ALEX FAIR THE ADVOCATE After what coach Sam Armstrong openly describes as “the longest pre-season in history”, the North-West Thunder are ready to hit the court in their NBL1 debut on Saturday night.
After what has been a “drawn out process” after the uncertainty of their future following the end of the SEABL, Armstrong said his general feeling now was excitement ahead of Saturday night’s season-opening clash with the Southern Sabres at Ulverstone.
“Being affiliated with the NBL brings a level of excitement and I have that level of excitement, but I also have a level of excitement for the guys as they can finally sink their teeth into it after a long pre-season,” he said.
“But it is all a bit of an unknown as you look and see that a lot of mainland teams have recruited heavily and there is a lot of NBL talent floating around, so it is hard to sit there and see where we do sit, but we have done our preparation the best we can with what we expect the opposition to throw at us.
“I think teams will look at us pretty similar as we look at others, with that sense of the unknown, but we expect them (the Sabres) to be similar to us, with a pretty young group with some experienced guys, but their affiliation with Melbourne United’s program, that will strengthen them up, and I expect them to display a lot of energy.”
Armstrong admitted that lack of knowledge about his opposition was a challenge as a coach, but the fact that everyone else was in the same boat would ensure that aspect wouldn’t be a huge disadvantage.
What he did know was the Thunder of 2019 will have a slightly different look to the 2018 incarnation.
“You take the three guys out of our starting five in Mason (Bragg), Lachie (Barker) and Benny Richmond, we were pretty guard heavy last year with some real quality, and with some young guys coming into those roles, we have had to shift away from those guys being our focal point,” he said.
“We will probably look to play more through our bigs and a focus of scoring a few more points at the paint and with Tre (Armstrong) leaving us at some point during the season, there goes another of our better shooters, so we have to find some ways to score outside of our really good guard play.
“On the defensive end use their young legs and their tenacity to get up the floor.”
Saturday’s game at Ulverstone will start at 7.30pm, with doors opening at 4pm.
Meanwhile, the Thunder have announced a naming rights sponsor for their Ulverstone home base.
The venue will be known as Oliver’s Bakery and Cafe Stadium for the 2019 NBL1 season.