ROUND 1 REVIEW
Season 2016 for the NWBL kicked off in Newcastle over the weekend with five of the six teams in the competition recording at least one victory in the Cluster Round.
Defending champions Kilsyth Cobras went 3-1 for the weekend, taking care of Red Dust in a replay of last year’s Grand Final on Friday night.
Wollongong were the only team to beat the Cobras, sneaking past them by a point as the lead changed hands five times in the last quarter.
Kilsyth were paced by Tristan Knowles (28.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists) while Dan Del Toso (16.8 points per game) was also instrumental, hitting double-figures in scoring in every game while grabbing a double-double against the Roller Hawks.
The Cobras were boosted by Shawn Russell and the performance of Joshua Allison and veteran Shaun Groenewegen as they showed they will be a deep team once again this year.
Aided by their victory over Kilsyth, Wollongong also went 3-1 over the Cluster Round as they bounced back from a loss to the Wheelcats on opening night.
Brett Stibners was outstanding, hurting oppositions from distance while averaging 21.3 points and Nick Taylor’s vision on the court was exemplified by a double-double of 16 points and 11 assists against the Spinning Bullets.
Wollongong will also be buoyed the performances of Andrew Tarrant and Bradley Fisher who shared the scoring duties across the weekend while Tarrant proved a handy rebounder on the glass too.
In their return to the competition, the Be Active Perth Wheelcats showed they have lost little of their touch with a 3-1 record to sit equal top on the ladder.
They won by an average of 11 points before succumbing to the Cobras in their final game of the weekend despite the awesome performance of Shaun Norris who averaged a triple-double of 31.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 11.3 assists.
He had a fantastic battle with fellow Australian Roller Knowles on Sunday but was also helped out by Australian Glider Amber Merritt who tallied 10.8 points and 8.3 rebounds while Kim Robbins provided an offensive punch with 16.8 points.
Sitting fourth on the ladder, Red Dust Heelers went 2-2 with a 29-point win over the Spinning Bullets and a 43-point thrashing of Sydney Metro Blues following losses to Wollongong and Kilsyth.
The burden of being a player/coach this season did not seem to bother Brad Ness who had a team-high 18.8 points over the weekend while Adam Deans averaged a double-double of 13.8 points and 10.5 boards.
Jake Kavanagh showed signs of the top shooter he can be while Jannik Blair is an inclusion that will maintain the Heelers as a competitive team this year.
Despite a 1-3 record, the RSL Queensland Spinning Bullets kept the Blues to just 35 points in a big win on opening night before falling to Perth, Red Dust and Wollongong.
After taking last season off, Tom O’Neill-Thorne returned with a vengeance, averaging 19.3 points and 9.8 rebounds while getting to the free-throw line at will.
He will be looking for more help from Jake Fulwood and Matt McShane who did show signs across the Cluster Round while Tige Simmons will also be expected to provide more points after tallying just four points in 27 minutes a contest.
Having recorded just two wins last season, Sydney Metro Blues look like they will struggle to string victories together again in 2016 as they were the only team not to get in the win column in Round 1.
They lost by an average of over 30 points but showed positive signs when they recorded 55 points against the Wheelcats in a 16-point loss.
Turnovers are the biggest concern for the team and it was no surprise that the clash against the Heelers was the only game in which they won the turnover count.
No player was able to average double-figures for the weekend but Clarence McCarthy-Grogan and Darren Skuse impressed while Gliders Georgia Munro-Cook and Kylie Gauci will offer leadership on and off the court.
All results and stats can be found on the NWBL website here.