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1986 NBL Game Recap – Adelaide 36ers @ Brisbane Bullets Grand Final Game 1

Brisbane were the defending champs in 1986 after beating Adelaide the previous season in what would be the last ever single game grand final before moving to a best-of-3 format. The Bullets used a 42-21 final quarter to turn a 4 point game into a 120-95 win.

This season, even with Leroy Loggins claiming the MVP, the critics were more sceptical, with most not predicting Brisbane to make the Grand Final. They finished third behind Adelaide and Canberra, then smashed Canberra by 20 in the semi final to prove the doubters wrong, behind 43 points from Loggins. 

They again face the 36ers, who also won their semi in a blowout, beating Ray Borner’s Illawarra Hawks by 24. This time around though, Adelaide were the heavy favourites. They earned their “Invincibles” nickname by storming through the regular season with a 24-2 record, with both losses coming off last second buzzer beaters. They were perfect at home, going 13-0, and perhaps most impressively had an average winning margin of 17.8 points.

Said Coach of the Year Ken Cole about this series “We should win and we expect to win, Brisbane only hope to win”

Game 1 was played at Boondall in front of 11,000 fans. At the time it was the largest ever indoor crowd for a sports event in Australia.


PG: Al Green v Ron Radliff
SG: Darryl Pearce v Leroy Loggins
SF: Peter Ali v Robert Sibley
PF: Mark Davis v Larry Sengstock
C: Bill Jones v John Dorge

Coach: Ken Cole v Brian Kerle

Commentators:  Dave Claxton, Andrew Kay, and Brisbane’s very own Gary Fleet


The game gets underway with Sibley throwing up a brick which was lucky to hit the rim. John Dorge scores off the offensive rebound, and this prompts streamers to be released, however they don’t end up going into the crowd as anticipated, instead landing on the court, and the game is delayed.

Sibley bricks again, but after a Brisbane score and 2 Al Green free throws, the scores are displayed as 04-02, those zeros making Peter Brock and Scott Cameron proud.

Davis grabs a big rebound, and throws a great Wes Unseld outlet pass to Green on the fast break for the dunk. Green again finds himself on a fast break the next play, he was such a quick player, no wonder he ran the Bay-Sheffield. He misses, but Davis is there to mop up and throws his first pump fake of the game. The commentators call him the strongest guy in the NBL. A Pearce 3 and Jones score top a 9-0 run to put Adelaide up 9-4. Not 09-04.

Brisbane on the other hand are looking like Ash’s 0/26 season, missing every shot inside, topped off by a big Davis block on Sibley which was close to a goal tend. I think he was lucky there. Speaking of lucky were are reminded by scrolling text that the X Lotto Draw will be at 9:06pm.

Cal Bruton enters the game for Radliff, and he is instant offense, lifting Brisbane back into the game with an 8-0 run. A great Bruton pass to Dorge who first misses a dunk prompting a “Oh John” from Fleet before getting his second attempt blocked by Jones, is followed up with a Bruton score, and it’s a 1 point game.

The commentators go on about Chris McGraw’s game, who I don’t remember at all, as he enters the game. A play later, they recognise that Danny Morseu has come on for Brisbane, and also Chris McGraw is on too. 20 year old Mike McKay is also on for Adelaide, just in time to see Davis get his pump fake count up to 2.

The camera pans to the crowd where we see Ian “Beefy” Botham! Apparently Greg Chappell was also in the stands. They must’ve thought they were at David Boondall.

The scoring is back and forth for the rest of the quarter, with Sengstock hitting a couple of shots around a Mike “Swish” McKay 3 pointer. 

Brisbane 26 – Adelaide 24


Ray Wood and Dwayne Nelson start the second quarter, and Sibley starts the second in similar fashion to the first by missing the rim altogether. I don’t know why he starts over Bruton. Probably worried about a lack of size, as one commentator asks if their current lineup, with both Bruton and Radliff on the floor, was a problem. To which the answer is no, because Ray Wood is on. Harsh.

Ray Wood did have a game reminiscent of Sean Wilson, with a lot of dibbling on the spot at the 3 point line, and an uncanny knack of being able to turn a 2-on-1 fast break into a half court offense.

The 36ers’ big men of Jones and Davis are killing them on the offensive boards and put backs, a missed shot is essentially a pass. Ray Wood responds to the criticism with a steal and fast break layup, and Adelaide are up 8.

Brisbane come back though, with Loggins scoring, Sengstock showing Davis a pump fake of his own, and Cal Bruton throwing the pass of the game, a full court alley-oop to Radliff, to make it 40-36.

