Round 1 Down – What Did We Learn?

The 2019 Sal's NBL season is officially underway with round 1 done and dusted. So what did we learn from the first five games of the season?

Here's three talking points from each game played and what we know so far.


Manawatu Jets 75 lost to Supercity Rangers 86

Jets (Wally Ellenson 24pts, Shane Tenara 15pts, Taane Samuels 14pts)

Rangers (Venky Jois 24pts & 11rbs, Tim Quarterman 23pts, Randall Bishop 12pts)

Stats That Matter - the Jets had more shots, rebounds, assists and free throws, but a 35% shooting clip was a huge thorn.

Sal's Pizza MVP - Venky Jois (Rangers) with 24pts, 11rbs, 2stl, 2blk, 1 trey


  1. The Jets will be better for the run. Shooting at 35% isn't going to win you too many games, but the shots were there and will fall at a higher clip as the team settles in. Wally Ellenson has a very good inside-outside game and looks set for a big season, while Shane Temara and Taane Samuels are two big bodies that some teams will find hard to move. 
  2. The Rangers are going to rely heavily on Venky Jois, Tim Quarterman, Randall Bishop and Nnanna Egwu. Expect all four to play big minutes this season. Quarterman, the ex-NBA 21-gamer looks cagey and could prove a handful for plenty of teams as he finds his stride, while Jois already looks a beast and isn't afraid to attack the basket with force.
  3. The league sent a clear message following this game with Rangers coach, Jeff Green, slapped with three charges for his behaviour on the night. When announcing the charges, NBL GM Justin Nelson said;


    “It is disappointing that we have needed to lay charges so early in the season, but it is important that everyone is aware that these rules will be enforced. Integrity of our League and the game of basketball is of high importance and there is a process in place to protect that.

    “I want to emphasise that this is a brilliant League that has some amazing players and coaches. It is in the public eye more than ever before and we will be doing all that we can to protect the integrity of the sport and the league.”


Wellington Saints 106 def Hawke's Bay Hawks 79

Saints (Nick Kay 25pts @ 92%, Shea Ili 22pts @ 81%, Jordan Ngatai 17pts & 10rbs)

Hawks (Edward Singler 19pts, Ethan Rusbatch 17pts, Daniel Kickert 14pts)

Stats That Matter - The Saints thumped the Hawks on the glass with a 63-30 rebound count, including a massive 23 offensive rebounds that helped lead to 24 second-chance points for the winners.

Sal's Pizza MVP - Nick Kay (Saints) with 25pts @ 92%, 11rbs, 8ast, 1blk


  1. The Saints are big, fast, hungry and very good. There wasn't much left to chance here, the Saints dominated every part of the game, particularly the rebound count where they smashed the Hawks 63-30. Impressively, Kay and Ili collectively shot 21 of 24, a remarkable clip to start the season. The signs of what's to come from the Saints are ominous.
  2. The Hawks will be better for the run, but they need to get their star player Daniel Kickert up and running very quickly. Kickert delivered some terrific highlights in the first half and looked the most likely to give the Hawks a fighting chance. However, late in the second quarter the Aussie star was seen ailing with a bad back on the sidelines and when he didn't return after half-time it became a long night for the visitors.
  3. Sharing is caring. With a star-studded roster one may have been mistaken for thinking there wouldn't be enough of the ball to feed all of Wellington's stars. However, coach Paul Henare has delivered an offensive system that gives everyone an opportunity to be the star. There was a lot to like about the distribution and spread in this game and if the Saints can hold onto that as the season progresses they will be a massive handful for most comers.


Hawke's Bay Hawks 98 def Supercity Rangers 86

Hawks (Ethan Rusbatch 34pts & 7 treys, Edward Singler 26pts & 12rbs, Dion Prewster 15pts)

Rangers (Venky Jois 26pts & 14rbs, Tim Quarterman 19pts & 8rbs)

Stats The Matter - The Hawks landed 16 triples compared with the Rangers dropping just 5 from beyond the arc, it proved to be a telling stat in an otherwise close battle.

