The SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks aren’t getting ahead of themselves for this year’s Sal’s NBL season. The defending champions finished the year on a dream run in which they saw themselves knock off both second and first place from the regular season and take out the final with a 98-96 win over the Cigna Wellington Saints.
The Sharks have lured multiple new recruits to the country’s southernmost franchise but have also lost players to both opposition and abroad. Most notably imports Orlando Coleman and Conor Morgan, who were the team’s leading scorers and rebounding contributors. Talented guards Derone Raukawa and Reuben Te Rangi have also been lost to the Taranaki Steelformers Mountainairs and Cigna Wellington Saints. The cavalry returning for the Sharks are Australian import, Jarrad Weeks, who will again act as the scoring playmaker in the backcourt and big man Alex Pledger returns as the defensive anchor.
Among the other new and old faces to arrive in Southland are Australians Mitch McCarron and Todd Blanchfield, who both previously played in the Sal’s NBL and the latter returning to the south. McCarron is currently under contract with ANBL side Melbourne United and is using the ANBL off-season to showcase his talents in Aotearoa. Former crowd favourite Blanchfield’s returns to Invercargill off the back of time with ANBL side the Illawarra Hawks and hopes to replicate last tenure’s play with a championship ending. Both players averaged double digits in points this past ANBL season and should help shoulder the scoring load.
Surplus talent is never a bad thing for a coach, but it also makes allocating playing time that much harder.
“Like we saw last year with Jarrad Weeks’ injury, having depth is crucial to keeping play consistent and that while we aren’t as deep this year I still feel very happy with the quality of our roster,” says Head Coach, Judd Flavell.
“There is the opportunity for a few guys to step-up and play big minutes because of how I’m looking to run our rotations, but again if guys are playing well then I’ll have to assess different situations and make a call on who fits where.”
The Sharks open their Sal’s NBL season against the Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams on Sunday April 14 at 2pm, where they will hoist last year’s banner and hope to hold serve in the last game of round one.
Season tickets are available now from ILT Stadium. For further information visit https://www.sharksbasketball.co.nz/tickets.