THE 2019 Men’s SBL gets underway with a tantalising Grand Final rematch between the Perry Lakes Hawks and Joondalup Wolves with both teams looking like being a force again but they are far from the only teams entering the season with high hopes.
The 2018 Men’s SBL season came to an end with a stunning Grand Final victory by the Perry Lakes Hawks who came from fourth position and overcame losing former league MVP Jacob Holmen in the semi finals to claim the championship.
They are now gearing up for their quest to go back-to-back with coach Matt Parsons attempting to win a third championship in four years as they begin the season raising their banner on Friday night at Bendat Basketball Centre in a Grand Final rematch with the Wolves.
As for the Wolfpack, it might be rubbing salt into the wounds to have to be there on Friday night but they have played in the past four Men’s SBL Grand Finals and the fact they’ve lost the past three means their motivation is at an all-time high entering 2019.
Both the Hawks and Wolves are expected to be genuine contenders again in 2019, but there are plenty of other teams who deservedly have high hopes of what the new season can hold.
The Geraldton Buccaneers will be stung by a first round exit as regular season champions last year while the team that eliminated them, the Rockingham Flames look capable of going places under new coach Ryan Petrik.
The Lakeside Lightning have made plenty of noise over summer adding Kyle Armour and Michael Vigor while the Kalamunda Eastern Suns, Goldfields Giants and South West Slammers have new coaches trying to get their teams into the playoffs.
The Warwick Senators look more than capable of at least replicating their semi-final appearance of 2019 as well while there plenty of unknown quantities surrounding teams like the Perth Redbacks, East Perth Eagles and Willetton Tigers who have vastly new-look squads.
The Hawks won their first Men’s championship since 2004 last year. That 2004 triumph was the last of four in-a-row so now this group of 2019 is attempting to go back-to-back and they look to have a group more than capable.
Kyle Sovine is on board after a strong season in 2018 in Kalgoorlie while Tevin Jackson is an arrival too. They will team up with the now naturalised Brian Carlwell to form an imposing frontcourt.
Then there is the returning Ben Purser, Lochlan Cummings, Rob Cassir, Ryan Smith and company, with Dan Thomas back from injury and they are going to be tough to stop in their quest for back-to-back.
Saying a team could potentially be better when they have played in four consecutive Grand Finals would be a big statement, but all signs point to the Wolves being capable of potentially having more weapons and depth in 2019.
Coach Ben Ettridge and the Wolfpack are desperate to make up for the pain of losing the past three Grand Finals and have left no stone unturned in putting together their squad for this season.
Kevin Davis has returned after spending the last two years playing with East Perth and Kalamunda while Ridell Camidge and Earnest Ross are two exciting additions.
When you factor in that Seb Salinas, Trian Iliadis, Rob Huntington, Reece Maxwell, and Ben Ironmonger are all back too, and that’s a team with a chip on their shoulder and plenty of talent and depth.
Rockingham didn’t have a standout regular season in 2018 finishing at 12-14 only scraping into eighth place, but they were a different outfit once the finals began.
Led by Greg Hire and Kevin White and a focused band of locals, the Flames stunned the Buccs in two games of the quarter finals and then pushed the Hawks to three games in the semis before just falling short.
But they now have a new coach in 2019 with Ryan Petrik crossing over from the women and they have loaded up too. Hire will be back once his NBL season finishes and his former Perth Wildcats captain Brad Robbins has come out of retirement.
Josh Ritchart is back after injury interrupted his 2018 season that started so promisingly and with exciting import Caleb White on deck too, big things are expected of the Flames in 2019 once they get to full power.
The Senators broke through finally to win a playoff series last year knocking out the defending champion Redbacks before coming up short against the powerful Wolves in the semi finals.
Now coach Mike Ellis led by son Cody will be looking to build on that and Warwick look set to have kept the group together for the most part with some additions that should make that a possibility.
Imports Justin King and Rob Anshila are both back as are Ash Litterick, Caleb Davis and Ellis.
They have lost Corban Wroe, Jayden Coburn and Austin Bruton, but added young gun Wani Swaka Lo Bulok and some good depth players including Ngor Manyang.
Lakeside had plenty to deal with during 2018 including a devastating broken leg suffered by Jack Isenbarger, but led by Coach of the Year Dave Daniels, they still reached the quarter finals and pushed eventual champions Perry Lakes all the way.
