The Sal’s NBL season is on the horizon with just two months until the first game tips off on April 7, as teams continue to fill out their rosters with talent across New Zealand.
Whilst the covid pandemic has presented many bumps in the road, teams have remained active in free agency with a total of 39 signings confirmed to date. The EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls have been the most active team in free agency, announcing eight contracts for the 2022 season.
Guard Jett Thompson will return for his second season with the Bulls and should see an extended role after showing flashes of his all-around talent in 2021. The 18-year-old played big minutes down the stretch last season, scoring in double figures in three of his last four games.
Franklin also signed big man Joshua Leger, who has spent the past two seasons with the Mike Pero Nelson Giants, and Christian Martin from Westlake Boys High School in Auckland.
The Bulls, however, did lose a key piece to the Southland Sharks in the process with guard Jaylen Gerrand set to play in Invercargill for the 2022 season. Gerrand had a tidy 2021 campaign with the Bulls – averaging 8.2 points per game – and his scoring prowess should fit nicely in the Sharks’ backcourt.
The Wellington Saints managed to secure the signature of Tall Black Tom Vodanovich, who returns to his hometown club over 10 years after last suiting up for them. Vodanovich was named Sal’s NBL MVP in 2020 with the Manawatu Jets, tallying impressive averages of 22.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game on 52.3 percent shooting from the field and a red-hot 45.2 percent from distance. The 27-year-old forward has spent the past two seasons with the Sydney Kings of the Australian NBL.
Wellington also unveiled a generational signing with Francis Wineera-Mulvihill joining the same team his father and uncle both played for in the ‘80s. The Porirua native has spent time with the Taranaki Steelformers Airs and is one of the Sal’s NBL’s most athletic players, winning the 3x3 Quest Tour dunk contest in Wellington this past weekend.
The Canterbury Rams were delighted to re-sign one of the country’s top young talents Max Darling. Darling spent time with the Illawarra Hawks in the Australian NBL during the 2020-21 season before returning to New Zealand and suiting up in seven games for the Rams in 2021. He is currently playing professionally in Romania.
Three signings have been announced by the Property Brokers Manawatu Jets in recent weeks, with Pafe Momoisea moving from the Night ‘n Day Otago Nuggets and youngsters Tu Kaha Cooper and Klein Salmon joining the squad. Momoisea will set the tone defensively for the Jets and should be a staple in their backcourt.
Forward Quintin Bailey will be heading to Hawke’s Bay to join the Taylor Hawks after a two-year stint with the Rams. Bailey accrued averages of 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 2021 and had a season-high 21 points against the Hawks which could have been a factor in them bringing him onboard.
The Taranaki Airs have lured guard Richie Rodger back to the team after he spent the past two seasons playing for his hometown Nuggets. Rodger was a frequent contributor for the Nuggets in 2021, posting averages of 9.3 points, 3.1 assists and 2.9 rebounds on 43.5 percent shooting from the field. The 25-year-old has established himself as a reliable 3-point threat - shooting 40 percent in 2020 and 37 percent in 2021 – making him someone to keep an eye on in Taranaki next season.
Rodger said it was a tough decision to leave the Nuggets, but he’s excited about returning to play for the Airs.
“The past two seasons with the Nuggets have been great. I’ve learnt a lot and developed with the organization. It was a very tough decision to leave my hometown team, but I thought this would be the best move for me this season,” said Rodgers.
“I really enjoyed my time with the Airs in 2018 and was very grateful when they gave me the opportunity to play when there was no Otago team in the league, so it feels nice that I can come back. The opportunity to develop my game under the Airs’ coaches was also a big draw card.”
Here’s a breakdown of all the signings to date:
HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS