The first rivalry matchup of the 2021 Sal’s NBL season comes in the form of the third instalment of Battle of the North, with the EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls taking on the Sky Tower Auckland Huskies. These two teams played twice in 2020, with each team winning a game by a 4 point margin.
It also marks a historic day, as the Franklin Bulls will host their first even game having joined the league at last year’s Showdown.
Potential Bulls line-up
The Bulls backcourt is one to watch. Import Josh Selby played 38 games in the NBA before an impressive career around Europe and Asia. With Isaac Davidson still with the Breakers, Selby will likely team up with kiwi Jaylen Gerrand, who actually wore the Huskies colours in 2020. Former Jet Nick Fee has impressed in the preseason and could be in line for a start at the three, but with import Zane Waterman and kiwi Matt Freeman both still in quarantine, expect a super athletic, yet small, frontcourt of Dane Brooks and Denhym Brook.
Potential Huskies line-up
Newly named short term import Jeremy Kendle, fresh off a stint with the Breakers in Australia, will run things for the Huskies. He’ll team up with former Tall Black Brook Ruscoe, who makes an exciting return to pro hoops after a prolonged injury absence. The Huskies too have quarantine issues, so with import big Chris Johnson still isolating and Tom Vodanovic with the Sydney Kings, an all local forward line of Sean Murphy, Theo Johnson, and Nick ‘The Wheel’ Barrow will likely get the nod to start.
Both these teams have young, inexperienced, yet exciting second units. For the Bulls, the likes of 2020 Air Joseph Nunag and prospect Jett Thompson will look to impress with their minutes, while ‘older heads’ Adam Dunstan and Zach Easthope will need to be solid.
The Huskies will look for contributions from sharpshooter Chris McIntosh, who goes up against his former team tonight, and Reuben Fitzgerald. We’ll likely also see minutes for two sons of Tall Blacks – Zach Riley and Jackson Smyth. Smyth himself played for the Tall Blacks in February.
It’s a big night for the clipboard carriers, who are both making their debuts at the NBL level. Jamie Reddish made the move from Bulls GM to Head Coach in the offseason having been instrumental in the creation of the Bulls. He knows Franklin Basketball inside out, and may be the proudest person in the building tonight. Huskies coach Aaron Young is more of a known commodity on the national level, having tasted success with St Kentigern at school level, and could be the perfect hire to lead a young squad.
Where it’ll be won
I said that the home crowd would be key for Nuggets last night, and look what happened, but I’m repeating myself ahead of tonight. The Franklin Pool and Leisure Arena, which I’m labelling the Stockyard to save time, will be pumping tonight. It’ll be a hostile welcome to Pukekohe for the Huskies and it could play a part in the result. Josh Selby is the best player on court, and if he lives up to the hype, he could lead the Bulls to a first home win. The Huskies scoring off the bench however, and the experienced head of Jeremy Kendle could send the Aucklanders home with a win in this impossible-to-call game.
How to watch
Tickets available here: The Ticket Fairy - Bulls v Huskies
SKY Sport 6 – 7:30pm – Commentary from Andrew Mulligan and Casey Frank