|League||National Basketball League|
|Team colours||Orange, blue, black|
|Main sponsor||SIT Zero Fees|
|General manager||Jill Bolger|
|Team manager||Troy Paulin|
|Head coach||Judd Flavell|
|Championships||3 (2013, 2015, 2018)|
The Southland Sharks are a New Zealand basketball team based in Invercargill. The Sharks compete in the National Basketball League (NBL) and play their home games at Stadium Southland. For sponsorship reasons, they are known as the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks. The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) have been a sponsor of the Sharks since their inception in 2010.
- 1 Team history
- 2 Honour roll
- 3 Players
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The Southland Sharks team name dates back to the 1990s when the Smokefree Southland Sharks competed in the Conference Basketball League (CBL). After the Sharks won two CBL titles in 1995 and 1998, four Southland businessmen tried to launch an independent NBL franchise out of Southland in 2002, only for it to fall over after failing to get sufficient backing from the Community Trust of Southland. 2003 marked the final year that the Southland men's team was called the Sharks.
In June 2008, Southland Basketball Association revealed a new name for its men's team: the Southland Flyers. The following month, the Flyers entered the southern zone divisional tournament held in Invercargill, with the hopes of qualifying for the New Zealand divisional championships in Levin in September.
In 2009, the Southland Flyers won the national tournament with help from Tall Blacks players Brendon Pongia, Ed Book and Terrence Lewis, and former Taranaki and Canterbury power forward Ben van Oosten. Coached by Richard Dickel, the team also featured rugby star Joe Tuineau for a short while.
On 22 December 2009, Southland Basketball Association received a three-year license to enter a team, the Southland Sharks, in the National Basketball League, starting with the 2010 season. The Sharks thus became the region's third professional sports team after the Southland Stags Rugby union team and the Southern Steel netball team.
After confirming Richard Dickel as the coach, the new franchise made a splash in the off-season by signing many high-profile players, the first of which was 28-year-old former Australian Boomers' point guard Luke Martin. Former Manawatu Jets' big man Gareth Dawson, Conference Basketball League shooting guard Ian Cathcart, former Otago Nuggets' combo guard Pete Burgess, Australian-born former Harbour Heat sharp shooter Daniel Munday, and veteran big man James Paringatai all signed on with the Sharks for their inaugural season. Another coup for the Sharks came with the signing of former New Mexico State Aggies centre Martin Iti, who was able to play as a local due to holding both an Australian and a New Zealand passport.
With impressive local signings, next came the two imports. The first import announced was former UNLV Runnin' Rebels swingman René Rougeau, who was a star performer in his four years at the college. The Sharks struggled in their search for a second import as they were running out of time before the start of the season. With captain Luke Martin's responsibilities to the Wollongong Hawks keeping him from joining the squad on time, the Sharks signed former Melbourne Tigers' shooting guard Mike Rose to a short-term deal. The Sharks also acquired the services of Invercargill-based players Paratene McLeod, Bubba Lau'ese, Izaac Williams, Andrew Wheeler and Tevita Bauer.
2010 season: Inaugural season
The Sharks' first hit-out came at the Southern Showcase tournament in Christchurch held between February 19–20, with three games against the other South Island-based NBL teams. They had mixed results over the two days, defeating the Nelson Giants 70–65, losing to the Christchurch Cougars 82–80 in overtime, and then losing to the Otago Nuggets 75–74.
