Action from the National Basketball League (NBL) match between the Cairns Taipans and the Sydney Kings, held at the Cairns Convention Centre. Taipans' Cameron Tragardh draws the foul on his way to scoring two points. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Action from the National Basketball League (NBL) match between the Cairns Taipans and the Sydney Kings, held at the Cairns Convention Centre. Taipans' Cameron Tragardh draws the foul on his way to scoring two points. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

EXCLUSIVE: One-on-one with Rockets’ Cam Tragardh

BASKETBALL: The sentiment 'best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry' rings painfully true for former NBL star Cameron Tragardh who was planning a return to pro basketball in Rockhampton colours for the maiden NBL1 North season (formally QBL).

The eight-time QBL all-star, four-time champion, eight-time grand finalist and three-time MVP of the league was set to lace-up for The Rockets last weekend against Toowoomba for Round one before COVID-19 intervened.

The season was initially going to be pushed back as the three NBL1 conferences (Queensland, Victoria and South Australia) each fought to keep the prospects of a 2020 season alive amid the pandemic.

"The first notice we got was that the state of Victoria declared a state of emergency - that they were shutting everything down for a long, long time," Tragardh said.

"Queensland was going to hold off on a decision, but I don't think it was even 24 hours later that we got the news that we'd follow suit - it was essentially shut down from there."

Tragardh recounted the day the season was canned after the COVID-19 pandemic all but wiped a year of Australian sport from history.

"We were pretty crushed," he said.

"Obviously, a lot of work had gone in to forming that roster and building those relationships with those players.

"But I have faith they will put a very good roster together when we come out of this as well."

Tragardh described his journey to condition himself for the season after his time away from the game as "like back in the NBL."

"The body certainly wasn't feeling young like I was back in the NBL," he said.

"I was putting in a lot of work to get into the shape I needed to be in to help us get to the championship.

"The work will still continue."

Cameron Tragardh (in opposition colours) drives to the basket against the Rockhampton Rockets in the QBL quarter-final at the Crater, Mackay on Saturday, August 11, 2018.
Cameron Tragardh (in opposition colours) drives to the basket against the Rockhampton Rockets in the QBL quarter-final at the Crater, Mackay on Saturday, August 11, 2018.

For those reasons, Tragardh, now 36, could not confirm whether he would be extending his return another year.

"It was hard, the training, the sprints, trying to keep up," he said.

"I'm looking around at training before our big players hit town and it's 15 20-year-olds and me at 36.

"I'll watch how we come out of this thing, and the timing of it, I'll keep an eye on that and make a call down the track."

But not all hope is lost, with Tragardh hinting that the powers that be were working towards an alternative to resume play this year.

"We hold some hope of a league - it won't be NBL1 - taking shape later this year."

Tragardh said a format was being discussed would look like ten team competition consisting of teams from the southeast, Bundaberg, Gladstone and Rockhampton as to avoid air travel. (See more in Monday's edition of The Morning Bulletin)

Cameron Tragardh, in 2019 when he was the General Manager of Rockhampton Basketball. He has now ditched the desk for the court.
Cameron Tragardh, in 2019 when he was the General Manager of Rockhampton Basketball. He has now ditched the desk for the court.

Key players including Boomer Todd Blanchfield and ex-Illawarra hawk Matt Hancock had already began the move to the Beef Capital before the season met its fate, but Tragardh assured they were all keen if another season, in whatever form it may take, recommences this year.

Despite the looming uncertainty of his career and Australian basketball more broadly, he considered himself lucky during these trying times.

"We're effected as athletes, but we're not effected like people losing their jobs or people who have lost their lives - it's a lot more serious for those people," Tragardh said.