The Hawke's Bay Hawks are entering unchartered waters this weekend when they have to travel to Tasmania for their final regular season game, all the while trying to carry momentum into for the Final 4 the following week.
Following what has been dubbed the 'Tassie Curse' being bandied about by coaches and the media alike, and also being mindful that they have a game against the Rams before having to board multiple flights to Launceston, the Hawks have decided to leave all five regular starters at home, along with both coaches.
Brandon Bowman, EJ Singler, Ethan Rusbatch, Dion Prewster and Jarrod Kenny will stay at home following Thursday night's game against the Rams and hand the playing duties over to a string of players who will their first dose of big minutes this season.
The team will consist of a possible eight second unit players, while recently injured player James Levings will travel and coach the team with Zico Coronel and Morgan Maskell both choosing to stay on the eastern side of the ditch.
The team the Hawks have named to play the Huskies is;
3. Nick Fee (guard)
5. Everard Bartlett (guard)
27. Jamal Mikaio (forward)
7. Darryl Jones (forward)
18. Clifton Bush III (forward)
19. Dominic McGovan (guard)
11. Ryan Laumatia (guard)
Jacob Nahora (forward)
Coach: James Levings
Manager: Kerry Raynor
In announcing his undermanned squad for Saturday night's game, coach Zico Coronel said;
"Given the circumstances - a semi-final with the Rams locked in - the performances of teams returning from Tasmania throughout the season, and the testimony of multiple coaches throughout the league confirming the difficulty of the task upon return - we deemed it prudent to send a development squad to Launceston, allowing for our heavy minutes players to recover and begin preparations for the Final Four."
"It is a great opportunity for our young players to apply all their hard work and learnings throughout the season. Notably, point guard James Levings will coach the side - a request he made from his hospital bed shortly after dislocating his ankle at a practice. James quite simply wanted to continue to contribute anyway he could, and with a promising future as a coach, he will be of great value in this endeavour," Coronel added.
Sal's NBL GM Justin Nelson said that while the decision of Coronel and the Hawks was far from ideal, it was within the rules and most people understand why they are doing it, however he pointed to new rules that have already been drafted that will help prevent a similar situation going forward.
"I think there are a mixture of things that have led to the Hawks making this decision, such as the schedule, the uneven nature of the competition and the rules that at the moment allow for this sort of thing to occur. They have done nothing wrong whatsoever," said Nelson.
"However, there are also number of things being worked on behind the scenes to help broaden the competitiveness of the competition and avoid what I've constantly referred to as a two-speed league, plus some new rules coming in that will prevent teams from playing away games with less than nine players, for example.
"The Hawks have done nothing outside the rules and I dare say that any other team in their situation would do the same, but that doesn't mean it won't be fixed, because it will. To have the Huskies finish the season with their last two home games being played against extremely understrength opponents is not want we want to see and tighter rules are on the way," added Nelson.
"A situation like this won't happen again."