Boomers International Results
The Boomers are the senior men’s national basketball team representing Australia. Basketball first arrived in Melbourne in 1905, and the Boomers competed in their first international tournament when they hosted the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Since then, basketball has continued to grow in Australia in both popularity and level of skill.
Early Australian basketball was confined mostly to church halls and community centres such as the YMCA. The 1956 Melbourne Olympics provided an excellent opportunity to expose the still fairly unknown game to a larger Australian audience. Although the Boomers finished 12th, defeating only Thailand and Singapore, basketball officials in Australia used the Olympics to widely promote the game.
The 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome were not to be for the Boomers as they failed to qualify, but the year did see the international debut of Lindsay Gaze. Gaze was an influential early star for Australia, representing the team as a player and later as the Boomers’ head coach.
The Boomers qualified for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, and led by Lindsay Gaze, the team improved on their Melbourne finish, placing ninth, and scoring victories over Peru, Korea, Mexico, and Japan.
After failing to qualify for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, the Boomers would not play again in a major international tournament until 1970, when the team qualified for the FIBA World Championships for the first time. In Lindsay Gaze’s last appearance as a player for Australia, the team finished in 12th place, with their sole victory coming over the United Arabian Republic.
The 1972 Munich Olympics marked a turning point for the Boomers. In Lindsay Gaze’s coaching debut, the Boomers only finished ninth, but single digit losses to Czechoslovakia and Spain left the team mere points from advancing to the second round. Eddie Palubinskas wowed fans on his way to the second highest scoring average of the tournament.
In 1974, the Boomers headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico for the World Championships. Led by Eddie Palubinskas’ 24.8 points per game, Australia again placed 12th, defeating Argentina and the Central African Republic.
Although the 1976 Montreal Olympics are generally viewed as a poor showing for Australia after failing to capture a single gold medal, Montreal represented a huge step forward for the Boomers. Eddie Palubinskas tore up the competition, finishing as the top overall scorer, and setting three Olympic scoring records, including the most points scored in a single Olympics to that time with 269 points. The Boomers defeated Mexico 120-117 in an exciting overtime game, and blew out Japan 117-79 as they moved to the second round of the tournament for the first time on their way to an eighth place finish.
In 1978, the Boomers headed to the Philippines for the World Championships. The tournament was the debut of 20 year old guard Phil Smyth, who would go on to play the most senior games of any Boomers’ player. The Boomers played their most successful tournament to that time, defeating Czechoslovakia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines (twice), and playing eventual gold medallist Yugoslavia tough, losing a close game 105-101. The Boomers advanced to the semi-final round and placed seventh.
The 1980 Moscow Olympics were marred by controversy, as over 60 countries boycotted the games in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Boomers didn’t let this get to them, as they played their best Olympic tournament to that date, equalling their 1976 finish of eighth place. The Boomers defeated eventual silver medallist Italy 84-77 in the preliminary round, but due to a three way tie with Italy and Cuba, the team failed to advance to the final round despite a stellar 5-2 record.
The Boomers built on their successes in Moscow at the 1982 World Championships in Columbia. Ian Davies paced the team with the second most total points in the tournament, 187, good for an average of 23.4 per game. Australia went 2-1 in group play, losing only to eventual gold medallist Soviet Union and advanced to the medal round, where they defeated Canada and Colombia on their way to their best international finish to that date, capturing fifth place.
The Boomers were captained at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by Phil Smyth, and introduced coach, Lindsay Gaze’s, 19 year old son, Andrew, to the world stage. Australia advanced to the second round following victories over Brazil and West Germany. A loss to Italy, and a 16 point win over Egypt, left the Boomers in a must win situation against Spain to advance to the medal round. Spain went up big early in the first half, but the Boomers fought back hard, ultimately losing by a close score of 101-93, ending their medal hopes with an Olympic best seventh place finish.
The 1986 World Championships were a bit disappointing for Australia. Losses to Uruguay, Angola and the Soviet Union during group play kept the Boomers from advancing, and the team finished 17th.
