The opportunity to return home and play in front of his whānau was something Francis Wineera-Mulvihill didn’t think twice about, and he’s confident he can help the Saints win their 13th Sal’s NBL title this season.
Wineera-Mulvihill grew up in Porirua, with his dad Frank and uncle Rick both suiting up for the Saints in the 1980s. With roots firmly engrained in the Wellington community, there’s nothing Francis is looking forward to more than being able to play in front of his friends and family on such a stage.
“Honestly the one thing I’m looking forward to is playing at home in the TSB Bank Arena. Playing in front of your home crowd with your whānau watching, there’s nothing like it. Best fans in the league.”
Mulvihill spent the past two seasons in Taranaki with the Steelformers Airs. In 2021, he posted averages of 6.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 17 appearances. His production was up across the board compared to his previous campaign, demonstrating the strides he has made since making his debut in 2020.
The 22-year-old says it was a difficult season from a team perspective with the 10th place finish, but he felt good with the progress he made and working with a player like Tall Black Tai Wynyard taught him a lot.
“Last season was a different kind of season. We were a young team, and I was running the point, but I enjoyed it heaps and got to go out and get better with each game,” said Wineera-Mulvihill.
“Tai [Wynyard] is my boy. We stayed right next to each other the whole year. He’s an overall good guy and he brought a wealth of experience playing at Kentucky and for the Tall Blacks. I learnt a lot from him.”
Wineera-Mulvihill has always had the mentality of win at all costs, a mindset that will fit perfectly with the Saints, and he’s been grinding over the summer to help the team in whatever way he can.
“What I’ve always been renowned for is trying to win. Whether it’s 1v1, 3v3, 5v5 – I’m always out there trying to win. Even if it’s practice, I give it my all.
“We’ve been working out twice a day since last year. The coaches have been working with me on my shooting, improving my shooting form, picking the right time to score, and making the right reads. Just letting the game come to me is a focus.
“Going into this season I feel like I’ve become more patient. I’ve put in a whole lot of work to become better.”
The Saints added former Sal’s NBL MVP Tom Vodanovich during free agency, along with fellow Tall Black Jordan Ngatai. Mulvihill says having them on the team will elevate everyone around them and the experience they bring is unmatched.
“It’s going to be amazing. They’re going to share that mentality we all have down here – and that’s to win. They have a wealth of experience and knowledge when it comes to basketball, and I think just having them around will help everyone elevate their game to another level.”
Francis knows what it takes to win, and he’s prepared to take on whichever role head coach Guy Molloy has in store for him.
“What I bring to the table is hard-nosed defence. Playing as hard as I possibly can. Bringing leadership and being vocal, that’s something I’ve always done. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I’m looking to be a reliable off the bench scorer, who just comes in and brings the punch every time I’m on the floor.”
Outside of his ability to score, set up teammates and play sound defence, Wineera-Mulvihill claimed the 3x3 Quest Tour Wellington dunk crown in January and there are likely more accolades on the way for the talented baller out of St. Pats Town.
Check out 2021 Sal’s NBL season highlights for Francis Wineera-Mulvihill: