Hungry Jack's NBL
Off-Season Report: Cairns
HEAD COACH Aaron Fearne 2015/16 PLAYERS SIGNED Alex Loughton; Cameron Gliddon; Cameron Tragardh; Corey Maynard; Matthew Burston FREE AGENTS Shaun Bruce; Mitchell Young (option*); Stephen Weigh (option*); Nathan Sobey (option*); Torrey Craig (import); Scottie Wilbekin (import) Last season: 21-7, first in regular season, lost to New Zealand in NBL Grand Final Points For: 80.6ppg, sixth Points Against: 75.6ppg, first Field Goal Percentage: 43.0%, first Defensive Field Goal Percentage: 42.2%, fifth Free Throw Percentage: 70.1%, sixth Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 33.1%, fourth Defensive Three Point Field Goal Percentage: 30.3%, first Rebounds: 36.5rpg, fifth Assists: 15.1apg, fourth Steals: 5.1spg, fourth Blocked Shots: 2.8bpg, seventh Turnovers: 10.2tpg, first Chemistry. It helps when you have players who have been a part of the group for many years, but you still have to bring in fresh blood and that can sometimes cause issues for a team. Not so the Taipans, who from day one of the pre-season were a united, cohesive unit, with guys who looked like they genuinely enjoyed playing together. Depth. Cairns’ second unit was a huge key to their fortunes in 2014/15, led by NBL Sixth Man of the Year Cameron Tragardh, he of the million post moves. Shaun Bruce had a breakout season, Mitch Young rocked the League’s best salad and was a physical presence down low and import Torrey Craig was a sparkplug at times, albeit you were never quite sure what you were going to get from him. The Orange Army. Perth fans might argue, but those who support the Taipans have supplanted the Wildcat hordes as the best in the nation. The Army has turned the Snakepit into a fortress, many of them travel throughout the country, and it’s a great example of how a club truly embraces and is closely engaged with the local community. Rebounding. For a team that boasted a big frontline headed by Alex Loughton and featuring great veterans like Matt Burston and Cam Tragardh, you might have expected the Taipans to be dominant on the glass, and although they certainly had their moments, there was a feeling they occasionally let themselves down in that area. Free-throw shooting. It’s kind of a nitpick, because not much was bad for the Snakes in their 2014/15 campaign. But, they were second last in the League from the charity stripe and they have to get better there next season. Inconsistent import production. Not really talking about Scottie Wilbekin here, although he struggled for a period of time midway through the season once teams were able to scout him. This is more about Torrey Craig, who was alternatively brilliant and ineffective. When he was on song, the Taipans were irresistible, but there were occasions he’d disappear. Sign two quality imports. Getting Scottie Wilbekin back would instantly make this team a no doubt championship contender, but assuming he doesn’t return, the Snakes need to strike gold with both import slots to ensure they remain in the upper echelon of teams. Continued improvement from the youngsters. As previously mentioned, Shaun Bruce was terrific off the bench and Mitch Young is one of those glue guys who will have a job in this league for a long time. Corey Maynard has the potential to be a solid player at this level and Cairns will be looking for Nathan Sobey to make an impact somewhere down the line if he returns. Keep the band together. They’ve already made great strides along those lines with the retention of the two Cams – Gliddon and Tragardh – and if you ask any coach in the League they’ll tell you that Cairns’ roster stability had a great deal to do with their success last season. Bringing back the majority of the roster with a couple of tweaks should ensure this team remains a powerhouse in 2015/2016. The Taipans were a revelation in 2014/15, and although they figure to have a target on their backs coming into next season, they look to be as well prepared as any to meet those challenges. They’ve got a great coach in Aaron Fearne, a community that loves them, a tremendous homecourt advantage and going on the road no longer holds the same fears for this team that it once did. There’s no doubt the import selections will be important, and if they get those right, they will be very hard to beat. Even at this early stage, it’s easy to see Cairns – at the very least – going very close to securing their first piece of championship hardware in 2015/2016. (*Option not taken) By Matt McQuade; NBL.tv commentator. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the NBL.