In their first ever NBL game on 6 March 2010, at Stadium Southland, the Sharks faced the Hawke's Bay Hawks in front of 1,500 fans. Their starters Martin Iti, James Paringatai, René Rougeau, Mike Rose and Daniel Munday all put up strong performances, with Munday scoring the team's first basket. After 40 minutes, the teams could not be separated, with the scores locked at 84-all. With an overtime period needed, the Hawks came out victorious, winning 105–90. After losing their next game 96–82 away from home to the Harbour Heat at the North Shore Events Centre, the Sharks took revenge against first-up opponents, Hawke's Bay, to achieve their first ever win. After their first win, they were bought back down to earth as they were thrashed by 44 points by the Wellington Saints. After seven games, Mike Helms replaced Rose as the Sharks' second import. The Sharks left themselves in a good position to reach the playoffs for the first time in their first season as they only needed to win two of four away games to end the season. Their away trip began with the Sharks losing in overtime to the second-placed Waikato Pistons at Hamilton Boys' High School. They then came one win closer to the playoffs with a win against the Taranaki Mountainairs. A loss to the Nelson Giants saw the Sharks needing to beat the lowly Manawatu Jets in their regular season finale. With a 96–88 win over the Jets, the Sharks claimed sixth spot and booked themselves a playoff berth. They went on to lose in their quarter-final match-up to the Nelson Giants, 82–67, ending their inaugural season in the NBL. Centre Martin Iti earned Rookie of the Year honours, while import swingman René Rougeau was named to the All-Star Five.
With the re-signings of Gareth Dawson, James Paringatai, Ian Cathcart and Paratene McLeod for the 2011 season, some stability was built after the loss of captain Luke Martin to the Auckland Pirates. The Sharks were able to pick up Christchurch-based guard Sam Dobbs, local guard Tim Campbell, and former Tall Blacks point guard Mark Dickel. Dickel joined the team to play under his brother, Richard. Another former Tall Black, small forward Brendon Polyblank, also signed with the team and made the Sharks a serious contender for the title. Import wise, the Sharks started the season with guard Jordan Lawley and forward Sylvester Spicer, but eventually replaced both with New Zealand Breakers championship-winning guard Kevin Braswell and experienced forward Kaniel Dickens. However, Braswell managed just six games before a season-ending Achilles injury forced the Sharks to replace him with Mike Rose, who had a short stint with the team in 2010. The Sharks finished the regular season in sixth place on the ladder with a win/loss record of 6–10. They faced the Hawke's Bay Hawks in the quarter-finals, where they lost 89–75.
Having been the worst three-point shooting team in the NBL during their first two seasons in the competition – shooting a mediocre 28.8% from beyond the arc – head coach Richard Dickel was much more confident heading into the 2012 season, as he felt his squad was more balanced and contained more outside shooting weapons. With Tall Black Craig Bradshaw and experienced American Larry Abney, the Sharks hoped a better inside presence would help free up his outside shooters. Having revamped the roster in 2012, with only Kevin Braswell, James Paringatai, Dan Peck, Paratene McLeod and Andrew Wheeler returning from the 2011 squad, new faces included former Junior Tall Blacks captain Dion Prewster, Gold Coast Blaze development player Jimmy Todd, and former Otago Nuggets' guard Shaun Tilby. Despite what was considered a far more promising roster, the Sharks missed the playoffs for the first time, as they finished second to last on the ladder with a 5–11 win/loss record.
2013 season: First Championship
With the Sharks' addition of American rookie forward Brian Conklin for the 2013 season, along with it came success. To suit up alongside Conklin was the team's core group of players in Braswell, McLeod, Wheeler, Paringatai and Peck, with the addition of returnee Luke Martin, young forward Reuben Te Rangi, and veteran NBL player Leon Henry. Despite finishing the regular season in fourth place with a win/loss record of 11–5, the Sharks defeated the first-seeded Wellington Saints in the semi-final and the third-seeded Nelson Giants in the grand final. Leon Henry was subsequently named the Final Four MVP for his performances over the two games. Other awards included Coach of the Year honours for Paul Henare and an All-Star Five selection for Brian Conklin.
The Sharks managed to retain Brian Conklin for the 2014 season after the big man spent the off-season playing in Australia for the Townsville Crocodiles. Most of the core group also stuck together with the hope of claiming back-to-back championships. However, the Sharks' season was rocked in late May with the suspensions of Reuben Te Rangi, Leon Henry and Shea Ili after the trio were involved in a fight outside a bar in New Plymouth following a win. Centre Gareth Dawson was also stood down in May after he tested positive for a banned drug.
