It was a bold experiment to let detainees out of high-security immigration detention on Christmas Island to play basketball.
The opposing team were Australian Federal Police officers who frequent their compounds in full riot gear.
And it nearly went pear-shaped on the first night when the detainees stormed to a 25-point lead at half time.
Rough play was observed, according to the minutes of a meeting convened by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
But the experiment was considered a huge success and a breakthrough in combating boredom and low morale.
The detainees – among them a brooding poet and a carpenter from Iran who picked up a basketball for the first time in August – were undefeated all season and won the grand final on Monday night.
They beat the Christmas Island All-Stars 43-30 in a match dominated by a formidable Iranian small forward named Amin. He scored 30 points and told spectators he wants to play for Australia if he gets a visa.
For the first time, the island’s trophy is being held behind an electric fence.
The men were in high spirits as they boarded the bus back to the detention centre in a jungle clearing on the island’s North West Point. They have named their team North West Clientele.
The team is the work of Perth hip-hop artist Jason Xzakt Boogz, whose appointment is part of a new program of excursions and sport rolled out after the devastating March riots.
He arrived on the island in May and spends two hours a day training the men in the detention centre gym.
Courtesy: The Australian