They will get back Isenbarger in 2019 and have added new import Jobi Wall along with SBL veterans and championship-winning pair Michael Vigor and Kyle Armour.
Daniel Alexander is impossible to replace, but they have made strong signings and still have Jarrad Prue on the glass and there’s every reason to expect them to a be a strong outfit once their full group is together.
The Buccaneers were left stunned with the way their season ended last year on their home floor in the second game of the quarter finals against Rockingham after finishing on top at the end of the regular season.
Coach Ray Evans stepped down in the aftermath and there will be no Earnest Ross returning, but the Buccs look to again have assembled an impressive squad to give themselves a chance. However, what happens in the regular season will be an entrée to seeing if they can overcome their finals hoodoo under returning coach Dayle Joseph.
Willie Connor arrives as an import looking capable of big things while Brayden Inger and Brendan Dinardo are impressive signings to a group still including Matt Wundenberg, Aaron Ralph, Liam Hunt, Marcus Alipate, Colter Lasher, and James Paringatai.
Willetton have been a team around the mark over the last four years but 2018 probably wasn’t the season coach Stephen Black was after and it’s a significantly new-look Tigers team to play out of the redeveloping Willetton Basketball Stadium in 2019.
Kyle Armour and Jay Bowie were key players in their strong seasons the past three years and Badou Diagne was a handy big last year, but that trio have moved on allowing for the Tigers to make plenty of changes.
Jackson Hussey takes over as point guard from Armour and will be joined by his former Buccs and Redbacks teammate Mo Barrow.
Marcanvis Hymon will be Willetton’s second import with Michael Garbellini having made the move from Lakeside as the Tigers look to improve on their 13-13 record and seventh-place finish last year.
The Redbacks were defending champions in 2018 and had a solid regular season finishing third at 19-7 but they lost to the Senators in the quarter finals and now it’s going to be a barely recognisable squad representing them in 2019.
Coach Nik Lackovic might still be coming to terms with the departures of Michael Vigor, Jackson Hussey, Mo Barrow, Ben Smith and Shawn Redhage, but will be relieved Joel Wagner has agreed to play on.
Championship winning guard Marshall Nelson is also back after his season in the NBL with the Illawarra Hawks with Jayden Coburn moving from the Senators.
Lee Roberts will return and then the stature of the second import might have a big say in how well the Redbacks go this season with an increasingly young group.
For much of 2018, the Eastern Suns looked capable of ending their finals drought in the Men’s SBL. It didn’t quite happen, but it continued their upward trajectory which Mark Utley will now look to continue as he takes over as coach from the good job done by Michael Clarke.
Josh Braun joins Kalamunda as a new import with a second on the way while Corey Easley has returned to provide added experience and depth the frontcourt that still includes Louis Timms, Ryan Blanchett and Cooper Lowe.
Utley is refreshed after a couple of years out of the SBL following his last stint coaching Rockingham and is desperate for a playoff berth with the Suns.
The Cougars are another team looking to return to the finals in 2019 after narrowly missing out in 2018 despite a horror injury run.
But any team led by Gavin Field will always be competitive and the Cougars are expected to soon announce their import while they have added handy pieces Hayden Bell, Mitch Hampson and Matt Vinci to a group coach Adam Nener does enough to play finals in 2019.
East Perth also missed finals in 2018 but the Eagles looking capable of rebounding in 2019 with championship winning coach Adam Forde returning to the top job.
Vinnie Zollo returns to the SBL after playing with Rockingham in 2017 with Cameron Williams their second import on top of Jordan Wellsteed making the move from the Wolfpack on the search of a larger role.
With Drew Williamson still leading the way for the Eagles and the chance of some more arrivals wanting to play and develop under Forde, they look capable of a vastly improved season.
It’s fair to say the recent seasons of the Slammers has been quite the rollercoaster ride. They reached the Grand Final in 2015 before a down year in 2016 but then a resurgence under Charles Nix in 2017.
Last year was another tough one with just the seven wins but now veteran coach John Triscari takes over the helm and is buoyant over what he can build not only this year, but moving forward.
The loss of Clive Weeden and Travis Durnin do sting, but the fact that Michael Lay and Brian Voelkel are returning is a big plus along with he signing of Tyler Livingston and the return of Chris Douglas giving Triscari reason for optimism.
