Southland Sharks' problems keep mounting

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 27/05/2014
New Plymouth sharks
WITNESSES SOUGHT: CCTV footage from the New Plymouth pub brawl.

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The Southland Sharks are a team under siege with revelations yesterday of a positive drug test from one of their players - just a day after three of their players were charged with assault following a bar brawl.

The Sharks National Basketball League team were involved in what was described by a witnesses an "all-in brawl" outside a New Plymouth bar early on Sunday morning, just hours after the last-play NBL win over Taranaki.

As a result, the three Southland players have been charged with assault with intent to injure.

More Sharks developments followed yesterday, which included:

The Sharks snubbed Taranaki's after-match function.

Sharks starting player Gareth Dawson has confirmed he has been suspended for a positive drugs test. It has ruled him out for the past three games, which Sharks officials previously put down to "personal reasons".

Basketball New Zealand boss Iain Potter has stated if the Southland players are found guilty of the assault charges, their potential Tall Blacks chances would probably be over.

NBL chairman Sam Rossiter-Stead indicated they would take a hard line on the players if they were found guilty, which could mean the Sharks players would be booted from the competition.

Southland Sharks general manager Jill Bolger issued an apology to the Southland community for the New Plymouth incident.

The team snubbed the aftermatch function because they were tired and wanted to go bed, Taranaki Mountain Airs manager Mick McBeth said.

However, hours after pulling out, the three Southland Sharks players were arrested for their alleged involvement in a attack on bouncers in front of the city's Crowded House bar about 2.30am on Sunday.

"The interesting thing from our point of view is the Sharks didn't turn up to the after-match function because, the reasons given to me were, they were all tired and wanted to go to bed."

McBeth said the Sharks' manager sent him an email after the match saying the team would not be coming. The Sharks were the first team ever to decline the aftermatch function, McBeth said.

It should be Southland basketball's moment in the sun with what has happened on the court but instead the sport is facing one of its darker hours with the off-field drama.

The Southland Sharks are defending National Basketball League champions after winning the title last year in just their fourth season in the league.

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This year they have won five games on the trot and sit in the top four at the midway point in the competition.

On Friday night, the Sharks will also be finalists for team of the year at the Southland Sports Awards. All that has, however, been overshadowed by the assault allegations and now the revelation of Dawson's positive drugs test.

Bolger said everyone involved was with the Sharks were distraught at the moment.

"All the Sharks players, team management and board are devastated by this avoidable incident," Bolger said talking about the incident in New Plymouth.

"We apologise wholeheartedly to the Southland Community, fans, sponsors, partners. Our players are aware of their responsibility as role models and this will require some rebuilding in the public eye.

"Our investigation into the incident in New Plymouth is continuing. Our board and management have met with team management to discuss this incident this morning and this will be ongoing.

"While any assault is reprehensible, there is a need to hear both

sides of the story and let the police investigation run its course."

Basketball NZ boss Iain Potter said the assault charges did not look good on many fronts and those involved could face serious consequences.

"It is unnecessary and very disappointing these guys have put themselves in a position they should never have put themselves in," Potter said. "There are now a whole lot of consequences, not just for them, but their families, their team, for Southland - it's a terrible look for Southland - and for the sport and NBL."

Meanwhile, Sport Southland chief executive Brendon McDermott said despite the team's recent dramas he still believed its achievements on the basketball court last year warranted them being finalists for Sports Team of the Year at the Southland Sports Awards on Friday night.

"It's to do with their performance last year, and their performance was nothing short of outstanding."

- The Southland Times

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