OPINION: Logan Savory - The Southland Times/Stuff.co.nz
There's an old saying in sport, along the lines that championships are not won at the end of the season, but in fact before the first whistle is even sounded.
It would be wrong to make any bold statements just yet when it comes to the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks, considering the makeup of all eight 2018 National Basketball League rosters are still to be unveiled.
But what Southland Sharks followers can feel comfortable with, is the off-season to date has been a very good one. Outstanding in fact.
Those at Sharks HQ have moved swiftly, and with good success, to build a roster which has both ability and continuity attached to it.
The Sharks announced the signing of Derone Raukawa on Wednesday, the fourth Tall Black signature already confirmed the 2018 NBL season.
Basketball can be a funny beast when it comes to building a squad from one season to the next.
Professional basketball in some ways is like a traveling circus.
Players bounce from one city to the next chasing opportunities and contracts and long-term deals are not the norm.
Often there is a lot of scrambling close to the season to fill spots. In the case of the Southland Sharks, they are escaping that potential panic.
To have a core group of players return season after season to the Sharks shouldn't be underestimated.
Yes, the Southland Sharks have a player budget at the higher end of the NBL than at the lower end. It would be wrong not to acknowledge that provides pulling power.
But there is no doubt the likes of Reuben Te Rangi, Luke Aston, James Hunter, Raukawa would have fielded interest and offers on a similar scale from other organisations.
The reputation of those four players increased last year and naturally their stocks on the player market would have also increased.
Outside of money, there are a few key weapons which many strong sporting organisations throughout the world possess.
A proven track record of success - both in terms of results and with the progress of individual players.
A strong front office, where the players know they will be provided what they need to be successful.
A coaching setup which demands, and gets, the best out of players.
From the outside looking in, the Southland Sharks tick all those boxes.
They have four spots locked in at the moment for the 2018 campaign, with four or five spots on the main roster likely to be filled.
The Sharks still have the opportunity under new competition rules to sign up to three imports, just whether they go down that route will be interesting.
The import spots have traditionally been some of the last spots to fill on the Sharks roster.
But with the 2018 NBL season still close to six months away, time is well and truly on the Sharks side.
At the moment they have four international players locked in, that'll do just fine thanks.