Motivated by the 1986 World Championships, Australia showed up to the 1988 Seoul Olympics with quite possibly its most talented roster to that date. Captained by Phil Smyth, the team included Andrew Gaze, Damian Keogh, and future Chicago Bulls star Luc Longley. The Boomers breezed through the first round, losing only to gold medallist Soviet Union and silver medallist Yugoslavia. Finishing third place in their group, Australia advanced to the quarter finals where they defeated Spain in a closely fought game 77-74, sending the Boomers to their first ever semi-finals. There they met the United States, who ended Australia’s dream run with a 78-55 victory. Despite the disappointing loss, the Boomers’ fourth place finish solidified their status as a rising team.
Two years later, in 1990, Australia flew off to Buenos Aires for the World Championships. Led by Andrew Gaze’s 24.3 points per game, fourth most in the tournament, the team defeated China, Brazil and Argentina (twice) on their way to a respectable seventh place finish.
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Boomers looked to prove their fourth place run at Seoul was no fluke. In the first Games since the Soviet Union’s dissolution, and the first that FIBA allowed professional basketballers to play in, Australia played to a respectable 4-4 record and sixth place.
At the 1994 World Championships at Toronto, Andrew Gaze took the Boomers on his back, leading the tournament with an outstanding average of 23.9 points per game. In victories over Puerto Rico, Korea, and Cuba, Gaze scored 34, 31 and 30 points, respectively. Australia finished with a 5-3 record, good for fifth place in Phil Smyth’s last appearance as a player.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics were another outstanding showing for Australia. Led by Andrew Gaze, and featuring Shane Heal, the team rolled through the early competition, losing only to silver medallist Yugoslavia, and scoring over 100 points in every other preliminary game. In the quarterfinals, the Boomers played a hard fought game against Croatia. The game came down to the wire, as forward Tony Ronaldson hit an unforgettable 3-pointer to win the game and advance Australia to the semi-finals. There they met the United States, who were powered by a stacked roster of professional NBA players, and the Boomers were dispatched 101-73. Croatia would defeat Australia in the bronze medal game, but the Boomers equalled their 1988 fourth place finish.
Following their exciting run at Atlanta, the Boomers showed up in Greece for the 1998 World Championships with high hopes. Shane Heal and Andrew Gaze both finished among the top five scorers, with averages of 17.0 and 16.9 points per game, respectively; but a loss to the United States knocked Australia out of medal contention. The Boomers finished the tournament respectably with wins over Canada and Brazil, and walked away with ninth place.
The 2000 Olympics projected to be an extremely exciting affair for the Boomers, as they would be playing host in Sydney. Despite losses in both of their first two games, Australia recovered nicely, and won their next four games over Russia, Angola, and Spain to propel them into the quarter finals, where they defeated Italy. But Australia’s first basketball medal was not to be, as France won the semi final match, and Lithuania captured the bronze medal game. Although their goal of medalling was not achieved, the Boomers gave the home crowd plenty to cheer about on their way to a fourth place finish.
After failing to qualify for the 2002 World Championships, the Boomers came into the 2004 Athens Olympics hungry for victory. Captained by Shane Heal, and featuring Andrew Bogut in his international debut, Australia fought hard on their way to a ninth place finish.
At the 2006 World Championships in Japan, Australia was led in scoring by Andrew Bogut, CJ Bruton, and Jason Smith. Despite their efforts, the Boomers failed to qualify for the playoff rounds, and finished tied for ninth place.
The Boomers entered the 2008 Beijing Olympics with one of their more talented rosters to date, which included Andrew Bogut, CJ Bruton, Captain Matthew Nielsen, and Patrick Mills in his international debut. Despite his youth, Mills had a hot hand, scoring over 20 points on several occasions, and leading the team with an average of 14.2 points per game. Australia made the quarter finals, but gold medallist United States put the Boomers away late in the game, ending their run with a seventh place finish.