In a forgotten rule of the past, Brisbane line up for 2 consecutive 1-and-1 free throws, and another rule of the past means 7 players are lined up along the side of the key waiting for the rebound.

Brisbane have a live brass band at the venue, which should come back I reckon. The sound of the bass drum every time a 36er bounces the ball on a free throw is intimidating. They break into the theme from The Magnificent Seven, also known as the song from the VB ad. Interesting choice, as there are more XXXX logos in the stadium than Sibley bricks.

Mike McKay misses a fast break gimme layup, but again it’s Davis, and in particular Jones, who continue to dominate for Adelaide. Jones’s shotblocking and rebounding is at an elite level.

Adelaide 52 – Brisbane 41


The Bullets need to stay in this game, and Leroy Loggins responds. He scores Brisbane’s first 11 points of the quarter, and blocks Davis’s third pump fake like he knew it was coming. I would keep going to Leroy every time, he can’t miss, instead John Dorge gives Bill Jones another 2 blocks on one play.

Darryl Pearce hits a dagger 3 to put the 36ers up 62-54 and the camera shows Ken Cole in his maroon vest. The margin stays around 8 for some time, with Dave Nelson coming in and instantly hitting a 3, which Pearce answers.

Al Green has been relatively quiet this game, and has copped a fair bit of criticism for being quiet in big games. His response: “At least I get there”.

The Bullets go on a run when Loggins finally gets some scoring help from Bruton, Nelson and Radliff, and take the lead by 3. Ron “The Rat” Radliff the NBL’s answer to John Platten, although he looks more like Bon Scott.

Dave Nelson has another 1-and-1 to extend the lead. He misses but a violation is called. He misses again to which Fleet exclaims “What is Dave Nelson doing?”, like he missed on purpose. 

Davis and Jones, who else, steady the ship for Adelaide. The strongest front line in the NBL some would have you believe. Tom Gerhardt comes on for Brisbane to no effect.

Adelaide 76 – Brisbane 73

4th Quarter

The commentators have been struggling with Peter Ali’s name all game. Some calling him Ali and some calling him Alley. He fouls out early in the 4th, with the same commentator trying both, saying “He’s got Alley, Peter Ali”. This brings Mike “Mad Max” McKay back on to defend Loggins, who had very little success trying to do that last year, and he starts flopping all over the place.

Davis opens the 4th on fire, scoring Adelaide’s first 6 points, but each score by Adelaide is matched by the Bullets. Leroy then fires up again, prompting Ken Cole to switch Al Green on to him. Green, not overly known for his defense, has added that to his game to become “one of the most complete defensive players around” according to Andrew Kay.

This doesn’t slow Loggins, but McKay does score 4 quick points of his own. Sengstock decides he wants to be like Mike and promptly misses a fast break gimme layup. 36ers are up 90-88.

A mexican wave starts in the crowd, which is the first time the commentators have actually seen it happen in Australia, and they are amazed “He’s got that wave and what a night to get it”. Apparently the crowd were practicing before the game. 

From here it’s Loggins v Davis, reminiscent of Larry Bird v Dominique Wilkins. Davis’s 4th pump fake taking his personal tally to 33 points on 13/19 from the field. A couple of plays later, he pulls a hesitation move on a put back, getting the defender in the air and drawing a foul. Technically not a pump fake, but it was close. Actually it was a fake of a pump fake. Let’s call it pump fake #4.5. Davis soon rectifies that half a stat with another hesitation pump fake to go up to 5.

Radliff is deadly from outside, he hits a 3 to tie the game before McKay is blocked on a 3 point attempt by Loggins, in a very similar vein to what happened to him at the Masters Games by Goose. I wonder which one gives him the most nightmares.

Cal Bruton steps up his game, prompting Gary Fleet to show his Brisbane colours with a “Go Bullets Go”. Not very impartial there. The Bullets go up 1, and he’s brimming with confidence, saying “The Bullets will do it from here”. Steady on. A few seconds later, Adelaide are up 2.

It’s back and forth, Leroy ties the game with 1:24 left before Jones puts the Sixers back up 2. Leroy scores again, and Mike decides this time HE wants to be like Mike and takes a 1989 Cavs-esque shot from the foul line. It misses.

With scores tied, disaster strikes for Brisbane with Leroy Loggins fouling out on an offensive foul. You can tell Gary Fleet first thought it was a foul on the defense with his call of “Yes! No! No No No!!!”

This gives Adelaide the ball with 13 seconds left. They fumble, and we’re going to overtime.

