Decision to leave Nuggets ‘tough’

Richie Rodger
Richie Rodger
The Otago Nuggets have been dealt a significant blow in their recruitment for next season.

Point guard Richie Rodger is heading to New Plymouth to join the Taranaki Airs.

The 24-year-old Dunedin local admitted it was a difficult decision.

He said he had lost "a lot of sleep" over it but felt it was best for his career.

Rodger had played for the Airs briefly in 2018, having returned from college in the United States and the Nuggets being on their five-year hiatus.

He spent a week with the team last month to have a look at what it had to offer.

He loved what he saw and was convinced to sign.

While the Airs were a distant last place in last year’s national league, he said they were doing a good job of turning things around.

They had already signed a useful group which included centre Tai Wynyard and young star Carlin Davison.

Rodger was excited to be part of that and was glad to repay them for the opportunity they had provided him three years ago.

"I kind of feel like I owe a lot to them," the former Kavanagh College pupil said.

"Through that, I got to the Philippines and spent two years over there. It feels good to repay them for that.

"I’m sad to be leaving the Nuggets. It was such a tough decision — I lost a lot of sleep over it," he said.

"But at the end of the day I had to do what I thought was best for my career and I think for next season, at least, that’s with the Airs."

Both making the Tall Blacks and playing in the Australian NBL were now major goals for Rodger.

He boosted his chances of achieving both with his efforts for the Nuggets over the past two seasons.

Last year, he averaged 9.3 points and 3.1 assists per game, while ensuring the team always looked better while he was on the court.

He said he was grateful for that opportunity, and the Nuggets’ new ownership link with the Perth Wildcats was a tempting connection.

However, having Tall Blacks coach Pero Cameron being involved with the Airs proved a major lure.

"There’s so much Tall Blacks stuff next year," Rodger said.

"I feel like being around Pero day to day will give me a pretty good chance of making one of those teams to go away."

He was now looking forward to opening weekend, when the Nuggets would begin their season in Dunedin against none other than the Airs.

Before that, he would turn out for the Nuggets at next month’s NBL 3x3 competition.

Despite the departure, he was certain it would not be his last time in the team’s uniform.

"I’ll definitely be back."

jeff.cheshire@odt.co.nz

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