PEOPLE talk about dynasties and tout a return to when the Miners absolutely ruled the floor.
They talk about the legends forever etched into Basketball Ballarat history.
But this is different.
It has been 16 years since the Miners reached a South East Australian Basketball League conference final.
This is a new team, a new era with new players trying to create their own history.
In a sold out Minerdome on Saturday night, there will be plenty of fans who remember past glory days and past heroes – one, in Eric Hayes, who will this time lead the Miners as coach rather than star player. There will be a nostalgic element.
For long-time fans, this will be a special moment to see the Miners back in finals action, only this time as a new-generation outfit contesting a title in their own right.
This time there is also a whole new legion of young fans whose support the Miners have earned with their thrilling play and selfless team cohesion this season.
We know these Miners have talent. A key indicator is in three signings to National Basketball League club Melbourne United – Sam Short, Peter Hooley and Craig Moller, the latter who will miss this week while suiting up for the Emerging Boomers in the World University Games.
But it takes a strong, versatile and seemingly unflappable team to get this far in the SEABL with interruptions of players on higher duties.
A Minderdome sell-out reinforces just how important this team is, not just to the city’s basketball ranks, but to the whole community.
It has taken a long time between glory with long periods in which the Miners failed to reach play-offs.
The Miners burst into the post-season in 2014 after an eight-year hiatus and again in 2015. Both matches were lost on the road, interestingly falling short of Dandenong each time in conference semi-finals in the Ranger Zone.
The Miners’ roster has changed so much, even since then, that unfinished business is no longer a factor.
Their journey this season has captured attention in a city with such a voracious sporting appetite that when there is such a big game in town, everyone wants a ticket. Everyone wants to be part of a chance at creating history.
Ventures into live-streaming Ballarat matches has taken off, and will be in play for the conference final and again next week should the Miners reach the all-SEABL championship match.
Funding has been secured for a modern indoor Miners’ home, complete with a 3000-seat stadium and dedicated team training base.
These initiatives will help grow and develop the game in Ballarat and across western Victoria.
But for a marquee team to play a conference final at home will take basketball in Ballarat to a whole new level not seen before.
The Miners are a club with a decorated, proud history. A history filled with dynasties and legends.
Only this home conference final reinforces a new era, filled with new potential.
Whether the Miners progress or not, they set a benchmark in Ballarat sport for others.