Sal's Pizza MVP - Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) with 34pts, 8rbs, 2ast, 7 treys


  1. The Hawks will breathe a sigh of relief here. With star import Daniel Kickert sidelined with a bad back, things went from bad to worse for the home team when it was realised just after tip-off that fellow import Shaquille Thomas wasn't listed on the scoresheet, an absence not picked up by coaching staff when the final roster for the game was signed off. Thankfully the error didn't come back to bite them.
  2. Ethan Rusbatch is set for a bumper season. After an impressive display on Friday night in Wellington, Rusbatch went up a gear against the Rangers and made them pay dearly for not closing him down beyond the arc. Seven triples later and with 34pts in the bag, Rusbatch proved to be the difference between the two teams.
  3. The Rangers will be competitive this season so long as Jois, Quarterman and Egwu stay on court. Look for opposition teams to test the Rangers' big three early in games with aggressive offence in the hope of drawing fouls, because once the rotations start the Rangers thin out.


Nelson Giants 93 def Taranaki Mountainairs 78

Giants (Rhys Vague 21pts, Jordair Jett 17pts & 7ast, Daniel Grida 15pts, Sam Dempster 13pts)

Mountainairs (Chris Early 18pts, Derone Raukawa 16pts, Kevin Foster 15pts)

Stats The Matter - The Giants shot a bit better (50% compared to 39%) but the telling difference was inside the paint where the Giants dropped 50pts compared to Taranaki's 22pts.

Sal's Pizza MVP - Rhys Vague (Giants) with 21pts, 7rbs, 1ast, 1stl, 2blk, 2 treys. 


  1. The Giants have a really nice balance and everyone has a job to do - big or small job, it does't matter - they seem locked in. With all five starters scoring in double digits the ability to share the ball and find the best option looks a strength that the Giants will need to rely on this season.
  2. The Airs are good, so don't write them off just yet. On the road first-up against a good unit, the Airs didn't lose any admirers. Except for a lapse in the third period, the visitors were in this game all the way. 
  3. Rhys Vague, Daniel Grida and Jordair Jett complement each other really well. It looks like very astute recruiting by coach Mike Fitchett. Nelson's three imports all play different positions and first-up their ability to work with each other worked really well. As they spend more time together, the Giants import trio will no doubt catch a few teams off guard.


Southland Sharks 95 def Canterbury Rams 92

Sharks (Todd Blanchfield 24pts, Alex Pledger 17pts, Thomas Vodanovich 17pts, Jarrad Weeks 17pts & 5ast, Mitch McCarron 16pts, 11rbs & 7ast) 

Rams (Adam Gibson 21pts, Luke Aston 13pts)

Stats That Matter - The Canterbury Rams looked unstoppable from the arc in the first half, draining 11 triples in an awesome display of shooing from deep. However, that advantage went missing after the long break and with only one further triple across the second half the Rams had to find other ways to score.

Sal's Pizza MVP - Mitch McCarron (Sharks) with 16pts, 11rbs & 7ast.


  1. The Rams came into the season without too much fanfare, but therapy signs suggest they won't be making up the numbers this season. Though we expect Adam Gibson to depart this week, Cam Gliddon is about slide straight in, and from what we saw first-up down south you wouldn't be alone in thinking the Rams could surprise a few people in 2019.
  2. Experience counts for a lot in a close game and you only need take one look at Southland's starting unit to see just how much experience they have available. When it came to the last few plays the Sharks got the job done with some outstanding defence, closing the gaps and forcing the Rams into tough shots. We know the Sharks can score, but how they played defence down the stretch in this game will be something they reflect on positively during the week.
  3. What a crowd! The Sharks celebrated last year's championship win in style with their fans to open season 2019 and their adoring faithful turned up in huge numbers. So, who had the loudest and proudest fans in the opening round of the 2019 season? Hard to go past the Sharks.


COMING UP - Round 2

Thursday April 18 - Manawatu Jets vs Southern Huskies @ 7pm

Thursday April 18 - Nelson Giants vs Southland Sharks @ 7:35pm

Friday April 19 - Wellington Saints vs Southern Huskies @ 7pm

Saturday April 20 - Supercity Rangers vs Canterbury Rams @ 7pm

Sunday April 21 - Hawke's Bay Hawks vs Southern Huskies @ 3pm

Monday April 22 - Taranaki Airs vs Canterbury Rams @ 2pm


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