Southland Sharks aim to break home hoodoo

TENSE TIME: Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare has not had the best start to the season.
TENSE TIME: Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare has not had the best start to the season.

The Sharks will look to turn around a disappointing start to the season when they host the Super City Rangers tonight.

A first-up 83-77 home loss to the Otago Nuggets was less than ideal for the NBL's defending champions, who will go into the second round without injured United States import Brian Conklin.

Sharks coach Paul Henare picked up Wollongong Hawks forward Dave Gruber from the airport yesterday and was looking forward to seeing what impact he could have on the game - providing the expected clearance goes through during the next 24 hours.

"One of the areas we got hurt in was the boards; we lost that rebound count quite significantly and we just got outworked," Henare said.

"If there's anything that Dave will bring to the team it's just that energy and enthusiasm under the bucket. I know the guys are excited to have him here and be working alongside him. In that area, at least, we should make some progress."

The Sharks get the next opportunity to break a mini-curse that has set in at the ILT Stadium.

No Southland team has won on the rebuilt centre court in three outings - including two losses for Southern Steel.

"I didn't realise until Sue [Clarke] from the Steel mentioned it. We are definitely eager to break that little hoodoo that we've got going on. It's such a great facility and we are so excited about it, but we need to turn that thing into a fortress and we can start that [tonight]."

The Rangers have a much stronger look about them than the team that won two from 16 after coming into the league a year earlier than planned.

There's no shortage of experience in the roster, with Dillon Boucher and imports Daryl Corletto and Eric Devendorf.

Corletto, who makes his debut for the Rangers tonight, will be a threat with his shooting from the perimeter, Henare said.

"You have to respect him. He sits on the three-point line and stretches the three-point line and you can't give him any space."

Breakers development player Duane Bailey impressed in his debut last week, along with Tai Wynyard, the son of world woodchopping champions Jason and Karmyn Wynyard, who heads to New York next week for a high school all-star game supported by Michael Jordan.

"I watched the video of the game last week and he had an outstanding game. He's 16 years old, he's 6-9, his parents are world champions and he's cut from the same mould. I know Tai quite well, he's in the Breakers academy and trained with us a few times. It's good to see him play well but, hopefully, we can do a good job on him."

The Southland Times