Men's SBL Season Preview – East Perth Eagles
THE East Perth Eagles suffered a significant slide in 2015 and they remain one of the great unknowns coming into the Men's 2016 SBL season with a playing-coach, a shooting import and potentially another while still possessing capable experienced players.
Coming off their stunning championship victory in 2014 where they went all the way despite finishing the regular season in seventh position, things didn’t at all go to plan for the Eagles in 2015.
They ended up winning just seven games, half of what they won in 2014, and finished in 13th position only ending up ahead of the two-win Kalamunda Eastern Suns.
Championship winning coach Adam Forde stepped down during the season leaving the job to Joe-Alan Tupaea to be playing-coach.
Now that is going to be extended into the 2016 season with Tupaea to not only remain coach of the Eagles, but he will still be playing and his ball handling and ability to run the team's offence will be relied upon.
Jamie Barnett is a significant loss for East Perth from last season when he averaged 13.7 points and 5.0 rebounds a game while Nathan Friend has departed for the Geelong Supercats in the SEABL.
Sunday Dech will at least miss the first half of the season while attending Metro State University. That will take some covering after he averaged 18.7 points and 8.2 boards last season but he could be back late in the campaign.
Rhys Vague was terrific in 2015 for the Eagles winning the SBL's Most Improved Player award and now after being part of the Perth Wildcats' NBL championship, he could improve further on his 18.2 points and 10.0 rebounds from 2015.
Championship winning captain Drew Williamson is back again for another season after still being effective last season with 18.3 points, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals.
Then there is the arrival of new import Thomas Korf who could really light it up from the outside for the Eagles making them a further perimeter threat. In one game at the Blitz he knocked down eight three-pointers alone.
There are plenty of question marks of the Eagles team but if it all comes together, they do appear to have enough talent to be in the playoff mix.
During the SBL Blitz held at Warwick Stadium, East Perth managed to beat the Rockingham Flames and Kalamunda Eastern Suns but suffered defeats at the hands of the Lakeside Lightning and Perth Redbacks.
The Eagles begin their 2016 season on Friday March 18 against the Willetton Tigers at Morley Sport and Recreation Centre.
Sunday Dech, Brendan Dinardo, Aiden Murphy, Theron Pinker, Ned Seery, Brighton Pass, Joe-Alan Tupaea, Drew Williamson, Jared Zornado, James Brooks, Andrea Donlagic, Chris Bonner, Nikola Donlagic, Jason Conway, Rhys Vague, Thomas Korf (restricted)
Coach – Joe-Alan Tupaea
Championship winning coach – ADAM FORDE
PREDICTION – 8th
With two Imports and Sunday Dech a possibility when he returns from college, I see the Eagles rounding out the top eight. Rhys Vague will continue to step up, and at 6’9 playing a (stretch) small forward, he’ll be a tough matchup. But it’s the return of Nikola Donlagic that has me most excited about East Perth’s possibility. Look for Brendan Dinardo to step up and be a candidate for Most Improved Player this season.
SBL Slam Radio Host - MATT CECINS
PREDICTION – 9th
Where the East Perth Eagles end up this year I believe hinges on the availability of Tom Jervis. If he plays 50 per cent of the games this season the Eagles will easily make the playoffs. The return of Sunday Dech at some stage of the season will also be monumental for East Perth. Nikola Donlagic will add an X-factor to this line-up and Rhys Vague will be a force to reckon with. I do have a question mark around player-coach Tupaea having to shoulder a lot of the ball handling duties and juggling his coaching role.
PREDICTION – 12th
The Tupaea playing-coach experiment will be interesting particularly after how well they were coached under Forde. Williamson is back for another season, though, and Nikola Donlagic is back from a year off virtually. Rhys Vague could go up another level again after a year with the Wildcats and import Thomas Korf has already impressed with his shooting. Sunday Dech could also come back late in the season. They could click but right now they appear a little shy of the mark.
Article by Chris Pike
Photo by HoopShots