N/W TASMANIA THUNDER
Wins – 13
Losses – 11
Standing – lost Semi-Final
2016 result – 10 wins, 14 losses, 6th South Conference
Winning three of their final four games, the Thunder held off Bendigo for the last playoff spot in the South Conference and bounced back after missing the finals in 2006. They had a very slow start but responded with a run of 12 wins from 17 games which was the best form for any team during that period. Despite finishing fourth, they owned the best road record of any finalist in their Conference at 8-4 which included wins at Bendigo, Geelong and Dandenong in the final round when they put a horror trip to the stadium behind them to defeat the Rangers by 11 points and finally secure a finals position. While they lost Akeem Richmond after just three games, his replacement Ahmad Starks proved to be a defining factor in their season as he averaged 19.4 points and 3.4 assists. Daniel Sepokas (14.8 points) also impressed and together with Starks and Ben Richmond, they all knocked down 37% from long range.
N/W Tasmania finished with a winning record but they only owned the ninth most effective offence as well as just the eighth equal-best defence. It is difficult to fault their Semi-Final loss to Dandenong though as Jorden Page caught fire off the bench before drilling the game-winning shot. Jeremiah Ingram then missed a lay-up on the final play to be eliminated in heartbreaking fashion. The flip-side to their strong road record was a 5-7 record at home, the worst of any playoff team, and that inability to perform at Ulverstone ultimately hurt them again in the Semi-Final. They also began the season in poor form, winning just one of their first seven games while scoring just 41 points against Hobart in Round 1 in an incredible 57-point defeat.
Jeremiah Ingram had a very strong debut for the Thunder this season and will hopefully not stew on his final shot for the team which looked to be a lay-up he would make 99 times out of 100. He showed his ability to impact all areas of the floor throughout the season with 19.2 points, eight rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting at 49% from the field. Sitting third for free-throws made, Ingram’s attack on the basket was also a critical factor in N/W Tasmania’s offence but his work at the other end of the court cannot be forgotten either. He finished 14th in the league for steals with a total of 33 while also making an impact with 21 blocks, second for the club.
The Thunder wasted no time at the end of the season in re-signing coach Sam Armstrong with their performance in the second half of the year a promising sign for 2018. He has stated his first port of call will be retaining the core group of local talent but will also keep an eye on the likes of Ingram and Starks and gauge their ability to return next season. However, Armstrong is under no illusions that keeping a similar side will be enough to hold a finals position as they battle in the ever-improving SEABL competition.
It was an innocuous start for Chudier Pal this season but he burst on to the scene after a Round 5 performance against Frankston when he collected a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds. He went on to record five double-doubles for the season and was a beast on the offensive glass, finishing seventh overall in the league with a total of 68. His rim protection was also outstanding, notching 36 rejections to sit equal-fourth and the Thunder look to have found a player they can base a front court around in the future.
GRADE – 7.5/10