NWBL Round 1 Wrap

NWBL Round 1 Wrap

Emmanuel Fuentes may be on summer break, he may have a beachfront set up, but any thoughts of a relaxing time Down Under went out the door in his first taste of NWBL.

“The level is a lot higher than what I was expecting. Nobody told me the other team would have four or five Paralympians. When I was a kid I would watch them on Youtube but now I can play against them but it was a pleasure playing against them.”

Manly’s Mexican import is coming off an MVP season with Southwest Minnesota State University in America but after he and Australian Roller Bill Latham only arrived days before the start of NWBL 2024, Manly had just one training session as a whole squad before their first ever match against Wollongong.

The Roller Hawks were too strong at home defeating the newcomers 94-41 and 94-48 on Saturday. Tristan Knowles scored a triple double in the midday match (30 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists) and backed it up in the second game with 29 points and 12 assists.

The experience and cohesion of the Roller Hawks was too much for a Manly side still figuring each other out as Shawn Russell collected 17 points and 8 rebounds and Brett Stibners scored 22 points on 11 from 12 shooting off the bench.

Sunday’s game presented a new opportunity for the Wheel Eagles. Back at Warriewood for their inaugural home game and with 80 minutes of getting to know one another under their belts, Manly came out strong much to the delight of home fans.

Bill Latham scored 25 points to go with 14 rebounds, Fuentes had 13, and after being rested for game two, Koen Jansens played 20 minutes and had 11 points.

But the visitors remained composed and had a two point lead at the main break and a four point lead going into the fourth quarter. An eight point run midway through the final quarter gave the Roller Hawks a double digit margin and some breathing room to hold and win 63-56.

“There were certainly periods of play there you could see we hadn’t played for a while,” said Roller Hawk Tristan Knowles after the game.

“I think as the week’s go by we’ll be a pretty well oiled machine by finals time.”

“I think we’re playing better as a team,” said Fuentes. “We’re knowing each other as well. Today, I think our defence was great, our press did a good job and they did not expect that and we’ll get there, eventually, hopefully,”

In Perth, the Wheelcats started their season with three victories over the Southern Districts Spartans. A 19-8 opening quarter and a shoulder injury to Jordan Bartley left the Spartans chasing their hosts all weekend.

The Spartans managed to only be outscored by a point over the remaining three quarters of game one but as the weekend progressed, the difference between the two sides began to widen as Perth won their games 65-53, 87-44, 70-41.

“The Spartans were already a man down, but knowing Tom Jnr and Tom Snr and the Queenslander spirit, they were not going to give up without a fight,” said Perth coach Ben Etteridge.

“Tactically, we knew Ethan and Jake would pick up the most of the slack. The loss of Jordy saw Nikia Fa’Atua emerge, and he was outstanding. He gave us headaches across the weekend and definitely made us have to respect his mid range game.”

Jake Kavanagh and Tom McHugh shared the spoils for Perth, leading their side with 20.6 and 20.3 points per game respectively.

“We have the core four who are very focused and they have just come back from a Rollers tour to the states, however they were more than supported over the weekend with the play of our less experienced players, and we built some trust in them playing extended minutes at times,” said Etteridge.

Eithan Leard was Southern Districts’ go-to player averaging 21.3 points per game but took over half the Spartans shot attempts.

“With 16 young players, 10 of whom are debutantes, this season’s all about developing and figuring ourselves out. Figuring out some timing issues and combinations and just giving these kids a crack at this level,” said Spartans coach Thomas Kyle.

In Adelaide, the Red Dust Heelers secured three big wins over the Thunder. Both teams returned to the national league after a five year hiatus but the class of Lachie Dalton, Phil Turner and Ryan Morich was too much for the home side. Red Dust defeated the Thunder 77-19, 77-20 and 90-30.

Round Two sees Manly travel to Perth, the Spartans host Adelaide while the Darwin Salties see their first action against the Roller Hawks in Wollongong.

The WNWBL also tips off on the 22nd with Sydney Blues hosting Sydney Uni and Perth hosting Queensland.