Highs and lows for New Zealand in Wollongong
Following a great Masters victory over Illawarra (utilising just five players plus a couple of stand-in subs in the process), New Zealand’s fortunes plummeted at the Slam Down Under tournament in Wollongong. The Masters side – Mark Sullivan, Shane Davies, Mii Pepe, Ricardo Gozon and Ben Hekenui – took the 2016 title with a concerted all-round team effort.
However, the Roller Blacks were disappointing in the main event that followed, ultimately losing the 3rd-4th playoff with Sydney Blue in sudden death overtime drama. The Slam was won by the Illawarra A side which claimed the final over the Illawarra second unit. Meanwhile, Illawarra’s third combination took second division honours over Auckland, showing the strength of their playing personnel.
The shooting percentages of the national side were dismal throughout, with several missed lay-ups and finally reluctance by players to take shots. The side lacked a three point shooter. Coach Murray Mackay also lamented the inability of his charges to read opposition manoeuvres and to keep to their own patterns. There were many turnovers and unforced errors.
“We are now in our fifth year of development, and while I wanted the on-court players to take the initiative it didn’t happen, even though the game plans were simple enough,” said Murray. ‘We fell well below our potential and it made it hard to get the remaining squad members into the game.”
On a positive note Sheldon Larsen was named in the tournament’s All Star five, while Auckland’s Kauri Murray was selected in the second division tournament team.