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Southland Sharks' NBL title defence looks grim

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 27/05/2014
Paul Henare
Fairfax NZ
WANTING A CROWD: Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare.

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The Southland Sharks' attempt to defend their National Basketball League title looks bleak with the prospect of three players being booted from the competition.

The Sharks National Basketball League team was allegedly involved in what was described by a witness as an "all-in brawl" outside a New Plymouth bar early on Sunday morning.

As a result, three Southland players were charged with assault with intent to injure.

They are scheduled to appear in the New Plymouth District Court tomorrow.

National Basketball League chairman Sam Rossiter-Stead said yesterday he did not want to pre-empt what would happen in the judicial process. However, he said if the players were found guilty they would be heavily punished - that could include being stood down from playing in the competition.

"If these allegations are proved to be correct, we will initiate our process. We've always taken a tough line on these types of issues so, if players are found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, then expect there is going to be some serious consequences for them."

It is likely that zero tolerance could spell the end of the three players' season if found guilty.

It would also turn 2014 into almost mission impossible for the Sharks. They would struggle to put a competitive team on the court, let alone again be a NBL title contender.

At the best of times there has been limited depth in the Sharks roster for coach Paul Henare to call on.

To add to the situation, the Sharks are already missing starting player Gareth Dawson.

Dawson was unavailable for the Sharks' past three games for what had been described by officials as "personal issues."

It was revealed yesterday that Dawson hadtested positive for drugs and will have to wait until a hearing next month to get clarity around his sporting future.

The Sharks' next match is against Taranaki, in Invercargill on Sunday night, which is looming as a disaster.

The struggle will centre not only on trying to focus on preparing for a win, among all the distractions, but also trying to put a team on the court.

Rossiter-Stead said he was disappointed the assault allegations had put a black mark next to the NBL competition's image.

"Our crowds are packed with families and young kids, and anything that distracts from that is extremely disappointing. We've always taken a tough line on these types of issues."

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Rossiter-Stead said it was disappointing that the positive strides Southland basketball had made had been tarnished by what has unfolded during the past couple of days.

In particular, he felt for the Sharks administration, most notably general manager Jill Bolger.

"I'll tell you now, Jill is the best administrator in the league; she is unbelievable. When I spoke to her yesterday, she was in a terrible state, I really feel for her because she is the hardest-working person around."

- The Southland Times

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