What We Learned From Round 4

Photo credit: Render Creative NZ

Rated E For Entertainment 

The Saints and Airs delivered loads of entertainment in a Sunday night showdown that was filled with fire and brimstone. But it was the battle off the court that got people talking as Sky’s microphones picked up a heated exchange between the two opposing coaches, Zico Coronel and Sam Mackinnon. Audiences of the Sal’s NBL are quite accustomed to the cameras and microphones taking viewers deep inside the teams and benches, it’s like few other sports on television in NZ and delivers next level entertainment. On this occasion the heat in the kitchen was rising fast and left viewers on the edge of their seats.

Where To From Here For Tangled Sharks?

It’s hard to believe we are now talking about 2024 as being the worst ever start to a season for the Southland Sharks. At 0-6, coupled with a lack of cohesion and form, you can put a line through the Final 6 for the Sharks - which is a hard pill to swallow just four weeks in. Regardless of players missing (Burton/Inger), to the naked eye this is a group that looks disconnected and not playing for each other, self-pride (for some) has left the building. The 40-point loss to the Tuatara is likely the biggest hiding in the club’s history. This week’s response against the Rams is going to be fascinating to watch. Surely the Sharks – all of them – stand up.

Welcome Back Lachie Olbrich

It’s been a tough few weeks for young Aussie Rams centre Lachie Olbrich, but what a way to get back on court and playing hoops! Olbrich was a welcome inclusion for the Rams against the Hawks and boy did he deliver some epic moments with a 35-point haul. Good to have you back Lachie.

Bulls Blow The Lid Right Off

It’s been an impressive start to the season by the Franklin Bulls who, at 4-0, sit atop the Sal’s NBL ladder as the League’s only unbeaten team. Confidence is high at The Stockyard and the Bulls are reveling in their early season success as they promote their red-hot start across social media. The lid is definitely off in Pukekohe and the hunters will now become the hunted as they sit alone atop the standings. How long will the winning streak last?

A Taane Samuel Sighting

There was a familiar face watching the Tuatara and Sharks play in Auckland last Friday and from the stands in Wellington as the Saints hosted the Airs, and this pair of appearances has led to a few questions. Former Jets and Saints star Taane Samuel is back in NZ, and it appears the talented young forward is eager to return to the Sal’s NBL. While the most likely landing place for Samuel would seem to be back with either the Saints or Jets, both teams have shown little interest and have (for the moment) ruled themselves out. It’s believed the Hawks and Whai might be the only teams with cap space, but all that could change after R7 when the new trade window opens and teams that trade a player in get a boost in their salary cap. Could we see a team in the second half of the season scoop up the prodigiously talented but at times wayward Samuel?

Forget The Slow Start, The Giants Mean Business

Finally with a full roster and boasting back-to-back wins, the Nelson Giants are up and running and look like they could be a contender this season. The recent inclusion of imports Kobe Langley and Theo Ekwuba have been on point and reflect clever recruiting by Mike Fitchett, who waited for what seemed to be an eternity to get the fits, while the return of Sam Dempster shouldn’t be understated. And what about Dan Grida … a hot start by the Aussie guard, who openly professes his love for the Nelson region, has him slated as an early contender for the All-Star 5.

The Rise And Rise Of Rapid League

Now a month in, there is a better understanding of the League’s newest innovation, Rapid League, and the profound positive impact it is having up and down the country. While the Kiwi-led innovation, a world first, was successfully introduced in the 2023 Tauihi season, it is now being embraced by fans and players in the men’s game. Already we are seeing young stars like Hayden Jones, Nicholas Davidson, James Matthews, Jackson Ball, Tommy Fergusson, Lachlan Crate, Tama Isaac, Nico Hill, Te Tuhi Lewis, Ben Hall and Josh Tutagalevao (among several others) grow their respective game via the increased playing opportunities the format has delivered. Fans are arriving early, there’s 50 per cent more basketball on television, and loads of new sponsors have joined the League and teams. But most importantly, how about the games highlights galore and… some thrillers!

Double Trouble For Froling

Now before we get too carried away, it should be noted that Sam Froling scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Saints on Sunday night, but it was a tough 22 as the Saints constantly threw a double team at Froling in the post. The 24-year-old is a star, no question, and his talent enabled him to still score big and contribute heavily, but overall the defensive ploy by the Saints worked and no doubt all other coaches will have been taking notes.

A Clear Message On Head-High Contact

The Nuggets went down to the Bulls by quite a bit in R4, the southerners suffering their first loss of the season in the process, but they did so with a suspended Tai Webster. The star Kiwi guard was rubbed out for a game after striking Lat Mayen (Saints) in the back of the head in the previous round. The resulting one-game suspension came with a clear warning from the League’s Game Review Commissioner that moving forward any contact with a player’s head will be closely looked at.

The R4 Highlight Was A Kiss

Amongst another big bag of highlights in Round 4, maybe the best came from a 16-year-old. Looking for his first ever Sal’s NBL points, young Auckland Tuatara gun Jackson Kiss decided to leave everyone stunned with a massive baseline drive and dunk over three Sharks. It’s a very early sign that this kid is going to be planting loads of KISSes on unsuspecting defenders for years to come. 


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