Positive spinoffs for Sharks

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2014
Reuben Te Rangi
Photosport
BACK DOWN SOUTH: Young Breaker Reuben Te Rangi will return for Southland earlier than expected as the Breakers are to miss the ANBL playoffs.

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The Breakers loss is the Southland Sharks' gain as the defending champions eye the start of the 2014 New Zealand National Basketball League season.

The Auckland-based Australian National Basketball League franchise bowed out of the playoff race on Friday night with their loss to the Melbourne Tigers.

The Breakers will play the remainder of the season searching for some pride and looking towards next season.

However, their early exit has meant for a smoother buildup for the Southland Sharks heading into the NBL season.

Southland were almost certain to be without key player Reuben Te Rangi for at least their first game against Otago on April 4 if the Breakers progressed into the later stages of the playoffs.

Sharks coach Paul Henare's buildup with the team would have also been limited given he is an assistant coach with Breakers but he will now be back in time to put the final touches on the Sharks' preparations.

Sharks general manager Jill Bolger said as a basketball fan she wanted the Breakers to push for four titles but acknowledged their disappointing season did have some positives attached to it for Southland.

"While nobody likes to think of the Breakers not making the playoffs, certainly for us we're very happy that we're going to have our players back on time," she said.

The other Sharks connection to the Australian Basketball League is American import Brian Conklin who plays for the Townsville Crocs.

The Townsville team is also out of playoff contention which means Conklin also is expected to be available for game one with the Sharks.

The Breakers play their final ANBL game on March 21 and Townsville will finish on March 22, giving the Sharks trio a small window to be ready for the season opener at ILT Stadium Southland.

Sharks players are already starting to roll into town.

James Paringatai and Kevin Braswell are based in Invercargill full time while Gareth Dawson recently returned to Invercargill.

New player Shea Ili arrived in the province at the weekend, while Luke Martin arrives from Australia this weekend.

Southland will play in a pre-season tournament in Wellington on March 22 and 23 where Leon Henry will link up with the team travelling from Los Angles where he is currently based.

The Sharks season tickets sales are already up with 360 season tickets sold at this stage compared to 240 last year.

Individual game tickets are already on sale with a bumper crowd expected for the first game. April 4.

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Bolger said the 2013 championship banner had been made and would be unveiled at the first game.

- The Southland Times

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