To get the 2021 Sal’s NBL season underway, how about a dose of champion v champion?!

The Go Media Otago Nuggets, the winners of the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown will play their first home game since 2014, and in town to try and spoil the Dunedin party are the League’s most successful team, the Wellington Saints, who won the last full season in 2019.

Potential Nuggets line-up

The Nuggets have a young, talented roster at their disposal. US import Isaiah Moss, fresh out of the University of Iowa and raring to start his pro career, will be the Nuggets primary playmaker. Richie Rodger and Josh Aitcheson will likely start at SG and SF respectively, with Australian import Geremy McKay and large local lad Sam Timmins teaming up in the front court.

Potential Saints line-up

The Saints will rely on pockets of experience in a roster that is expected to go far this season. Tall Black Dion Prewster and import Kerwin Roach will form one of the more formidable back courts in the league, while a front court trio of Taane Samuel, Tohi Smith-Milner and 210cm import Romaro Gill is going to be physically hard to handle. The Saints imports are not long out of quarantine, so how much we’ll see of them on opening night is up in the air.

The Benches

Kenneth Tuffin will see plenty of court time for the Saints and gives them the opportunity to go smaller at times. Young flyers Kael Robinson, Isaac Miller-Jose, and Ezrah Vaigafa will be fun to watch in the limited time they get. Former Tall Black, and Saints legend, Troy McLean has dusted off the Air Jordans to combine his assistant coaching role with a veteran playing role off the pine.

Expect young Nuggets bigs Akiva McBirney-Griffin and Jack Andrew to get some use tonight, given the size threat the Saints pose. Darcy Knox and Pafe Momoisea will be the back court backup for the home team.

The Coaches

2020 NBL Showdown Coach of the Year Brent Matehaere will be buzzing to be back at the Edgar Centre where he used to suit up for the Nuggets himself. He’ll bring every inch of his charisma, charm, and enthusiasm to opening night, while knowing full well he’s got a tactical battle on his hands.

Zico is back! A breath away from leading the Hawks to a title in 2019, Coronel is back in the capital where he won titles as an assistant coach with the Saints. He’ll look the part, he’ll act the part, and that’s because he is the part. Coronel will have plans in place, but this is an all-together different roster make-up to the one he had in Hawke’s Bay, so expect to see a different game-plan to the one we enjoyed so much in 2019.

Where it’ll be won

The Edgar Centre crowd will be key for the Nuggets. The first home game since 2014 should see a packed house and the Nuggets fans could get their team over the line through emotion alone.

With the Saints imports still settling in, the Tall Blacks duo of Prewster and Smith-Milner will be the key tonight. By far the most experienced players on court, if they can control things the Saints could be heading home with a dub on opening night.

How to watch

Tickets available here: Ticketek: Nuggets v Saints

SKY Sport 9 – 7:30pm – Commentary from Huw Beynon and Donna Wilkins


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