JARRYD MCGUANE THE ADVOCATE North-West Thunder chairman Tony Barker is excited for what expansion will bring to the NBL1 competition in 2020.
In a landmark agreement, the NBL1 competition will be expanded to include former Queensland Basketball League to create a two-conference system.
The 13 teams who formerly competed in QBL will be added to the competition in the NBL1 North conference, while the participating clubs from the 2019 NBL1 inaugural season and the reintroduced Mount Gambier Pioneers will be in the NBL1 South conference.
Barker said the expansion of the league with finals between the two states would increase excitement for players and was expecting more expansion in the future.
“It has been something that has been on the drawing board for a while now and Queensland will be in for this season and other states will come in over a period of time as well,” he said.
“It will mean we will get on and focus with what we do in the NBL South and play similar to what we have and there will be a sort of super finals down the track for all states to play in.
“It will give the NBL1 brand a whole lot more clout and it will open it up for a bigger audience and it will be great for our players, sponsors and supporters.
“If or when we will be able to play in those national finals, that will be a pretty good return for our supporters.”
In the Southern conference alongside the Thunder and Launceston Tornadoes will be the Albury-Wodonga Bandits, Ballarat Miners and Rush, Bendigo Braves, Dandenong Rangers, Diamond Valley Eagles, Eltham Wildcats, Frankston Blues, Geelong Supercats, Hobart Chargers, Kilsyth Cobras, Knox Raiders, Melbourne Tigers, Mount Gambier Pioneers, Nunawading Spectres, Ringwood Hawks, Sandringham Sabres and Waverley Falcons.
The news of the expanded competition was released alongside the fixture for the NBL1 South conference, which has been very kind to the Thunder.
The Thunder will play 12 of their 22 matches in Tasmania, with nine games at Ulverstone, two games in Launceston and one away game in Hobart.
Barker said the locking in of the roster in January has allowed the club to get ahead in their preparation for the upcoming season.
“Last year, we were on the back foot from the outset for a host of reasons, so this year we are pleased we can get on and do things, rather than wait to see what is going to happen,” he said.
“Even when it comes down to even something like the themed rounds, at least you can lock them in and it makes planning a lot easy all round,” he said.
Barker said the club was still on the lookout for a big man import to add to the squad.
April 18: Albury Wodonga Bandits v NW Thunder at 7:00pm at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre, Albury
April 19: Dandenong Rangers v NW Thunder at 2:00pm at the Dandenong Basketball Stadium
April 25: NW Thunder v Ballarat Miners at 8:00pm in Launceston
May 2: NW Thunder v Frankston Blues in 8:00pm at OBC Ulverstone
May 9: NW Thunder v Eltham Wildcats in 7:30pm at OBC Ulverstone
May 16: Sandringham Sabres v NW Thunder at 7:00pm at the Southern Basketball Association, Cheltenham
May 17: Frankston Blues v NW Thunder at 12:30pm at the Frankston Basketball Stadium
May 23: Eltham Wildcats v NW Thunder at 8:00pm at the Eltham High School
May 24: Kilsyth Cobras v NW Thunder at 2:00pm at the Kilsyth Sports Centre
May 30: NW Thunder v Mt Gambier Pioneers at 7:30pm at OBC Ulverstone
June 6: Hobart Chargers v NW Thunder at 8:00pm at Creek Road Stadium
June 13: NW Thunder v Geelong Supercats at 7:30pm at OBC Ulverstone
June 20: NW Thunder v Hobart Chargers at 7:30pm at OBC Ulverstone
June 27: NW Thunder v Diamond Valley Eagles at 7:30pm at OBC Ulverstone
July 4: NW Thunder v Nunawading Spectres at 8:00pm in Launceston
July 11: Knox Raiders v NW Thunder at 7:30pm at the State Basketball Centre, Wantirna South
July 12: Melbourne Tigers v NW Thunder at 2:30pm at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre
July 18: NW Thunder v Bendigo Braves at 7:30pm at OBC Ulverstone
July 25: NW Thunder v Ringwood Hawks at 7:30pm at OBC Ulverstone
August 1: NW Thunder v Waverley Falcons at 8:00pm at OBC Ulverstone
August 8: Bendigo Braves v NW Thunder at 7:30pm in Bendigo
August 9: Ballarat Miners v NW Thunder at 2:00pm in Ballarat