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LOYAL LEADER - Part Two: Captaincy Call

22 Feb
8 mins read

Written By

Dale Fletcher

Adelaide 36ers Hall of Fame inductee Peter Ali talks about captaincy, tough opponents, career highlights and why he wore the No.8

After the 1985 NBL grand final loss to the Bullets in Brisbane, legendary coach Ken Cole made the decision to take the co-captaincy away from this year's Adelaide 36ers Hall of Fame inductee Peter Ali.

Cole decided to hand the reins to import centre Bill Jones and the championship coach was thinking of the team first and foremost when he made the call.

“The only reason Peter relinquished the captaincy was I thought Bill Jones was getting an unfair run with the referees,” Cole said.

“I wanted Bill to go up there an introduce himself as the captain of the team to the referees and stroke their egos a little bit.

“Now during the game when he goes up and asks questions, he wouldn’t get a technical foul, because he was the captain.

“Peter knew that an understood that.”

Cole said whether the captaincy tag was next to Ali’s name or not, the hard-nosed forward would always lead by example.

“He typifies everything which an Australian is like, he has the absolute determination without going over the edge,” Cole said.

“As a coach that’s invaluable having one or two of those players on your team.” 

Ali Pics 03

The 1989 NBL season ended with the 36ers bowing out in a tough three-game elimination final series to arch-rival Perth Wildcats and Ali was injured.

“In the finals against Perth in 1989 I broke a bone in my ankle and that caused grief later on,” he explained.

“I continued on but it was giving me some trouble, I lost a lot of flexibility.

“I thought it was a bad sprain, but I ended up with a rather large bone fragment having to be removed.”

At the end of season Ali had decided to end his playing career and move to an assistant coach role alongside Don Shipway, but Ali had two more games left in him.

“I had retired, and I was assistant coach (for the 1990 season) but I got thrown in for a couple of games because we had a lot of injuries,” Ali said.

“That was OK, but there was no way I was at peak fitness.

“Plus, I reached the stage where I knew it was time to go, there were younger guys coming through and I think my mind and that injury caused that decision.”


After playing his entire career at the iconic Apollo Stadium, Ali knew the move to the Clipsal Powerhouse had to be made, and he played a huge role in basketball expanding.

As well as playing and coaching at the NBL level, Ali was working off the court for Basketball SA and was involved in the move to Findon.

“The best floor I ever played at was at the Apollo, the crowd was so close and you felt everyone was right alongside of you,” Ali said.

“When the Powerhouse was designed, one of the key criteria put forward was it had to feel like Apollo.

“While it went very close to doing that, it wasn’t quite the same, but still a great facility.

“For a basketball association back then to build a $13 million facility was fantastic.

“I have the first basketball shot at the Powerhouse and the last basketball shot at the Apollo. Best part is I shot them both.”


Ali made the no.8 famous for two NBL clubs across almost 300 games, but he needed to change from a childhood growing up as no.12.

“I was no.12 all the way through my juniors at West Adelaide and before I went into the senior ranks, I changed to no.8 because I knew the great Roger King wasn’t going to give up no.12,” Ali said.

“There was no way I was getting that, so no.8 became available when Geza Nagy retired, and that was that.

“I tried to master a fall away jump shot like Roger King, but I never mastered it.”

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After Cole gave Ali the weekly task of shutting down the opposition’s best player, you would think finding the toughest opponent would be a hard choice.

“Ken always gave me an assignment, one week Leroy, then James Crawford, Wayne McDaniel, Winston Crite were successful, but some weren’t, but I always made them work that little bit harder,” Ali said.

Ali had numerous battles with Brisbane Bullets swingman Loggins, who still is arguably one of the best imports to play in the NBL.

“He was an absolute professional in the way he approached the game,” Ali said.

“Leroy was a great scorer, but he was also very underrated as a defender.

“Definitely Davis at training, but Loggins was probably the one that was the most difficult.”

Loggins and Ali were teammates in the Bearcats 1982 NBL championship team before the man simply known as ‘Leroy’ moved his career to Brisbane.

“You never knew what you were going to get with Leroy,” Ali said.

“It was like ‘yeah, these are his moves’, but you could never stop, he always made up something new all the time.

“We all knew it was left, left, left, but we found it difficult to stop him.”

After spending so much time on the court together, as either teammates or opponents, Ali said the more time he got to know Loggins’s game, the harder the task got.

“What made it more difficult was he knew what I was going to do too,” Ali said.

Ali Pics 02

Being part of so many successful teams and tasting the ultimate success on numerous occasions, Ali said to single out one teammate would be ‘impossible’.

“David Spear has been my best mate across the journey, for sure,” Ali said.

Spear spent all of his career right next to Ali and the pair have had huge success both at State League and NBL level, and also have past their knowledge onto the next generation coaching junior teams at the Bearcats.

“Al Green is right up there too, I played with him ever since he arrived in Australia,” Ali said.

“They are all great teammates, so it is difficult to separate any one player.

“Darryl Pearce was very funny, and Scott Ninnis, Mike McKay and Brett Maher think they are comedians.

“But all my teammates are very close friends, which is great to have.”

Ali Pics 04

Ali won two NBL titles and seven state league championships with the Bearcats across an illustrious career, but he said nothing could compare to putting on the green and gold singlet.

“Moscow is the go, the championships are very good but representing your country in my opinion is the highest honour you can achieve,” Ali said.

Australia finished eighth at the 1980 Moscow Olympics but had a highly successful tournament, winning five of seven matches and also defeating silver medalists Italy.

“In the end, we lost one game by just 7 points that caused a three-way split and that cost us advancing to the semi final round” Ali said.

Making the 12-man roster in 1980 was a huge goal for Ali, especially after missing out on selection for Montreal in 1976.



“I missed out on the 1976 team because I had not worked hard enough” Ali said.

“I learnt from the 1976 disappointment and focused on being the best I could for the Moscow 1980 team.

“When we walked out onto the arena during the Opening Ceremony, I remember the feeling of just being completely numb.

“It’s just one of the moments that was ‘wow, this is magnificent’ and one of those things that just cannot be repeated.”

Ali said two coaches created the Boomers’ ambition from an early age.

“Alan Hughes was quite instrumental in my development, he sowed the seed when I was in under 12s,” Ali said. “Alan Dawe as well was huge for my career.

“To make it as an Olympian was special.”


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