Henare hints at playing to help depleted Sharks

WILLING TO CHIP IN: Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare.
WILLING TO CHIP IN: Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare.

Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare is considering a dramatic playing comeback to help his under-fire team on Sunday night.

The Sharks' 2014 National Basketball League season has been rocked with three players suspended indefinitely after an incident in New Plymouth that resulted in three players charged with assault with intent to injure.

The charges are scheduled to be heard in the New Plymouth Court today but the players are not expected to appear.

The suspensions come on top of Gareth Dawson being stood down after a positive drugs test.

It has left Henare with just eight players in his squad and pondering what he is going to do for the reminder the season.

The first assignment is to get through Sunday's game against the Taranaki Mountain Airs.

Henare said it was only yesterday when he actually started to ponder basketball after two days of getting his head around the off-field drama.

He said one option could be that he suits up to play on Sunday night.

The 35-year-old is a New Zealand basketball legend.

He carved out a 15-year career in the NBL.

He also played for the Tall Blacks and was honoured when he was the first Breakers player to have his number (32) retired at the Auckland-based club.

In 2011, he retired from playing, opting to switch to the coaching ranks, but the Sharks' current dramas could see him lead from the front and put on his playing shoes again on Sunday night.

Henare will train with the team this week, partly to help make up numbers for opposed sessions but to potentially also get him ready for what would be a left-field playing comeback.

"I'd be lying if I said it hasn't crossed my mind but I think we need to play this week out and talk to the team to see what is best for the team as a whole.

"It's something we are going to have to deal with," he said in regard to the limited numbers remaining in the Sharks squad.

"It's definitely not going to be easy; there is going to be added pressure on the guys who are playing on Sunday and there's obviously going to be more pressure on everybody other than just playing the game. There's going to be guys that were not expected to play or haven't played many minutes, who are going to have to step up and play.

"It is going to be a test for me as a coach to manage that best - even the training and preparation time is going to be disrupted with the numbers we have. We've just got to make the best out of it that we can."

Henare was planning to contact former Sharks player Dan Peck yesterday about the possibility of him stepping in to help the team.

Peck played 50 games for the Sharks before retiring at the end of last season because of work and family commitments.

The Sharks coach also plans to look around for possible replacement players from out- side the province but he did not expect to have anyone in place to step in and play on Sunday.

Henare was realistic that his team's winning prospects had taken a massive hit but he believes they have two of the best players in the league on their roster in Americans Kevin Braswell and Brian Conklin.

He feels if they can get a group of players to work around those two, they could still win games.

The Sharks have nine round-robin fixtures to play and sit fourth in the competition standings.

They have won five games in a row.

Southland Sharks general manager Jill Bolger felt the suspension of the three players, who have been charged with assault, was the right thing.

"While the suspension is dependent on a number of factors, not least of which is any pending matters before the courts, team management and the board have decided this is the appropriate action."

The suspension is effective from Monday and will be monitored depending on what develops.

"The players concerned are extremely remorseful and the suspension will not be easy for them but it was the only course of action open to us until the matter is resolved," she said.

NBL chairman Sam Rossiter-Stead said his board was fully behind the Sharks management in the way it has handled the situation.

"We understand and support the decision taken by the Sharks to suspend these three players. They have taken a firm line on this issue, as we would expect, and have handled the whole situation extremely professionally. We will continue to work closely with them until the matter is finally resolved."

The Southland Times