With a dwindling roster, having lost four players in the space of a month, head coach Paul Henare was forced to come out of retirement to help salvage the team's reputation and season. Former players Dan Peck and Puke Lenden were also brought into the side to bolster the wing positions, while American-Guamanian forward Tai Wesley was signed under the FIBA Oceania Pacific Island rule. The Sharks finished the 2014 season in fourth place again, but unfortunately could not repeat their 2013 form and lost their semi-final clash to the Hawke's Bay Hawks.
2015 season: Second Championship
After losing Brian Conklin to Puerto Rico, the Sharks were forced to look elsewhere to rebuild their roster for the 2015 season. Having retained guard Kevin Braswell as their import for another season, the Sharks looked to the Townsville Crocodiles again as a source for their second import. 2014–15 Australian NBL Most Improved Player Todd Blanchfield, a teammate of Conklin's, was signed by the Sharks as the team's second import for the 2015 season. A strong starting line-up for the Sharks was built with the additions of Duane Bailey and Adrian Majstrovich, and the re-signing of forward Tai Wesley. Shea Ili was also retained by the Sharks after being given a life line by the team following his incident in New Plymouth the year before. With Ili playing a sixth man role, the Sharks now had a number of scoring options and depth.
After winning the first game of the season with a convincing 100–74 victory over the Manawatu Jets, the Sharks went on a three-game losing streak and looked to be on course for another mediocre season. However, this was not to be the case as the Sharks did not lose another game and finished the regular season on a 14-game win streak to claim their first minor premiership with a 15–3 win/loss record. To add to the season's triumph, the Sharks retired Kevin Braswell's No. 12 jersey in June after the veteran guard announcement his retirement, effective following the season. After defeating the Super City Rangers in the semi-final on 4 July, the Sharks faced the reigning champions the Wellington Saints in the grand final the following day. In a tense final at TSB Bank Arena, the Sharks defeated the Saints 72–68 to win their second title in three years. With the win, they broke the 2001 Waikato Titans 15-game winning streak to finish the season with 16 wins in a row. Tai Wesley was named the Finals MVP after scoring 24 points in the semi-final, and 19 points in the grand final. Wesley and Blanchfield were subsequently named to the All-Star Five, while head coach Paul Henare was named Coach of the Year for a third time in four years.
With two-time championship-winning head coach Paul Henare departing the Sharks after three seasons at the helm to take up the role of head coach for the New Zealand Tall Blacks, the Sharks nabbed former New Zealand Breakers assistant and long-time Breakers Academy coordinator Judd Flavell to replace Henare in 2016. After valuable role player Duane Bailey re-signed with the team on a two-year deal shortly after the appointment of Flavell, Bailey's New Zealand Breakers teammate Alex Pledger was signed up by the Sharks for a return to the league in 2016. Pledger was named league MVP in 2011 while playing for the Waikato Pistons, and garnered Finals MVP honours in 2012 while playing for the Auckland Pirates. The Sharks began building their roster with the signings of Everard Bartlett and Derone Raukawa, and the re-signing of stalwart forward James Paringatai. The Sharks later signed Townsville Crocodiles pair Nick Kay and Jordair Jett as the two imports, following on the tradition of Crocodiles imports, having had Brian Conklin and Todd Blanchfield in previous years.
Jett was a star early for the Sharks, winning Player of the Week two times over the first four rounds. However, a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the season after appearing in just six games, and to replace him, the team brought in Jett's Crocodiles teammate Mitch Norton. Norton lasted just two games for the Sharks after he was called up by the Australian national team for their China tour. With another import change, the Sharks signed Demetrius Miller for the rest of the season. However, Miller's poor form over four games led to his release and the return of Norton in mid-May. The Sharks finished the regular season in third place with an 11–7 record. With the Final Four being held in Invercargill for the first time in NBL history, the Sharks were eager to utilise home court advantage. However, they were defeated 79–75 by the Wellington Saints in their semi-final match-up, as the Saints got revenge for their grand final defeat at the hands of the Sharks in 2015.
