What We Learned From Round 9

Photo credit: Masanori Udagawa/Photo Wellington

Never Too Late For That Winning Feeling

When purely assessing wins and losses, season 2024 has been a horrible one for the Southland Sharks as their worst ever start to a season stretched to 11 straight losses. But all was forgiven and forgotten last Saturday afternoon when the Shark Tank finally got to celebrate a win. Even better, the Sharks notched up their first win of the season against local rival Otago Nuggets. Nothing beats sending your neighbour home with a loss. Nothing beats that winning feeling!

The Bulls Take A Defensive Hit

The reason behind the departure of Jamaal Brantley at the Bulls remains a mystery, but what’s not a mystery is the impact his loss had defensively on the team. Brantley was regarded as one of the best defenders in the competition, finishing as a defensive player of the year nominee last season, and without him we immediately saw the Bulls give up their biggest score of the season (105 points) in a loss to the Giants, which included giving up 52 points inside the paint (Giants average 45). Let’s see what answers the Bulls come up with this week as they travel to the deep south to face the Sharks.

Fouling Bulls Way Too Charitable

Sticking with the Bulls where another concern has emerged for coach Sebastian Gleim in the form of opposition teams visiting the charity stripe way more than he would like. A whopping 20 per cent of all points scored against the Bulls are coming from the Chemist Warehouse Stripe. It’s an alarming figure when you compare it to the likes of the Airs (12.5%) and the Rams (12.8%). After nine rounds, the Bulls commit the most fouls per game in the League (21.9) – where the average across the other 10 teams is 18 fouls per game – they send opposition teams to the line 23.9 times – the average across all other teams is 18.7 – and they give up 20% of points scored against them from the stripe – where the average of all other teams is 14.6%. The sample size of (more than) half a season indicates the Bulls need to find a solution.

Injuries Hit Saints Hard

The Saints were pushed aside by the Rams in R9 and if that wasn’t bad enough for the 12-time champs, a peek through the window of the medical room reveals a number of growing problems. Hyrum Harris exited after just 4 minutes against the Rams with a flare up of the same knee injury that has already sidelined him this season, however the way he hobbled off is concerning and now we all await the results of an MRI. Lat Mayan also suffered a badly rolled ankle which looks like putting him out of action for a few days of training, possibly longer. On the upside, Izayah Le’afa is expected to return for this week’s crucial northern road trip where the Saints will play the Whai and Tuatara.

Rams Are The Real Deal

At just 20 years of age, Australian Lachie Olbrich is having a heck of a season for the Rams. Without Olbrich in the lineup the Rams are 0-2, but with their young centre playing they boast nine wins, including a current run of eight straight. The Rams ventured to the capital last Saturday night and punched the Saints square in the face with a KO blow, boxing their way to a 23-point win that left a packed house of Saints fans stunned. The 2023 champions look a complete unit and more than capable of going back-to-back, especially with Olbrich in the middle.

Better Late Than Never For Jets & Sharks

It’s taken more than half a season, but both the Jets and Sharks arguably looked better in R9 than they have for the whole season. For the Sharks it resulted in a win, while the Jets fell agonisingly 2 points short against the Whai (anyone remember the bucket they gave up off the tip?). Both teams have encountered issues with injuries and import selections, but both seem to now have a better mix and balance. While the Final 6 looks well beyond reach for both teams, the danger for all others is no game against the Jets or Sharks can be taken lightly for the rest of the season. While the bottom two teams are likely out of contention, they will now play the part of spoiler and possibly help shape the business end of the season.  

Fans First Approach Reaching New Heights

The Sal’s NBL continues to lead the way across NZ domestic sport when it comes to putting the fans at the centre of the action, as evidenced by numerous innovations over recent years, along with the fun fans have after every game when they get to meet the players on court. In R9 we saw another surge in crowds with the Airs, Tuatara and Saints drawing big numbers, while the green army turned up in a big way for a rare Jets Sunday afternoon game at Fly Palmy Arena. In particular, credit to the work the Tuatara are doing amongst its local community on the North Shore, where the Chinese celebration last Friday night delivered a heap of entertainment, including a spectacular half-time show.

DKP Is Simply The Best

As always there is plenty of chatter around the competition about mullets and hairstyles, but Dom Kelman-Poto continues to be the frontrunner when it comes to showcasing his constantly changing artwork on his head. DKP’s R9 effort was next level, a matching Bulls yellow number with a black bull patterned into the back of his head (anyone else reminded of Dennis Rodman?). Try as they might, the likes of Dan Grida, Liam Judd and Brody Perry still have some work to do if they hope to catch the GOAT of NZ hoops hair scene.

Te Tuhi Lewis Soars

Make no mistake, the 2025 contract for Te Tuhi Lewis is going to look a lot different to his 2024 contract. Another breakout performance by the Whai’s shooting guard, this time against the Jets, will have every team considering his enormous value as a floor spacer, dead-eye shooter, and competitive defender with an insatiable work ethic. Lewis has become the perfect role model this year for what the Sky Broadband Rapid League has been put in place to do, with his skills and talent emerging through the innovative new competition, and now it is transforming the Whai’s young star becoming a highly valued member of the Sal’s NBL outfit in Tauranga. Mark it down - next year’s contract for Lewis will be worth quite a bit more than his 2024 deal, and he deserves every dollar.  


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