Roller Blacks head for World qualifiers, Auckland snatches national title

The New Zealand Roller Blacks are about to compete in the IWBF Asia-Oceania World qualifying championships in Beijing, China. The side is a mix of experience and youth, with five members (Sheldon Larsen, fresh from the South Africa league where he was awarded MVP status, captain Mark Sullivan, Te Reo Lewis, Mii Pepe and Paul Fallon) remaining from the test series against South Africa in 2015, the last occasion New Zealand was involved in full international play. However, valuable acquisitions are Eamon Wood, Ricardo Gozon and Travis Moffat, who have also previously represented New Zealand internationally.

The newcomers to the international arena are Ben Hekenui and youngsters Kauri Murray, Luke McDowall and Slade O’Rorke St John. Unavailable for the series are Canterbury’s Curtis Smith and Aucklanders Panchpreet Dhillon and James Russell.

The team has suffered a setback with coach Murray Mackay unable to travel due to ill health. Shane Davies assumes the head coach role, with Glenn McDonald assistant coach. Michelle Davies will be manager.

New Zealand is in Group C with Thailand, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The top seeded Australians are in Pool A alongside Chinese Taipei and Iraq. Contesting Pool B are Japan, Hong Kong and Kuwait. In Pool D are Korea, China, UAE and Afghanistan. The Roller Blacks meet Thailand on October 23, Iran on October 24 and Saudi Arabia on October 25 before crossover games commence.

Meanwhile, a last-second two-pointer by James Russell saw Auckland snatch the national provincial championship title 51-50 over Canterbury in Tauranga. The grand final was destined to be exciting following a 31-all result between the two teams in round robin play.

The tournament team was named as Ben Hekenui (Mid Western), Eamon Wood (Canterbury), James Russell (Auckland), Travis Moffat (Canterbury) and Ricardo Gozon (Auckland). Wood was also named as the tournament’s MVP and was outstanding with his strong skill sets and speed. Hekenui was strong on rebounds and was a workhorse, showing great consistency. Russell shot well and continues to shine with his all-round play. Moffat was vital for  Canterbury with his ability to control proceedings, while Gozon impressed with ever-reliable shooting.

Results: First Division: Mid Western 46 Bay of Plenty 27; Canterbury 42 Auckland White 13; Auckland Blue 56 Auckland White 14; Canterbury 55 Mid Western 49; Mid Western 36 Auckland White 23;  Auckland White 33 Bay of Plenty 28; Auckland Blue 31 Canterbury 31; Canterbury 40 Bay of Plenty 21; Auckland Blue 50 Mid Western 26; Auckland Blue 63 Bay of Plenty 20; Mid Western 48 Auckland White 15; Auckland Blue 57 Auckland White 16; Mid Western 19 Canterbury 12. Grand final: Auckland Blue 51 Canterbury 50.

Second Division: Te Raki Troopers Northland 28 Waikato 22; Te Raki Troopers Northland 28 Auckland Development 12; Waikato 30 Auckland Development 12; Te Raki Troopers Northland 45 Waikato 23; Waikato 34 Auckland Development 10; Te Raki Troopers Northland 42 Auckland Development 6; Waikato 18 Auckland Development 16. Te Raki Troopers, the top division 2 side played the bottom team of division one Bay of Plenty, the result being a 38-28 win for Northland.

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