Wild­cats back as sea­son ap­proaches

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Sport - BY COLIN MACGIL­LIVRAY

Af­ter a two-year hia­tus, Stawell will re­turn to Coun­try Bas­ket­ball League men’s com­pe­ti­tion for the 2019-20 sea­son.

The Wild­cats pre­vi­ously fielded men’s and women’s teams in the league’s south-west con­fer­ence along­side Hor­sham and Ararat but with­drew af­ter the 2016-17 sea­son be­cause of a lack of play­ers.

Stawell’s re­turn means the Wim­mera-grampians re­gion will again have three as­so­ci­a­tions in the men’s com­pe­ti­tion.

Wild­cats coach Alis­tair Beard said the re­vival of Stawell’s men’s team had been a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort by many pas­sion­ate vol­un­teers.

“When a team goes into re­cess nor­mally that’s it, which is a shame be­cause the CBL is a good, com­pet­i­tive league,” he said.

“In most coun­try towns dur­ing sum­mer, apart from cricket and a lit­tle bit of tennis, there is not much on of­fer.

“Most towns sur­vive on foot­ball dur­ing the win­ter, but bas­ket­ball gives kids op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­joy an­other sport dur­ing the sum­mer.”

Beard said it was a fo­cus on the de­vel­op­ment of ju­nior play­ers that led to the Wild­cats’ re­vival.

“One of our keys is to de­velop the ju­niors so that when the guys get older, we’ve got the next wave of kids com­ing through,” he said. “We want there to be a path­way for them to con­tinue do­ing some­thing they en­joy rather than get­ting to the end of ju­niors and say­ing, ‘what do I do now?’”

Beard said Ararat Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives had been help­ful in get­ting the pro­gram up and run­ning, of­fer­ing ad­vice and an­swer­ing ques­tions.

He said the Wild­cats were ex­cited to com­pete in a pre-sea­son com­pe­ti­tion against the Ararat, Hor­sham and Mary­bor­ough as­so­ci­a­tions this week­end. Ararat coach Mar­cus Jenk­ins said the Red­backs were also ready for the 2019-20 sea­son, although they were deal­ing with the loss of last sea­son’s lead­ing scorer Zac Dunmore.

“It’s time for the play­ers who were in the shad­ows last year to step up and take the bull by the horns and lead the team again,” he said.

“Toby Smith is un­avail­able with work, but the rest of the team should be much the same as it was last sea­son.

“In the five weeks that Zac was out last sea­son, we were com­pet­i­tive.

“It was just the last seven min­utes of the game where we lost it, and that comes down to be­ing young and not hav­ing the lead­er­ship on the court that Zac pro­vided for us.”

Jenk­ins said there would also be a fo­cus on ju­nior de­vel­op­ment within Ararat bas­ket­ball.

“My main aim with the young group we have is to de­velop them and build some­thing for Ararat that is big­ger than just my coach­ing ca­reer here,” he said.

While Stawell and Ararat will fo­cus on ju­nior de­vel­op­ment, Hor­sham should be among the con­fer­ence ti­tle con­tenders again, with all of its play­ers from last sea­son ex­cept former coach Cam Bruce, who has re­tired, re­turn­ing.

New coach Tim Pick­ert said Bruce’s ab­sence pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity for other play­ers to shine.

“Train­ing has been a breeze be­cause we all know what we’re do­ing and we’ve all been play­ing to­gether for the past two or three years,” he said.

“We’ll prob­a­bly see the likes of Sam Breuer and Austin Mcken­zie play­ing much big­ger roles than they have in the past.

“The de­vel­op­ment the likes of Mitch Martin and ‘Jezza’ Mcken­zie have shown over win­ter is also go­ing to help us out a lot.

“Most of the teams in the com­pe­ti­tion are pretty young, and you look at our team and the av­er­age age would prob­a­bly be about 30. So, to have a cou­ple of young guys com­ing in and hold­ing spots down is great for us.”

In women’s com­pe­ti­tion, Hor­sham will be the sole team rep­re­sent­ing the Wim­mera-grampians re­gion.

New coach Tony Sleep said the team would be sim­i­lar to last year, with tweaks in game style and young play­ers emerg­ing.

“We have some re­ally solid veter­ans in Rebecca Mcin­tyre, Caitlin Story and Shan­non Cross, who has just come back from hav­ing a baby,” he said.

“Kara Shut­tle­worth comes back af­ter a year off and Olivia Jones is back af­ter an in­jury-in­ter­rupted year. She brings a load of nat­u­ral ath­leti­cism and sees the game well.

“Some of the stronger play­ers from last year like Ge­or­gia His­cock and Faith Mcken­zie look ready to take the next step.

“Molly Lakin will re­turn for her sec­ond year as a Hor­net and kids like Grace Maserra and Imo­gen Wor­thy are long and ath­letic, and are in the same mold as Faith Mcken­zie.” • In round one Ararat hosts Mil­li­cent on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 12 at 7pm be­fore Hor­sham host the team the next day at 2pm. Stawell will make its de­but in round two with a road game against Mount Gam­bier. The Lady Hor­nets will get their first taste of ac­tion with a home game against Mil­li­cent on Oc­to­ber 13.

HARD WORK: In­stru­men­tal in re­viv­ing Stawell’s men’s CBL team are, from left, com­mit­tee mem­ber Joel Free­land, as­sis­tant coach Troy Kenny, coach Alis­tair Beard and vice-chair Ai­dan Marr.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.