Tasmanian duo Lucas Walker and Chris Goulding have helped Australia qualify for the Commonwealth Games basketball final and guaranteed their home state a medal haul of at least 15.
The Boomers teammates and Gold Coast roommates were both born in Launceston and went to West Launceston Primary School before leaving the state to pursue basketball careers interstate and in the United States and were part of the last two NBL championships.
While 27-year-old shooting guard Goulding was captaining Melbourne United to the domestic title, 33-year-old 2-metre forward Walker was making hasty arrangements to join the squad after being a late call-up along with Queenslander Mitch Norton when Mitchell Creek and Matthew Hodgson were forced to withdraw from the Games
Both played a part in the Boomers’ comfortable 103-46 semi-final defeat of Scotland which sets up a final against New Zealand or Canada on Sunday.
“We were pretty confident that we were going to get up but we have a big gold medal game tomorrow so wanted to make sure, be tight and solid and not get content,” Walker said.
“We wanted to keep the foot down the whole time and we know we’ve got to bring our A-game tomorrow
“I was at home in Perth when I got the call and it was a mixed bag of emotions really. I was so excited and definitely not expecting it.
The call came on Sunday afternoon and I was on the plane Monday morning so a bit of a whirlwind and thrown in the deep end with lots to catch up on, but I’ve been with the guys before and been involved with the program so everything was pretty familiar, which was good.
“I was ecstatic to get the call. My mum and dad, girlfriend and auntie came up
yesterday so I’m glad they could make it because it was obviously a last-minute call-up for them as well, but they managed to get flights and accommodation and jumped at it.”
Walker, who also attended Riverside High and Launceston College before moving to Canberra in 2003 to attend the Australian Institute of Sport, contributed six points, shooting at 100 per cent, in his 12 minutes game time against Scotland.
“I’m enjoying being down here on the Gold Coast after the first week up in Cairns. Up there, because it was only basketball going on we had the hotel to ourselves and minimal distractions but there’s a lot more going on in the village here.
“I’m close to 10 caps now, I got a few a couple of years ago and world championship qualifiers late last year.
“It’s great to be back after being out for a couple of years.”
Goulding, who left Tasmania aged eight when his family moved interstate was also savouring his maiden Commonwealth Games, a couple of years after helping Australia to fourth place at the Rio Olympics.
“It’s been good fun,” he said, having contributed 15 points, including four three-pointers, in 17 minutes at the Gold Coast Convention Centre.
“We had a great atmosphere in Cairns but it’s good to get down here. I played three seasons of NBL here (2009-12) so feel really comfortable. The crowd was great
“I’m very familiar with the venue but whenever 90 per cent of the crowd are dressed in green and gold and cheering for us it’s always a comfortable place to play.”
Seeking to regain the title they last won on home soil in 2006, the Boomers defeated Canada, New Zealand and Nigeria in the group stages in Cairns before the competition headed south for the knockout phase.
“Up in Cairns we were sort of isolated from the multi-sport event but we’re happy to be here emerged in the Games and hopefully we can bring home the gold medal,” Goulding added.
Seizing the chance to room together, the pair said they both still consider themselves Tasmanian, despite leaving the state many years ago.
“He’s my little brother,” Walker said.
“I’ve been away from Tassie for a long time and my family has relocated to Melbourne but I’ve still got a lot of close connections down there.
“We talk about our Tasmanian connection quite often. Chris moved away when he was quite young, I stayed a little bit longer but we’re both West Launceston Primary School lads.
“A lot of guys have had success out of Tasmania at these Games so I’m glad to be a part of that.”
The Boomers will play their gold medal final at the Gold Coast Convention Centre at
11.30am on Sunday.
With Walker and Goulding guaranteed at least a silver, and Eddie Ockenden and Jeremy Edwards in the same boat ahead of Saturday night’s hockey final, Tasmanian-born athletes will take home at least 15 medals from the Gold Coast.
Sprinter Jack Hale and javelin thrower Hamish Peacock also face finals on Saturday afternoon.