Time to bite the bul­let

Rillie says clash with Bris­bane so cru­cial

Townsville Bulletin - - Basketball - By ANTONY STE­WART

CROC­O­DILES cap­tain John Rillie be­lieves Townsville can find out ex­actly where they sit on the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball League land­scape when they tackle the high-fly­ing Bul­lets in Bris­bane tonight.

Com­ing off a 111-95 trounc­ing of New Zealand on Thurs­day that ex­tended their win­ning streak to six matches, the Crocs are ooz­ing con­fi­dence.

Even with­out en­forcer Larry Ab­ney, who is still in the US, Townsville have been un­stop­pable, with Brad New­ley, Rillie and Daniel Egan all step­ping up to fill the void and help­ing con­tinue the Croc­o­diles’push for a place in the NBL’s top four.

But with Bris­bane boast­ing a 15-5 win-loss record to be in clear sec­ond po­si­tion on the lad­der, the Crocs’form will be put to the ul­ti­mate test tonight.

How­ever, far from be­ing in­tim­i­dated, Rillie said it was an ex­am­i­na­tion Townsville were ready to take.

‘‘The beauty of play­ing the Bul­lets is they are def­i­nitely one of the top two teams in the com­pe­ti­tion and in our six-game win­ning streak we haven’t played an up­perech­e­lon team, so to speak, so let’s see where we are at since we do have a bit of mo­men­tum right now,’’ he said.

‘‘I think ev­ery­one is feel­ing very con­fi­dent and very com­fort­able about the whole team chem­istry but two of our next three games are against the Bul­lets and the (first-placed Melbourne) Tigers.

‘‘I see that as great way of see­ing ex­actly where we are in the whole mix of things.’’

While a loss against the Bul­lets, who are rid­ing their own five-game win­ning streak, will not make or break the Croc­o­diles’sea­son, Rillie con­ceded that a win had the po­ten­tial to send a very strong mes­sage to the NBL’s other 11 teams.

‘‘For sure, es­pe­cially on the road,’’ said Rillie, who is com­ing off the Crocs’first triple­dou­ble per­for­mance in four years.

‘‘If any­thing right now, we’ve proven we are a tough team at home but the jury is still out with us per­form­ing on the road.’’

Townsville have not won in Bris­bane in their past five at­tempts and in their last meet­ing in the State cap­i­tal in round four the Bul­lets ran away with the con­test 123-104.

On that night the home team utilised their phys­i­cal full court defence to per­fec­tion, ha­rass­ing the Crocs’ ball han­dlers Je­lani Gard­ner and Kelvin Robert­son up the floor and forc­ing a mas­sive 26 turnovers.

While Rillie was con­fi­dent the Croc­o­diles could ex­pect a sim­i­lar de­fen­sive on­slaught from the Bul­lets tonight, he was also pos­i­tive Townsville were bet­ter pre­pared this time around.

Mean­while, de­spite some con­cerns over New­ley’s fit­ness af­ter he rolled his an­kle in New Zealand, he trained with the team in Bris­bane yes­ter­day and coach Trevor Glee­son said he was a cer­tainty for tonight.

Tip-off is 7.40pm.

FAC­ING THE FACTS . . . John Rillie says tonight’s match-up with Bris­bane will give

the in-form Crocs a true per­spec­tive of their stand­ing on the NBL tal­ent charts

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