He may have lost count of the number of NBL seasons he has played, but that hasn't stopped Hayden Allen adding another, today confirming his return to the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks for the 2018 season.
The 38-year-old former Tall Black was a key contributor off the bench for the Sharks in 2017, averaging nearly nine points per game along with 2.5 rebounds and 2 assists. But, he said the decision to return wasn't his alone to make.
"I'm fortunate to have a lovely wife that supports me in my drive to keep playing hoops and a great employer at the Breakers that allowed me to come down and keep playing, but I guess the long and short of it is that I just love playing and I love being competitive every week."
"I really enjoy coming down and the whole community feel of Southland. Jill (Bolger, Sharks General Manager) and the management team are outstanding in terms of what they do with Judd (Flavell, Sharks Head Coach) leading it. He's a competitive guy and we've gone through a number of things together and I have trust in things with him where I know we're going to be competitive at the sharp end of the season," Allen said.
He joins a core group of six past or present Tall Blacks in Reuben Te Rangi, Alex Pledger, Derone Raukawa, James Hunter and Luke Aston, who have signed on for 2018, something Allen believes holds the team in good stead for another strong showing.
"I think it's great. Everybody knows what Judd expects of us and that's just to compete, irrespective of where you are in terms of minutes. That consistency means you know the team ethos, you know what's asked of you and it's a continuation of the success of last year. Making the final was great but I think we need to do one better and that should be our goal," Allen said.
Sharks Head Coach Judd Flavell was also delighted to confirm another key 2018 roster piece.
"H is a great player and he brings his experience to the Sharks, but more than anything, it's about the character of the guy and the intangibles he brings to the table. You don't get anybody who is as competitive as he is and he's just an all-round good bloke. He's someone who epitomises what the Sharks' club is all about."
"With Hayden you know what you are going to get. You get somebody who won't take a backwards step to anybody and he has high expectations of himself and also for the team that he plays for and as far as the locker room is concerned, you can't have anybody better. He is someone that I've respected for a long time and he was certainly on the top of my list to make sure we snagged him back," Flavell said.
The coach is very comfortable with how his roster is shaping up, so early in the off-season.
"What we are trying to do is build on the last two seasons with continuity. Keep that core group together is always a challenge. For whatever reason, people look to expand their roles or other clubs come calling with more attractive offers, but we're sitting in a good position with the six we have signed on. We're a step ahead and now can look at rounding off the squad and then look at our locals and the import spots," Coach Flavell said.
The 2018 National Basketball League is scheduled to tip off on April 26th with Finals scheduled for the first weekend in August. Sharks' season tickets will be on-sale pre-Christmas via ILT Stadium Southland once the 2018 draw has been confirmed.