Adelaide 111 – Brisbane 111


It’s going to be a tough ask without Loggins, but Brisbane start well with Radliff hitting from the outside (Fleet: Yes!) before Davis getting called for an offensive foul (Fleet: Yes! Charging foul!). It’s like instead of 3 commentators we now have 2 commentators and the leader of the Bullets’ fan club. That might actually be a better option when after a few scores in a row, Andrew Kay gives us this nugget of wisdom: “It always gives the side trailing by 2 the disadvantage. They have to score just to make up the leeway rather than get in front each time”. Right, so the team down by 2 are at a disadvantage because…they are down by 2.

We now get quite a flurry of free throws, it’s a wonder with a 5 foul limit more people don’t foul out here. Pearce, Radliff and Jones all make 2/2, prompting Jones to be called a cool customer and the brass band to go into something more 80s – the theme from Ghostbusters.

The Bullets are first to crack with a couple of undisciplined shots, giving the 36ers a 2 point lead on a Davis free throw which in typical Davis fashion hits the front of the rim, then the backboard, before falling in.

With about a minute to go, someone needed to be the hero for Brisbane, and it was going to be Danny Morseu, why not? But he misses of course. The 36ers also miss at the other end, but Jones gets the offensive rebound, forcing Brisbane to foul Pearce with 30 seconds left. Pearce uncharacteristically misses the free throw and Brisbane have a chance down 1 with 24 seconds left.

They could hold it for a last second shot, but instead Bruton fires a 3 from the top of the key that was never going in. I guess he wanted to shoot it before Morseu got it again. The 36ers have the ball and for some reason the Bullets don’t foul, but it works out for them as the 36ers are called for a backcourt violation.

So with 4 seconds left, the Bullets are in with another shot. Whoever got the inbounds pass was going to be the hero, and in this case it was Ray Wood, who comes up with the steal to win the game. An intentional foul is called to give Wood a chance to make the final scoreline.

Adelaide 122

Davis 38pts, 23reb, 5ast (led team), 5pumpfakes
Jones 30pts, 17reb, only 3blk doesn’t seem right
Pearce 13 pts but only 1/11 from 3, ouch didn’t notice that

Brisbane 119

Loggins 38pts (14/19 FG), 6blk
Radliff 17pts
Bruton 17pts

Gary Fleet’s first words after the final siren: “Absolutely great performance by Brisbane, what a great performance from the Bullets” before interviewing Brian Kerle.
Kerle – “I said to the fellas there were a few areas where we let ourselves down and we also had a couple of players who didn’t really contribute too much tonight” Want to name some names Kerle?

And for those interested, Bill Collins movie “Silent Movie” will commence at 11:26pm

It’s looking dire for the Bullets now, needing to win 2 games in Adelaide where the 36ers have won 20 straight. But they take game 2 by 21 points – 104 to 83 – to set up the decider.

Game 3 was attended by none other than SA’s own John Bannon, watching the 36ers win the championship with a 113-91 victory and Mark Davis named the Grand FInal MVP.

For those who want to watch the game:

3 thoughts on “1986 NBL Game Recap – Adelaide 36ers @ Brisbane Bullets Grand Final Game 1”

  1. Great recap Jesse, will have to have a look especially to hear Fleet’s commentary! A real who’s who of 80’s NBL in the game too. Plenty of big names and those final stats for MD and Leroy – in their prime!

    That game 2 would be an interesting one to see too, give only 2 close losses for the regular season to then get belted at home would have no doubt had a few Sixers nerves on edge.

  2. Yeah not too many games where you’ll see two guys go for 38. I couldn’t find an actual boxscore for this game, but Bill Jones would’ve had a monster line as well.

    Game 2 is here if you want to check it out:

    Wait, I did find some boxscores. Jones had 30 and 17. I’ll update that.

    Game 2 –
    Bruton 38 pts, Sengstock 19 pts, Loggins 17 pts 11 reb
    Pearce 29 pts, Jones 13 pts 17 reb, Davis 13 pts 10 reb, Green 2 pts???

    Game 3 –
    Pearce 27 pts, Green 22 pts, Davis 22 pts 25 reb
    Bruton 31 pts, Loggins 6 pts???

  3. Thanks for reminding me of 0/26 Jess, what a season….

    Great recap (again) and good to be reminded of how dominant our frontcourt was with MD and Billy Jones. They owned the boards and in fact they probably out rebounded the whole Bullets team in that game. You can also tell that Loggins was the KD of his era, 6 blocks too. He was a great player, not sure on the rest of the team though.

    Looking at those stats from the next two games, Iceman Pearce came to play.

    Great read, now I better watch the games 🙂

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