Pioneers launch 2024 campaign

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Pioneers launch 2024 campaign

The Mount Gambier Pioneers have kicked off their 2024 NBL1 South conference season with a launch to introduce their teams to the local community.

The OneFortyOne Pioneers and the Castec Rural Pioneers took centre stage at their home court at Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre yesterday for a media launch attended by The SE Voice.

Emceed by local Liberal MLC Ben Hood, speakers included Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin OAM who welcomed the players to the Blue Lake city, Pioneers president Tom Kosch, naming rights sponsors OneFortyOne and Castec Rural representatives, as well as head coaches Matt Sutton and Richard Hill.

The coaches outlined their plans for the season and introduced their players, with new faces joining the existing roster.
Kane de Wit will again lead the men’s team as captain, with support from vice captions Titus Robinson and Nick Marshall.

Isabella Brancatisano has been appointed captain of the women’s team, with Haliegh Reinoehl as her vice captain.

Both coaches pointed out that several of the younger Pioneers extended squads have been selected for representative squads, with Claire Mitchell, Mackenzie Burke, Edie Easterby, Stella Mobbs and Shayden Russell chosen for the U18 State Country side, while Oscar Marr-McGuire, Jackson Bowden and Jack Haggett made it to Australia camp, for the best 20 players in the nation in their age group.

Head coach Sutton said his side “certainly cannot wait” for the season to get under way, and were particularly keen to play at home in front of what he described as the “best fans in Australia”.

“We have got some magnificent people returning,” he said.

“We’re really proud of the people we bring into the community and proud of what they are hopefully able to achieve bringing into the season.

“The extended squad provides opportunity for younger players … we look forward to seeing their progress and hopefully extending into the senior squad in years to come.”
Sutton said while the club roster had been finalised, it was still waiting on Tayah Burrows to join the side as she was currently involved in basketball finals in Sweden.

Sutton was full of praise for Brancatisano and Reinoehl for undertaking the team’s leadership roles.
“They represent what it means to be a Pioneer, what it means to be representing our community and our program,” he said.

“They have a real team first mentality.

“It was a no brainer that Haliegh be our vice captain and Isabella be our captain.
“We are really excited for what’s ahead and the hard work that is ahead, the challenges that come within the season.”

Head coach Hill wished the Pioneers women well for the season.

“We hope the girls can go one step further this year cos you were bloody unlucky last year to go and play on the away court to a team that won every game against the year and won the national championship and only go down by a point on the last shot basically,” he said.

“Those things in sport can go either way and that’s just bad luck.”

Hill said the addition of the women’s team to the club had only enhanced the Pioneers’ success.

“It’s just made this club really, really special, we are pleased to be part of a holistic program now,” he said.

In announcing the men’s team, Hill paid tribute to the “unbelievable and unconditional supporters of the club”, whom he said were crucial to the success and sustainability of the Pioneers.

“My team does not have a lot of change, last year we had six new guys coming in and that was difficult, but somehow we managed to win our first six games and we had a terrific year, losing to Knox was no shame, we felt we could have done better but we went down by five to the team that won the national title,” he said.

“We have made some changes … I love the group we have.

“Is the group good enough to win the championship? I guess when you think about it the only way we measure the Pioneers success is by winning championships.

“We have been tremendously successful in terms of ladder position the last three completed seasons, finishing second, second and third but it does not’ count for a heck of a lot unfortunately.

“The competition, both the men’s and the women’s, are going through the roof in terms of talent level.

“The quality of the opposition and the signings is tremendous, and the players are playing at an extremely, extremely high level so never undersell the quality of the competition and the product that we have put on the court for our local people.

“This team could be special, it’s a genuine hardworking group of guys.”

The Pioneers will head to Victoria this weekend for the opening round of the NBL1 South conference to play a double header.

On Saturday they will take the court against the Sandringham Sabres, before they back up again on Sunday against the Waverley Falcons.

The Pioneers will play their first home game on Saturday, April 13 against the Frankston Blues, before hosting the Ballarat Miners the next day on April 14.

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