Goldfields is another team with a new coach in 2019 with Wayne Creek returning to the job and he is looking to lead a resurgence from the Giants after they won just the five games in 2018.
Jay Bowie is back after three years with Willetton looking to help lead a playoff charge he was part of back in 2015 while they’ve already had an import change, with Patrick Burke replacing Marquis Salmon.
Manylok Malek, Dave Humphries and Fletcher Klasztorny look like handy additions too. But Jeylyn Sharpe, Jake Martin and Kyle Sovine were their best players last year and won’t be back.
It has been a slow build at Mandurah for coach Aaron Trahair, but he’ll be looking to make some further strides forward in 2019.
Bringing Shaun Stewart back for a second season as import will help as will the addition of Travis Durnin who finished the season at the Slammers in stunning fashion in 2018 suggesting he’s ready to become a big-scoring star of the SBL.
Marvin Smith arrives as the new import and the Magic will be desperate to improve on five wins last year.
Round 1 of the 2019 Men’s SBL season begins on Friday night with the Grand Final rematch between the Hawks and Wolves at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The other Friday night match sees the Lakeside Lightning host the Mandurah Magic with Kyle Armour playing his 200th SBL game and Jarrad Prue his 350th for the Lightning.
Then on Saturday night, the Buccs begin their season at home hosting the team that eliminated them in the playoffs last year, a Flames team minus Greg Hire and Brad Robbins.
The Wolfpack back up their season-opening on Friday by hosting the Goldfields Giants at HBF Arena also on Saturday night.
The Cockburn Cougars and Willetton Tigers meet at Wally Hagan Stadium with Cougars point guard celebrating his 200th SBL appearance.
The Perth Redbacks and Stirling Senators also meet in a rematch of last year’s quarter finals with Jayden Coburn lining up for the Redbacks against his old team.
The Magic back up playing on Friday with their home-opener against the Eastern Suns with the Slammers also at home to East Perth.
Sunday’s lone fixture pits the Eastern Suns against the Giants at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
PRESTIGE HONDA MELVILLE COCKBURN COUGARS
BITTER SWEET 200TH MILESTONE FOR COUGAR CHAN
Coach: Adam Nener
Last year: 11-15 (Ninth)
In: Hayden Bell, Mitch Hampson, Matt Vinci
Out: Brandon Sebirumbi, Julian Pesava
Round 1 v Willetton Tigers, Saturday March 16 – Wally Hagan Stadium
CMTG EAST PERTH EAGLES
Coach: Adam Forde
Last year: 9-17 (11th)
In: Vinnie Zollo (restricted), Cameron Williams (restricted), Matthew Leary, Jordan Wellsteed, Archie Hall
Out: Jonathan Morse, Brendan Dinardo, Anthony Golden, Corey Easley, Joe-Alan Tupaea, Ngor Manyang
Round 1 v South West Slammers, Saturday March 16 – Eaton Recreation Centre
QUADRIO EARTHMOVING GERALDTON BUCCANEERS
FINE TUNING KEY FOR BUCCS UNDER JOSEPH
Coach: Dayle Joseph
Last year: 23-3 (lost quarter finals)
In: Willie Conner (restricted), Brayden Inger, Brendan Dinardo
Out: Gokul Natesan, Earnest Ross
Round 1 v Rockingham Flames, Saturday March 16 – Active West Stadium
NORTHERN STAR RESOURCES GOLDFIELDS GIANTS
CREEK LOOKS FOR RAPID GIANTS RISE IN 2019
Coach: Wayne Creek
Last year: 5-21 (wooden spoon)
In: Jay Bowie (restricted), Patrick Burke (restricted, Manylok Malek, David Humphries, Fletcher Klasztorny, Michael Gardner
Out: Jeylyn Sharpe, Kyle Sovine, Jake Martin
