Matehaere counting down days until opening game

Otago Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere reflects on the season ahead at the Otago Boys’ High School...
Otago Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere reflects on the season ahead at the Otago Boys’ High School yesterday. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR
Otago Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere is counting down the days until his side plays its first home game in seven years.

The franchise has also revealed its major naming sponsor, three more players have been confirmed and Matehaere has sorted a new pair of sneakers to go with his new suit for the season opener.

The less said about the last the better. Everything else is awfully exciting, particularly that long-awaited home game.

"If this is in Saturday’s paper, it will be 14 days [until our first home game]," Matehaere said.

You get the feeling he could tell you how many hours and maybe even minutes are left.

That passion is understandable.

The Nuggets endured a six-year hiatus from the National Basketball League but re-emerged last year to win the championship.

The 2020 league had to be re-imagined because of Covid-19.

The financial barriers which had prevented the franchise returning earlier disappeared.

And the introduction of a player draft gave the franchise another mighty leg-up.

Still, it was a terrific story. The Nuggets emerged from the wilderness to set the benchmark and went on to beat the Manawatu Jets in the final and claim the franchise’s first title.

But the entire league was played in Auckland and Nuggets fans had to watch the glory unfold from afar.

The Nuggets have not played an NBL game in Dunedin since 2014 but the drought ends on April 24 when they host the Wellington Saints at the Edgar Centre.

"It is the 2019 champions versus the 2020 champions," Matehaere, a teacher at Otago Boys’ High School, said.

The Saints decided against playing in the rejigged competition last year.

The Southland Sharks and the Hawke’s Bay Hawks also opted out.

There has been some noise around the basketball community that the Nuggets’ title is not as legitimate as it could be for that reason.

"I wouldn’t say it is niggly," Matehaere responded when asked whether the game against the Saints carried any extra weight.

"My view is it is a great opportunity for both clubs to say ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re on the map’ and especially for us in front of our home crowd."

The Nuggets will head to Queenstown next weekend to play two warm-up games against the Sharks.

Import Isaiah Moss will have only got out of quarantine a fews days earlier so is "unlikely" to feature in either game.

However, the Nuggets newly confirmed players should feature. Guards Joe Ahie and Mitchell Hughan and forward Robbie Coman join the other 11 confirmed players.

The Nuggets have also revealed Go Media as their naming-right sponsor.

Nuggets general manager Angela Ruske said the agreement, which was commercially sensitive, meant the franchise was on track from a financial point of view.

There is another sponsor worth a mention as well.

Matehaere’s dubious fashion choice of wearing trainers with a suit attracted plenty of attention last season.

He has confirmed a disturbingly similar look this season.

"Smiths Sports Shoes are working on getting some New Balance on my feet to go with the new suit," he said.

Eyes on the ball everyone.


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