out to 17 points after a Goulding flurry before the Boomers took a 52-37 lead into halftime with 10 players scoring for the visitors in a more complete team effort.
After quiet nights against Japan, Lisch, Sobey and Kickert all came to the party offensively in the first half.
The Boomers broke down the zone defence of the Philippines with some clever passing that gave them far better looks at the basket compared to a clunky offensive effort against Japan.
Australia used 11 players across the first two quarters as they ran the home side off their feet and forced a number of turnovers with suffocating defensive pressure up the court with Dellavedova particularly dangerous with three steals.
The NBA star also threw a number of pinpoint passes to set up spectacular dunks by his Milwaukee Bucks teammates Maker in a far more polished display after his rusty outing against Japan.
The Philippines tested Australia in their first encounter in Melbourne in February when the Boomers eventually pulled away to record a 16-point win.
But they were not able to muster the same amount of fight on their home pine as the Boomers bounded away to a 23-point lead in the scrappy third term when both sides drew technical fouls.
The Boomers finished the first round of home-and-away qualification games against the Philippines, Japan and Chinese Taipei with a 5-1 record.
Their competition points will carry through to the second round which will feature three windows - September and November/December this year and February next year before the FIBA World Cup in China in August and September.