The Southland Sharks face a tough start to next year’s New Zealand National Basketball League, with two away back-to-back double header weekends to open the 2018 season.
The NBL today released the draw for next season with the SIT Zero Fees-sponsored Sharks scheduled to play the 2018 NBL season-opener against the Bay Hawks, one of this off-season’s big-movers, at Pettigrew Green Arena in Taradale on Thursday 26 April, before flying to Wellington to take on the Saints in a repeat of the 2017 Grand Final the following night.
The squad will chalk up more road miles in week two, travelling to Christchurch to face the Rams, followed by an early-morning journey to Nelson, to line up against the Giants the next night.
It’s a gruelling start, but it’s one that Sharks’ Head Coach Judd Flavell sees as a positive.
“You can say that it is tough and you’re just getting yourselves together with guys typically coming in late from the Australian NBL, but the other way to look at it is that being on the road is a great chance to bond together and find out who you are and what your team identity is,” Flavell said.
The Sharks then get to enjoy a seven-week stretch at home, where they do not leave the familiar surroundings of ILT Stadium Southland, starting with the home opener against the League’s latest addition, the Manawatu Jets, on Thursday 10 May.
“We will target that home stretch and continue to make ILT Stadium Southland a fortress with our fans and the Orange Roughies Supporters. Those are the games where we really want to make it as tough as we can for opposition teams.”
“The draw is what it is, you can’t control the schedule of games, but we will embrace the opportunity to play on the road early and it should put us in a good spot for the home stretch and the rest of the season,” Flavell said.
The NBL will take a week-long break after nine weeks for FIBA World Cup qualifying, where the Tall Blacks will face home games against Hong Kong and China while the Australian Boomers travel to take on Japan and the Philippines.
“The good thing is the Tall Blacks are at home, so there is no travel factor and once they get into Tall Blacks’ camp the overall training load comes down. Obviously, we hope to have some of our boys in the international mix and it will be a bit of a balancing act, making sure we are keeping the other players fresh so there is no drop in energy,” Coach Flavell said.
After the week off for international qualifying, the Sharks face another two double-header road weekends, followed by a home clash against the Rams in Week 13. They then finish the regular season in Week 14 with a trip to New Plymouth to face the Taranaki Mountain Airs on a Friday night, before returning home to play the final game of the NBL round-robin against the Giants at ILT Stadium Southland on Sunday 29 July.
The return of the Manawatu Jets as an eighth NBL team has meant league officials have had to re-work the regular season draw. In recent seasons, each team has played each opponent three times, however in 2018 the re-structured draw will see the Sharks face four teams on three occasions, the Rams, Giants, Airs and Jets, while only lining up against the Saints, Rangers and Hawks twice during the 18-game regular season.
Southland Sharks General Manager Jill Bolger said Sharks Fan Season Tickets are now on sale to the general public via ILT Stadium Southland, with 2017 season ticket holders having until the end of January to confirm their preferred seating for 2018.
“We have some big plans for the Shark Tank in 2018. We’ve sought and received some great feedback from our Sharks Fans on their experiences and ideas and have been busy planning to make our 2018 game-days even better than before.”
“With our first four games being on the road, I know our Sharks Fans will be pumped for that first home game in May and I think that home opener against the Jets is going to be one very special night,” Bolger said.
The 2018 SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks' NBL schedule is as follows:
(LS - NBL Live-stream game)
SEASON TICKETS (Dedicated seat of your choice to all nine home games)
ADULTS: $149 (plus booking fee)
STUDENTS: $120 (plus booking fee)
CHILDREN: $95 (plus booking fee)
On sale now from ILT Stadium Southland.
SINGLE GAME TICKETS (General admission)
ADULTS: $20 (plus booking fee)
STUDENTS: $15 (plus booking fee)
CHILDREN: $12 (plus booking fee)
FAMILY: $60 (plus booking fee) - 2 adults & 2 children. EARLY SEASON DISCOUNT - $50 for first four home games!
On sale from ILT Stadium Southland from 2 April, 2018.
Full ticketing details are available here.