Travel-hospitality at play in ‘Not Bad Thanks’ story ·

Travel-hospitality at play in ‘Not Bad Thanks’ story

Global travel and domestic hospitality play unlikely roles in a new book ‘Not Bad Thanks’, written by veteran travel industry public relations professional, Graeme Willingham.
“This is not a travel book but travel and hospitality are vital elements of this extraordinary Australian sports culture story,” Willingham said at the book launch on Wednesday.
The book delves into the curious and theatrical 77-season life of a Melbourne grass-roots basketball club, Not Bad Thanks.

“The fictitious GatorGetThere Airlines, the factual club’s brand being shown off in unexpected places all over the world, a list of some 80 Melbourne after-game eateries and event venues, as well as a forecast spend worth $999,995 by 2020 on its social program, are essential contributing factors to the club’s mad-cap off-court culture,” he said. “That culture, not so much what the club does on the court, drives this comical outfit.”

The club’s seasonal awards dinners have been staged around backyard barbecues, at inner-city suburban restaurants and pubs, smart city hotels like Sofitel, Parkroyal and Radisson and member-only men’s clubs Savage, Victoria, Australian and Athenaeum. Some events, in black-tie format with frocked-up partners, hosted 50 guests.

While Not Bad Thanks is a warm, humorous and entertaining story, it does not shy away from conflict and real-life challenging sadness. It is a worthy addition to the library of Australian sports culture.

Willingham evocatively mixes fact with fiction in an inventive writing style that celebrates the offbeat and endearing odyssey of a dedicated but wacky group of sporting mates. Unexpectedly, the writer is one of the many colourful characters whose true identities are protected by their creative nicknames, such as Instigator, The Expatriot, Big John, Scuds, Bullitt and Barman.
Lindsay Gaze, legend of Australian basketball, officially launched the book. He said that he believes the book is the first to profile a grass-roots basketball club in Australia.
“Not Bad Thanks is worthy reading for anyone who has an interest in sport, especially the thousands who play for fun, yet compete for their version of glory … I expect readers, like me, will feel I would like to play on this team.”

Malcolm Speed AO, former basketball and cricket administrator and member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, calls the book “a real gem.” Basketball played by real people, he adds … a great story of mateship and sporting mayhem with the very occasional triumph.

Chris Anstey, one of our modern era international (NBA, Spain, Russia) stars, says of the book: “The fabric of sport often isn’t made from wins and losses, it’s made of the relationships developed, and stories created, by teammates. I loved nodding my head through a book full of fantastic, relatable stories. NBT is a must read for all sportspeople … professional to Weekend Warriors.”
Leading sports commentator, Gerard Whately (SEN 1116) said on air: “It’s great! It’s a charming addition to The Vincibles (Gideon Haigh) … if you’ve read The Vincibles you’ll know exactly where this is coming from … Not Bad Thanks by Graeme Willingham. And, it will speak to people; I’m sure you’ll get letters for years from those who have played in teams like this, with their own rituals. It’s fantastic. Graeme’s done a great job with this.

Not Bad Thanks traces the club’s slow climb from F Grade in 1980 to the A level in the Victorian Business Houses Basketball Association, but is not a chronological seasonal review.
Songs and poetry, season dinners, crazy awards, dubious links with notorious Great Train Robber, Ronald Biggs, triple Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva and The Harlem Globetrotters, impromptu late-night excursions, rules and rituals, facts and figures, and the organisation’s enduring creativity, intellect and non-conformity has been embraced by 60-plus players.
The book also covers how the club grappled with tragedy, authority, an outing, generational challenges, equal opportunity, skill shortage, globalisation, an aging workforce, dysfunctional patrons, media scrutiny … and, premiership droughts. Premierships were won, though, but in weird circumstances.

Willingham was a newspaper journalist in Melbourne and regional Victoria and magazine news-editor in London before a career in Public Relations.

He has ‘Friend’ membership status of The Australian Society of Travel Writers, following 30-plus years’ accreditation as an ASTW PR Associate. His career in travel and hospitality marketing and corporate communication began with the 1980 relaunch of Ansett Airlines for new joint-owners, Sir Peter Abeles and Rupert Murdoch.

His travel and hospitality clients have included the likes of APT, Europcar, Lan Chile, Icon Holidays/Maestro Group, Travelex, NTTC, Ayers Rock Resort, Britz, Orient Express Travel Group, Tempo Holidays, Rail Plus, Melbourne Holiday and Travel Show, Diners Club, Territory Discoveries, East West Airlines, Ansett Pioneer, Gulf Air and Pearl Sea Coastal Cruises. In the hospitality sector, he consulted Quest Apartments Group, Sofitel Melbourne, Holidays Inns (Melbourne), SPHC, Accor, AAPH, Fitzroy Island, Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens Melbourne, Robinsons B&Bs, William Angliss College (Hospitality), Professional Conference Management Australia, and International Association of Conference Centres.

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