Much of the Sharks' squad was retained for the 2017 season, as they re-signed Illawarra Hawks import-duo Nick Kay and Mitch Norton, and brought back Alex Pledger, Hayden Allen, Duane Bailey and Derone Raukawa. To complement their roster, the Sharks picked up Luke Aston, James Hunter and Reuben Te Rangi. The Sharks had a difficult season with a host of players being in and out because of different injuries. Derone Raukawa, Hayden Allen, Alex Pledger, and Duane Bailey all spent time on the sideline nursing injury. As a result, the Sharks finished the season in second place behind the undefeated Wellington Saints (18–0) with a 12–6 record. They did however have another stellar home campaign. In their regular season finale, the Sharks defeated the Hawke's Bay Hawks 89–86 in Invercargill. The win took Southland's home record to eight wins and one loss. The only loss was against the high-flying Wellington Saints in a fixture which went down to the last possession. Their Final Four campaign saw them reach the grand final after defeating the Super City Rangers in their semi-final clash, but they were knocked over at the final hurdle as they were beaten 108–75 by the Saints in the championship decider.
2018 season: Third Championship
Much of the Sharks' squad was retained for the 2018 season, with Alex Pledger, Derone Raukawa, Luke Aston, James Hunter, Reuben Te Rangi and Tom Vodanovich all returning. They were joined by import trio Jarrad Weeks, Orlando Coleman and Conor Morgan. The Sharks finished the regular season in third place with a 13–5 record and made their way through to their fourth grand final in six years with a 98–93 win over the Nelson Giants in the semi-finals. In the grand final, they faced the Wellington Saints for the third time in four years, and despite being without Weeks for the majority of the game due to a hamstring injury, the Sharks prevailed over the Saints with a 98–96 win. The Sharks claimed their third NBL Championship, with Te Rangi earning finals MVP.
|NBL Championships:||3 (2013, 2015, 2018)|
|NBL Playoff appearances:||8 (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)|
|NBL Grand Final appearances:||4 (2013, 2015, 2017, 2018)|
|Most Valuable Player:|
|All-Star Five:||René Rougeau (2010), Brian Conklin (2013), Todd Blanchfield (2015), Tai Wesley (2015), Alex Pledger (2016), Jarrad Weeks (2018)|
|Most Outstanding Guard:|
|Most Outstanding Kiwi Guard:|
|Most Outstanding Forward:||Brian Conklin (2013), Tai Wesley (2015)|
|Most Outstanding Kiwi Forward/Centre:|
|Rebounding Champion:||Alex Pledger (2016)|
|Rookie of the Year:||Martin Iti (2010)|
|Coach of the Year:||Paul Henare (2013, 2015)|
Note: Flags indicate national team eligibility at FIBA sanctioned events. Players may hold other non-FIBA nationality not displayed.
|Southland Sharks roster|
Updated: 26 April 2018
Notable past players
- Larry Abney
- Everard Bartlett
- Todd Blanchfield
- Craig Bradshaw
- Kevin Braswell
- Brian Conklin
- Gareth Dawson
- / Mark Dickel
- Kaniel Dickens
- Mike Helms
- Paul Henare
- Leon Henry
- / Martin Iti
- Jordair Jett
- Nick Kay
- / Adrian Majstrovich
- / Luke Martin
- Mitch Norton
- James Paringatai
- Brendon Polyblank
- / Dion Prewster
- Mike Rose
- René Rougeau
- Reuben Te Rangi
- / Arthur Trousdell
- / Tai Wesley
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