How the Swamp Donkeys Came to Be
Originally formed in 1979 as the Canberra Cannons, they were one of the original ten NBL clubs, competing in the league's very first season. They reached the championship game with a 13-5 record, but fell at the final hurdle, losing to the St Kilda Saints 94-93 in the final. In 1983 they won their first NBL championship, downing the West Adelaide Bearcats 75-73 in the Grand Final. They were champions again in 1984, this time beating the Brisbane Bullets 84-82 in the big game.
They made the playoffs for the next three seasons but championship glory eluded them until 1988, when they beat the North Melbourne Giants 2-1 in a best-of-three championship series. North Melbourne exacted their revenge in 1989, beating them 2-0 in the championship series.
They then failed to make the playoffs again until 1992, when they were eliminated in the first round by the eventual champions, the South East Melbourne Magic. They reached the playoffs in 1996 making the semi finals before being eliminated by the Melbourne Tigers 2-1. They again made the finals in 1997 but were eliminated in the first round 2-1 by the North Melbourne Giants.
Financial problems dogged the club in the late 1990s, and the team finally succumbed to its money woes in December of 2002. The club managed to play all its remaining games from the 2002/03 NBL season, finished with an 11-19 record.
The team was bought by a consortium that moved the team to Newcastle, and became the Hunter Pirates , keeping with the maritime battlers theme. In its first season, 2003-04, the team came last, winning only two games. Initial coach Bruce Palmer was controversially fired partway into the season and was replaced by assistant coach David Simmons.
In 2004-05, Dr. Adrian Hurley was employed as coach. A mostly-retooled team produced much better results, finishing 8th with a 15-17 record. The Pirates made the NBL Playoffs, only to be eliminated by the Brisbane Bullets in the opening round. Adrian Hurley quit at the end of the 2005-06 season after the Hunter Pirates were beaten by the Cairns Taipans in the playoffs.
The Pirates withdrew from the NBL competition at the end of the 2005/06 season, again due to financial difficulties and their inability to secure a major sponsor, and the club's NBL licence was put up for sale. It was revealed on NBN News that, in an effort to remain in the competition, the club had considered turning itself into a not-for-profit organisation, thereby able to access various grants. But no grants were forthcoming.
The Pirates' licence was then sold to a Singapore consortium, and the Singapore Slingers began competing in the 2006-07 season. That didn't go well. On 29 July 2008 that the Singapore Slingers decided to withdraw from the competition permanently due to the dramatic increase in international travel costs. The Slingers determined the future focus of the team needed to be on participating in competition within its local Asian region, rather than weekly games in Australia and New Zealand.
In the winter of 2011 the club was bought by yet another consortium, renamed the Swamp Donkeys and returned to Canberra to compete in the E Grade Men's competition at Tuggeranong. They came last. But they had heaps of fun, and drank many beers. But facing financial difficulties, dogged by controversy and striving for results, the club has again moved for the summer 2011/12 competition. They have shed some dead weight on the roster, and will be playing in D Grade Men's at Belconnen and look forward to the upcoming season.