Round 1 v Joondalup Wolves, Saturday March 16 – HBF Arena
Round 1 v Kalamunda Eastern Suns, Sunday March 17 – Ray Owen Sports Centre
CHAMBERS FRANKLYN JOONDALUP CITY WOLVES
DAVIS JOINS ROSS AS WOLVES GEAR UP FOR 2019
Coach: Ben Ettridge
Last year: 21-5 (runner-up)
In: Ridell Camidge (restricted), Kevin Davis (restricted), Earnest Ross, Mitch McKenna
Out: Brian Sullivan, Jalen Billups, Chris Clausen, Damian Matacz
Round 1 v Perry Lakes Hawks, Friday March 15 – Bendat Basketball Centre
Round 1 v Goldfields Giants, Saturday March 16 – HBF Arena
KALAMUNDA EASTERN SUNS
UTLEY EXCITED TO RETURN WITH EASTERN SUNS
Coach: Mark Utley
Last year: 10-16 (10th)
In: Josh Braun (restricted), Corey Easley
Out: Kevin Davis, Courtney Belger, Kerrod Horn, Tim Squire
Round 1 v Mandurah Magic, Saturday March 16 – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre
Round 1 v Goldfields Giants, Sunday March 17 – Ray Owen Sports Centre
LAKESIDE MOVE ALL ABOUT ENJOYMENT FOR ARMOUR
Coach: Dave Daniels
Last year: 15-11 (lost quarter finals)
In: Jobi Wall (restricted), Kyle Armour, Michael Vigor, Ben Lee, Jake Whately
Out: Daniel Alexander, Michael Garbellini, Hayden Bell, Bryan Michaels, Matt Vinci
Round 1 v Mandurah Magic, Friday March 15 – Lakeside Recreation Centre
Coach: Aaron Trahair
Last year: 5-21 (13th)
In: Marvin Smith (restricted), James Gianfrancesco, Travis Durnin, Jake Cannell, Harrison Klasztorny
Out: Jamal Shabazz, Chudier Pal, Damon Ballantyne
Round 1 v Lakeside Lightning, Friday March 15 – Lakeside Recreation Centre
Round 1 v Kalamunda Eastern Suns, Saturday March 16 – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre
ID ATHLETIC PERRY LAKES HAWKS
PARSONS FOCUSING ON HAWKS’ CONTINUED GROWTH
Coach: Matt Parsons
Last year: 18-8 (Champions)
In: Kyle Sovine (restricted), Thomas Thorup, Tevin Jackson
Out: Jacob Holmen, Josh Garlepp
Round 1 v Joondalup Wolves, Friday March 15 – Bendat Basketball Centre
TEXTURE WA PERTH REDBACKS
Coach: Nik Lackovic
Last year: 19-7 (lost quarter finals)
In: Derek Igbenoba, Chudier Lap, Jayden Coburn, David Swaby, Marshall Nelson
Out: Mo Barrow, Jackson Hussey, Michael Vigor, Shawn Redhage, Ben Smith
Round 1 v Warwick Senators, Saturday March 16 – Belmont Oasis
SINCLAIR MCDONALD’S ROCKINGHAM FLAMES
PETRIK READY FOR JOB AHEAD TO GET FLAMES FIRING
Coach: Ryan Petrik
Last year: 12-14 (lost semi finals)
In: Caleb White (restricted), Chudier Pal, Mitch Davies, Ben Johnson, Brad Robbins
Out: Curtis Washington, Kevin White, Beau Samuelson, Dain Samuelson
Round 1 v Geraldton Buccaneers, Saturday March 16 – Active West Stadium
PRINT SYNC SOUTH WEST SLAMMERS
TRISCARI TO BUILD FOR LONG-TERM AT SLAMMERS
Coach: John Triscari
Last year: 7-19 (12th)
In: Tyler Livingston (restricted), James Allen, James Goodlad, Marshall Crossley, Travis McIlroy
Out: Clive Weeden, Travis Durnin
Round 1 v East Perth Eagles, Saturday March 16 – Eaton Recreation Centre
BETHANIE WARWICK SENATORS
Coach: Mike Ellis
Last year: 14-12 (lost semi finals)
In: Isaac Campion, Wani Swaka Lo Bulok, Jarrod Hodge, Jordan Deegan, Ngor Manyang
Out: Corban Wroe, Jayden Coburn, Austin Bruton
Round 1 v Perth Redbacks, Saturday March 16 – Belmont Oasis
Coach: Steve Black
Last year: 13-13 (lost quarter finals)
In: Mo Barrow (restricted), Marcanvis Hymon (restricted), Michael Garbellini, Jackson Hussey, Scott Elder
Out: Badou Diagne, Jay Bowie, Kyle Armour, Jake Burston, Mitch Clarke
Round 1 v Cockburn Cougars, Saturday March 16 – Wally Hagan Stadium