Noisy Southland Sharks fans heading to capital
While small in numbers those Southland Sharks fans heading to Wellington on Friday for the National Basketball League semifinals will attempt to replicate a typical noisy home crowd in Invercargill.
The Sharks take on the Bay Hawks in the first of two semifinals in Wellington on Friday night with the hope of advancing to Saturday night's final.
Southland Sharks general manager Jill Bolger said she wasn't sure exactly how many Southlanders were heading north for the playoffs but had been told by some they were making the trip and planning to make plenty of noise in support of Southland.
Bolger expected many Southlanders now living in Wellington would turn out to support the team.
"There is a lot of [Southland] people up that way, like James Parangitai's family and there are people in Manawatu saying 'bring me some orange' and 'I hope you're bringing the bangers'," she said.
One Sharks fan who has decided to head to Wellington to support his team is Kane "Big Daddy" Johnson.
Johnson is the MC at the Sharks home games in Invercargill and said he didn't want to miss Southland's attempt to go back-to-back in the NBL.
Johnson said he had not been a basketball follower until the Sharks entered the league in 2010 and he had grown to love the game and the Southland team.
"I just love the excitement the game brings at our home games. The atmosphere and the passion - and just being part of a pretty special organisation that has had it's moments this year but keeps on pulling through.
"That's why I think me and a few others need to get up there and support the boys as much as we can and go for the back-to-back, that would be pretty special," Johnson said.
He believed they could turn Wellington into a home crowd this weekend for the Sharks.
"There's a hearty crew heading through to represent the Sharks 2000-plus fans at a Sharks game. We're trying to emulate what the Southland crowd does, up there, there will no shortage of passion."
Johnson said they were working on a meeting point for ex-pat Southlanders in Wellington so the could meet and enter the stadium together in full cry.
Meanwhile, for those that cannot make the trip to Wellington the Lonestar will hold a Sharks function on Friday night with the semifinal on the big screen. If the Sharks make the final they would do the same for the decider.
"There are also a few Sharks parties going on that I've heard of, with a few people having 15-odd people around for a Sharks party which is great as well," Bolger said yesterday.