WARRNAMBOOL basketballer Nathan Sobey emerged physically unscathed from a vicious brawl which marred Australia’s World Cup qualifier against the Philippines and sparked a FIBA investigation.
Sobey was punched in the face and had a chair thrown at his head during the fracas which sent shockwaves around the world on Monday night.
Basketball Australia chief executive officer Anthony Moore addressed the media on Tuesday morning, saying the Boomers were a “pretty distressed playing group” which left the hostile venue with a “heightened sense of anxiety”.
“Physically our players are fine,” he said.
“They are bruised and battered but we don’t have any breaks.
“It is really the mental health of our players we’re absolutely concerned about.”
Tensions flared when Australian Daniel Kickert elbowed an opponent to the face in the third quarter, sparking a wild brawl which involved players, officials and crowd members.
Sobey and fellow NBL star Chris Goulding, who found himself under a pack of opponents, were “assaulted” during the saga.
Nine Filipino players were ejected from their home venue, leaving them with three.
Four Boomers – Sobey, Goulding, Kickert and Thon Maker – were also forced from the arena.
The game, which went the way of the Australians, continued as a 5-3 contest until two Filipino players fouled out late in the third term.
FIBA – the sport’s governing body – is investigating the incident and is expected to convene a tribunal.
“We deeply regret the incident last night and our role in it. We don’t play in that spirit,” Moore said.
“Whilst we accept our responsibility for our role in last night’s incident, what we don’t accept is the action whereby fans and officials actually get involved in the fray.
“You’ve all seen the social media where one of our players Nathan Sobey is being assaulted by a fan and we’ve got Chris Goulding (under) a pack of players and officials.
“We also have a fan throwing a chair at one of our players. We absolutely find that unacceptable.”
Moore conceded the melee was setback for Australia which is vying to reach the world cup and build its reputation as a strong basketball country.
“Reputationally we’ve taken a hit,” he said.
“Our sport is in terrific shape at the grass roots level; we’ve got record numbers playing around the country.
“Our men’s and women’s national leagues are doing fantastic things but we are on the front page of the paper today and you’re all here because of a pretty ugly incident.”