Date set for ‘new era’

The Mount Gambier Pioneers will embark on a new era in April when the NBL1 South Conference tips off. The opening round of the new competition is on Saturday, April 17 and fans can get pumped to see both the men’s and women’s sides at the Ice House.

Mount Gambier starts its campaign with a huge home clash against the Bendigo Braves. The landmark night is the first of 11 games scheduled to take place at Bern Bruning Basketball Stadium, while the men and women will play back-to-back games each round.

The 17-round season is a new and exciting chapter in the Pioneers’ storied history which includes success in the SEABL and more recently in the Basketball SA Premier League.

The inaugural NBL1 season was supposed to hit courts around the country last year, but was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although tip-off still hinges on border restrictions, Mount Gambier men’s coach Richard Hill said everyone had their eyes set on April. “We are absolutely excited,” he said. “There is still some uncertainty with everything that is going on (COVID wise) but we have our fingers crossed.”

Hill said preparations continued to rise with a busy on-court period ahead. “We had a camp a fortnight ago and have another one this weekend, so it is head down and bum up trying to get the boys to do as much work as possible,” he said.

“We also just did a session with the boys in Adelaide and everyone is doing their best at the moment. “The team is shaping up pretty well and we expect to begin weekly training at the start of March.”

Mount Gambier warms up for the 2021 season with a weekend tournament in Millicent on March 13 and 14 before an exhibition game with Geelong in Portland on the following Saturday. A pre-season tournament in Melbourne is also scheduled for the final weekend in March.

After looking at the NBL1 South fixture, Hill is keen to see how the new competition unfolds. “From my perspective the draw looks fine and is quite fair,” he said. “We play 22 games, five doubleheaders and four teams twice. “We will see how it shakes out because you are never 100% sure who are going to be the best. “To host Bendigo at home is a terrific way to start the season.”

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