There has been no lack of pre-season talk about the Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks, such is the (very high) quality of the roster new coach Jacob Chance has put together.
The Hawks have taken a high-risk-high-reward approach to its roster with no less than five members (including the coach) currently tied up in the Australian NBL, which is running months behind its usual schedule due to Covid.
If the Hawks can muster enough bodies, and wins, through the first half of the season they stand a great chance of storming home over the closing rounds, and if that big finish is enough to make the Final 4 they will be a tough unit to crack at the business end.
One potential curve ball for the Hawks is the possible scenario of Hyrum Harris (Cairns Taipans) missing the start of the season and moving to a Stage 3 player (Kiwi with an ANBL contract), of which the team has already filled its quota of two players - Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Hunt.
If this occurs it will lead to one of these players becoming available to other teams with Stage 3 spots to offer, of which there are currently 16 spots available across the League.
Let's take a closer look at the Hawks' chances in the Sal's NBL 2021 season.
THE HAWKS ROSTER
Coach: Jacob Chance
1. Jordan Hunter*
5. Everard Bartlett
6. Jarrod Kenny
10. Jonathan Janssen
11. Devondrick Walker*
12. Ethan Rusbatch
13. Darryl Jones
15. Jordan Hunt
18. Clifton Bush III
22. Hyrum Harris
45. Tommy Fergusson
88. Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch is fit, healthy and raring to go. After a complicated foot injury, one of the League's best shooters is ready to fire once again and he looks set for a huge season, especially early when his team will need him in the absence of some other big names. Season 2021 could be the year we see Rusbatch elevate his game to another level, something that will no doubt bring a huge smile to the faces of all Hawks fans.
There is no bigger x-factor in the competition than Derone Raukawa. He is a walking x-factor. Raukawa's 2020 Showdown efforts were top shelf and it has elevated him to being one of the best guards going around. We know Raukawa will score, throw dimes and compete as hard as anyone else out there, but it's the mercurial things he adds that lifts his teammates and sends the fans into raptures of applause. Get ready for Raukawa to take his game to a whole new level this season, especially with an incredibly talented squad around him. The stage is perfectly set for Derone Raukawa to explode!
Hard to split Jarrod Kenny and Everard Bartlett, but at this stage the former will miss a chunk of the season while he is finishing up his ANBL duties in Cairns, so let's talk about Bartlett. One of the most likeable guys in the competition, Bartlett has seen it all, and he's come out the other side with a huge amount of knowledge that other should be lining up to soak in. A quality leader and a humble servant to the game, you can be assured Bartlett will be the first guy to lift his team up when they need it the most. He's one of the best and most respected vets in the League.
No team has taken a bigger risk this season than what the Hawks have. While Kenny and Hunt will be available from as early as Round 7, if Jordan Hunter (Kings) makes it through to the ANBL Grand Final you can wipe him out for the Sal's NBL season. And then of course there is a case of trying to find a way to retain Hyrum Harris if he tips over to being a Stage 3 player. It makes for a season filled with risks.
You've read the risks, now read the rewards. If the Hawks can find a way to keep their full roster in place, and get everyone on court for the second half of the season, they will be the team to stop. While they are taking calculated risks, the reward is having it all come together at the right end of the season and going on to win a championship. The flight path for the Hawks will have some bumps so keep your seatbelt fastened, but it promises to be an exhilarating trip.
THREE THINGS THAT MUST GO RIGHT
MEMBERSHIPS & TICKETS
The Hawks have a favourable start to the season with three straight home games, though none of them will be easy with the Rams, Sharks and Giants hoping to find them below full strength. The Hawks will be hoping for a good start because they then face five straight games on the road. But its the Saints and Jets could be on the receiving end given they both play the Hawks twice in the back half of the season when the big names are due to return. It's going to be an interesting ride for the Hawks.
Sunday May 2 | 3:00pm | vs Canterbury Rams
Saturday May 8 | 7:30pm | vs Southland Sharks
Sunday May 16 | 5:00pm | vs Nelson Giants
Thursday May 20 | 7:30pm | @ Taranaki Mountainiars
Friday May 21 | 7:30pm | @ Auckland Huskies
Saturday May 29 | 7:30pm | @ Nelson Giants
Sunday May 30 | 5:00pm | @ Canterbury Rams
Friday June 4 | 7:30pm | @ Franklin Bulls
Sunday June 6 | 3:00pm | vs Auckland Huskies
Saturday June 12 | 7:30pm | vs Otago Nuggets
Friday June 18 | 7:30pm | vs Wellington Saints
Sunday June 20 | 3:00pm | @ Manawatu Jets
Saturday June 26 | 7:30pm | vs Franklin Bulls
Sunday June 27 | 5:00pm | @ Wellington Saints
Saturday July 3 | 7:30pm | @ Otago Nuggets
Sunday July 4 | 5:00pm | @ Southland Sharks
Saturday July 10 | 7:30pm | vs Taranaki Mountainairs
Thursday July 15 | 7:30pm | vs Manawatu Jets