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Throwdown: Dean Vickerman’s pride at keeping tradition of Melbourne NBL rivalries alive

Melbourne rivalries have been commonplace on the basketball court for much of Dean Vickerman’s life.

He watched the contests in his youth, was part of it on the court in three seasons with Melbourne Tigers and then as an assistant coach with North Melbourne Giants and the Tigers.

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Whether it was South East Melbourne Magic, Victoria Titans or any number of other Vic teams, any rivalry died out when South Dragons left the NBL at the end of the 2009 season.

It took a decade, but Vickerman is back in the saddle on one half of what has become the league’s fiercest duel – the Melbourne United v South East Melbourne Phoenix Throwdown.

Dean Vickerman is proud to keep the Melbourne rivalry alive.
Camera IconDean Vickerman is proud to keep the Melbourne rivalry alive. Credit: Supplied

“I loved seeing and being a part of those cross-town rival games, whether it be as a player or young in my coaching career,” the United coach reminisced.

“It’s got a little bit more to it. There’s a physicality, there’s just a want to win those games.

“It hasn’t been too spiteful, but we’ve had some little incidents over our time and that adds to the drama.

“We’re carrying on those traditions of Melbourne teams being successful, playing with passion, going at each other and providing quality entertainment for fans. That’s the part I enjoy.”

Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell acknowledged the Melbourne derbies did have more gravity, even if staff tried to keep a lid on it.

“From a preparation standpoint, it’s just another game, it always has been,” Mitchell said.

“Where it’s not just another game is when you turn up on game night and there’s a bigger crowd, there’s a bigger hype, there’s something in the air that anything could happen.

“That’s not the week leading in, the week leading in is methodical.”

United is top of the NBL ladder, while Phoenix are third, but both teams go into Sunday’s game off losses.

Vickerman’s expecting the Phoenix to lift – and he’s demanded the same from his players.

“Any time you drop a game in this league there’s always a little refocus and there’s a little bit more of an edge to you,” he said.

“When you take that loss, it hits home and we expect them to come out and, with a week’s preparation, (Phoenix coach) Simon (Mitchell) will have them ready.”

Mitchell said Phoenix would learn from United’s defeat on Thursday night.

“Being able to see Melbourne play gave us a little extra incentive and extra insight and some of the things that Perth did to obtain their win gives us a chance to incorporate some methods there as well,” he said.

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