SEABL MEN GAME OF THE WEEK
GEELONG vs NUNAWADING
Saturday 17th March – 7:30pm @ The Arena
The South Conference final of 2011 will be remembered as one of the best games of the last season, and the combatants again face off in the round 1 game of the week.
Geelong’s hand was forced into making significant changes over the off-season. John Pichon, Ismail Muhammad and Nathan Herbert all declared themselves unavailable for the 2012 Supercats season due to a variety of professional and personal reasons. In their place come imports Theron Wilson and Kimmani Barrett, a host of Big V players, and the returning Dominic Friend. But Geelong’s recruitment process has proven itself time and time again, and the new imports have the right attitude and look rearing to go. The organisation also continues to impress with its player development, so the quality and depth of the supporting players is also unlikely to drop off. This is an entirely new-look team, with a new identity and new heroes to be found, but should still be very strong, especially at home.
Nunawading underwent a transformation of their own over the summer. Darren Smith and Michael Thorp retired, while Luke Kendall and Eric Williams were released. Their replacements feature promising young player Alex Vanrenen, former Dandenong starter Jon Shepherd, while Marcus Wright comes out of retirement, and D-League MVP Mark Breda has been elevated to the Championship team. More significantly, the team has kept key pieces Shane McDonald, Chris Cameron and Simon Conn. Their new import Cicero de Silva Gonzaga looks very athletic and should have no trouble playing at this level, however he may be unavailable due to visa issues. But this group are well placed to again challenge for the championship despite the nature and scale of changes in the off-season.
Following the off-season reshuffle of conferences, these teams are no longer in the same group, so a rematch in the conference final is impossible. However, the path to the championship for any team in the competition will probably go through either of these teams, and this could be an early indicator of how high the standards will be in 2012.
Prediction: Nunawading by 4.
HOBART vs SANDRINGHAM
Friday 16th March – 8:00pm With Anthony Stewart coaching from the sidelines, the Chargers have a fresh look in 2012. But so do the Sabres with a new import and Luke Kendall joining the team. Hobart will be slim favourites at home.
ALBURY/WODONGA vs MT GAMBIER
Saturday 17th March – 7:00pm New Bandits coach Brad Chalmers has an opportunity to start his coaching record with a win against the Pioneers, a traditionally poor road team. But new Mt Gambier coach Richard Hill can also start to erase that reputation with a win on the tough road trip to Albury.
CANBERRA vs BRISBANE
Saturday 17th March – 7:30pm Brisbane has an opportunity to chalk up a win despite having an unsettled line up, but the Gunners will not be pushovers. With a new coach, new faces, and hopefully a good crowd after the women’s curtain raiser, Canberra will be out to make a statement.
FRANKSTON vs BENDIGO
Saturday 17th March – 7:30pm Until Tom Garlepp joins the Braves in a few weeks, Bendigo will be vulnerable, especially in the frontcourt. But with no more Haminn Quaintance, Frankston look a bit slim in the big man stakes themselves.
NW TASMANIA vs SANDRINGHAM
Saturday 17th March – 7:30pm Sandringham’s biggest flaw in 2011 was an inability to win the rebound count. The test of whether they have been able to rectify that fault will come when they take on the Thunder’s frontcourt.
KNOX vs DANDENONG
Saturday 17th March – 8:00pm Dandenong was the only team to be 4-0 against Knox and Bendigo last season, the top two teams in their conference. It will be a big ask to repeat that in 2012, but with new recruits and settled line up, the Rangers already look a far better team this year.
BALLARAT vs ALBURY/WODONGA
Sunday 18th March – 1:45pm Ballarat will be shattered by the inglorious exit of both of their recruits less than 10 days out from the season tip off. Albury/Wodonga meanwhile, who would have been outsiders prior to the imports leaving, could steal an early win against the shell-shocked Miners.
KILSYTH vs MT GAMBIER
Sunday 18th March – 2:00pm To give them the best chance of progressing past the preliminary finals, Kilsyth must avoid the slow start they had last year. Accordingly, the Cobras must account for the Pioneers who will be on a weekend road double.
DANDENONG vs NUNAWADING
Sunday 18th March – 2:00pm Nunawading will want to start their title defence with a strong first up effort against a local rival who will have played a tough match the night before against Knox.
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