Justin Nelson’s Burning Questions – Round 14

Photo credit: tackld

With the Final 6 fast approaching, what were the best signs to come out of R14 of the Sal’s NBL?

There were three things for me that would have brought a smile to the faces of coaches, players and fans of three different teams, especially with the playoffs just a week away. The first was in the capital where late-season recruit Elijah Thomas scored 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting in just over 19 minutes of action. It was Thomas’ biggest return in four games, his first three outings yielding just nine points per game. Big and strong, the centre’s presence under the basket has been badly needed by the Saints and his emerging positives against the Jets was timely.

The second good sign came in ‘The Bay’ where the Hawks took down the Tuatara, marking a second straight home win and the first time the Aucklanders had lost in 11 games. Even better for the Hawks was they did it without Ethan Rusbatch. Talk about a timely run of good form by a team that up until the last couple of rounds had underperformed for most of the season. And the third was the Rams with two good wins on the road and plenty of players standing up. Without a title since 1992, the Rams will be pleased they have some key players running into form at the right end of the season – such as Tevin Brown, Galin Smith, Max Darling and Taylor Britt. They all look to be heating up.

What can we expect from the Tauihi season 2?

I think the biggest thing will be growth … in standards, product delivery, attendances, talent, media coverage, commercial support, and so much more. What Tauihi did in year one, as a new national sporting competition starting off the back of Covid was quite remarkable. I think the success of Tauihi is still sinking in for so many people, but as the competition progresses and continues to build, I hope everyone takes a moment to reflect on the formative years and how we all got to the start line.

To be entering season two and to have no less than nine WNBA players involved is quite remarkable and it totally deserves to be a major headline. Again, some are a bit slower than others to figure out the talent we have on our shores. For global international talent, Tauihi really is head and shoulders above a lot of other sports. Plus, we have the new Rapid League, which will help showcase a lot of rising Kiwis. I don’t think it’s any secret how important I think innovation is for sport and I can only hope the benefits that should flow from Rapid League, do flow. Overall, if we can come out of this second Tauihi season and have even more people connected to the game, either watching from the stands or at home on television, I’ll be very happy (as we all should be).

Who are the players to watch in Tauihi?

All of them! But, let me narrow it down a bit for you. If I’m in charge of the remote control or have the chance to get out and sit in the stands I’m definitely making sure I get to see Penina Davidson (Kahu), Stephanie Watts (Queens) and Aaliyah Wilson (Whai) – they are top of my ‘must watch’ list. The Kahu announcing Aussie star Tess Madgen adds them to the must-see list as well. I also think locals Tegan Graham and Grace Hunter (Queens) are both going to be real personalities and the fans will flock to them, while I love the passion Zoe Richards (Hoiho) plays with every time she represents her home town of Dunedin.

Will this year’s Sal’s NBL All-Star 5 feature two or three guards?

Under the voting system, the 15-person panel must select either two guards and three forward/centres or three guards and two forward/centres. The players up for selection will be the top 10 vote getters in each - so 10 x guards and 10 x forward/centres - the voting of course coming from the coaches after every game.

For me, the depth of guards this season points to them taking up three spots and leaving two positions for forward/centres. The depth of guards includes Jeremy Kendle (Sharks), Jarrad Weeks (Tuatara), Kyle Adnam (Saints), Javion Blake (Jets), Reuben Te Rangi (Tuatara), Avery Woodson (Giants), Michael Harris (Nuggets) and Rickey McGill (Bulls), who should all be in contention. The voting starts following this Sunday’s late game with results and award winners to be announced in the lead-up to the Final 6 next week.

Recently announced for the Sal’s NBL Final 6, should the Instant Review System (IRS) be available for all games in 2024?

In an ideal world, absolutely, yes. But, unfortunately, there’s a bit more to it than that. To bring the IRS into all games, which in 2024 will total 115 games in the Sal’s NBL, it will require an upgrade in production and resources at every game - after all, to deliver a consistent system you must have consistent infrastructure and production. The reason why you will see an IRS in use during the Final 6 is because the event will have the highest level of production and resources to operate everything - multiple cameras and a big production crew in trucks and running around the stadium with very advanced technology.

To have this level of production and resources across 115 games would come at a huge cost and the league isn’t quite to that level … yet. That said, the introduction of IRS at the Final 6 is a step in the right direction. As we’ve seen through multiple advances in the Sal’s NBL during the last few years - building sustainability and introducing new technology and innovations is a fiscally responsible way ensures the teams and league can thrive.


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