The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks has finalised its 2019 playing roster, adding Southlanders Andrew Wheeler, Jordan Murphy, Connor Coll, Tinashe Matambanadzo and Tom Cowie to its squad for the 2019 Sal’s National basketball League.
Wheeler, who holds the distinction as the only Sharks player to be part of all three of its National Titles, returns for his ninth season and provides a key veteran presence for coach Judd Flavell.
“Every year Wheels is Mr Consistent, bringing the same high level every practice. He brings so much from a leadership perspective and out there he is still one hell of a competitor,” Flavell said.
Murphy and Coll have also been constants for the southern franchise in recent seasons, entering their fifth and third seasons respectively with the Sharks, a testament to their dedication.
“It’s great to see Connor and Jordan stay with the programme and continue to develop. Their commitment is why they continue to be key parts of our set-up. I’ve seen plenty of young people elsewhere come and go and when things don’t work out for them, they disappear. But these two bring it every single year and I’m delighted to have them on board again,” he said.
After a year in Auckland, homegrown talent Tom Cowie returns to the squad, looking to add to his single appearance as a Sharks development player in 2017.
“I’m so happy having Tom back in the mix. He’s an exciting young prospect with a big future. He’s going to play a significant role for us this year and will be challenging for court-time. It’s great to see an Invercargill kid out on the floor in a Sharks uniform,” Flavell said.
Zimbabwe-born Matambanadzo journeyed south in 2018 in the hope of kick-starting his basketball career. Now, a year on, he will line up for his second NBL campaign with the Sharks.
“Tinashe came here itching to make a team, he’s made Invercargill his home and his is a great story. But it’s more than that, he’s got a hunger and he’s going to be another to challenge for minutes,” Flavell said.
Coach Flavell is well aware that with the arduous campaign his squad faces, his local players are going to be important pieces in the Sharks’ push for a historic back-to-back.
“I said in our very first practice session, what I see in this circle of faces is opportunity. Some of these guys are going to get more opportunity than they’ve ever had. We are dependent upon them and as with all good teams, I’m sure they will rise to the occasion. I’m optimistic about that and excited for them at the same time,” Flavell said.
The Sharks open their title defence at home on Sunday April 14 at 2pm against the Canterbury Rams. Season tickets, including a special 10-year Anniversary VIP pass, are available now from ILT Stadium Southland. For more information visit www.sharksbasketball.co.nz/tickets.