So another season is done a dusted. Like a ship on a huge oceanic swell it was filled with highs and lows. The Ship remained buoyant and it left those closely involved with a sense of what could have been. The crew have passed through the storm wiser and better prepared for the next voyage!
At the crest of the wave, our men's QBL and SBL teams made it to the post season, at the trough, a wave of injuries!
The Colourfast SBL men faced a semi opponent (Sunshine Coast Rip) that they had dispatched earlier in the regular season. It was a defeat which galvanized the belief in the Pirate crew but it also sparked the Rip into lifting their game and both the Pirates and the Rip were on a roll heading into the semi final clash. It was a contest of the youth and energy of the Pirates verses the wile and experience of the Rip. In the end experience won out in a tight game 96-86 to the Rip. Jay Washington was the leading scorer of the league and would have to be in discussions for league MVP. First year coach Rob Crowther and his mentor Brian Kerle moulded a young group into championship contenders are to be congratulated for their efforts.
The Colourfast SBL girls team was disrupted with injuries and call ups of key players to QBL because of injuries and departures in the QBL roster (see below). It was a young team with everyone 21 y.o. or younger. They finished 5 -10 win/loss with 2 of those losses being decided by 2 points or less, and another by 10 points. One of the most encouraging performances was against the championship winning team, the Seahawks featuring ex Opal Annie Le Fleur only going down by 12 points in round 2. Coach Clayde Osborne had a great camaraderie within the team and the Pirate's will look to grow and improve on the 2016 season.
The Dionsysius Transport women's team carried a Pirates curse it seemed before the season even got underway. After a promising off season in recruiting point guard Sidney Parsons and first mate and centre Erica Carlson combined with the up coming talent of twin towers Ashlee Hannan and Zetina Aukuso to join Charlie Keimann, Renee Teys and Celeste Williams the season was looking promising. For new coaches former Olympian and Opal, Fiona Hannan and AC Nikki Bairstow it was shaping up to be an exciting season.
The injury curse struck first with Erica Carlson injuring her wrist preseason and Celeste Willams rolling an ankle badly in last the preseason practice. Charlie Kiemann and Jameson McMullen both succumbed to similar, season ending, back injuries. The curse of "opportunity" also broadsided the Ship with dunking sensation, Zetina Aukuso being offered a spot at the Centre of Excellence under the watchful eye of Opals coach Brendan Joyce and Ashlee Hannan needing to commit to State team requirements. It left the side undersized and under manned! Emily McCann joined the crew late from college and while new comers Jerica Lacey, Abi Marsh and Emma Glen all battled hard, the team were not able to get the results needed to secure a finals position. Shandon Osborne, Chelsea Spring, Sariah Wi-Neera and Telesia Manumaleuga all answered the call up to QBL from SBL at some point to steady the ship.
Some highlights were Sidney Parsons leading the QBL scoring including a 50 point performance in round 2 win over Gladstone. Erica Carlson leading the QBL in blocked shots for the second year in a row and was also second in rebounding. Playing the Chinese National B team was an amazing insight to international level basketball (and a brilliant first quarter by the Pirates). Another highlight was the debut of rookie Telesia Manumaleuga dropping 24 points in her first ever QBL game.
The Dionsysius Transport men's team also had a disruptive start to the season. Guard Brendan Teys had surgery to clear out a troublesome ankle, import Tanner McGrew had college commitments to complete and a lifetime commitment to his new wife Abbey before leaving West Virginia to join the Ship. Jason Conrad joined the crew at short notice after negotiations with an All American college centre fell through in the last few weeks before the season. A positive was the gaining the services of Boomers assistant Coach Mick Downer as mentor to first year coach Nate Tate. Needless to say the results in the first few weeks were always going to be fought with an under prepared and undermanned crew. The Pirates dropped two of there first three games, a win over Toowoomba and losses to Gladstone and Sunshine Coast Rip. With key players out early, Luke Pittle and Alex Boardman had to step up which they did and when all the roster had arrived they needed to adjust to coming off the bench. Mick Downer left the group when he unexpectedly had to leave to go back to Canberra. Conrad played his first game against the Rip and McGrew joined the team for the battle in round 4 against Brisbane. So it was not the ideal start to a season.
It was clear that McGrew was going to be a game changer helping the Pirates clear the Capitals on their home court. From that point on, the Pirates started to string together some impressive performances as the team started to find it's identity. Wins over Cairns and Ipswich showed some grit but the team was not quite settled in its roles and not playing that well. In that search for consistency, injuries to Jason Conrad in round 9 and then Alex Boardman in the following round on the Mackay/Rocky road trip put the team in scramble mode again. Without boardman they had Rockhampton on the ropes on the road but let them escape. Despite this they despatched the undefeated Townsville following week which showed some promising signs. The next game was a win at home over the Gold Coast. It was after that game the boys really started to find themselves in a win on the road against the Sunshine Coast Phoenix Clippers and backed it up with another demolition of Ipswich to secure the Pirates first home final in ten years. People outside of team were starting to talk about the Pirates as they had beaten expected semi finalist Townsville, Cairns and Brisbane. Conversations inside the team turned to how they would manage the scenarios of the finals without the services of last years MVP Jarred Bairstow and sixth man Adam Tolo. The Opals and Boomers team were announced that week for the Rio Olympics and with Cam Bairstow and Marianna Tolo making their Olympic debuts the Pirates would be facing their quarter final opponents without Bairstow and Tolo. Both travelled to Rio to watch their siblings go for gold! Tanner McGrew would have to play the 3 spot and everyone else would need step up.
As results played out late in the season it was clear that the Pirates would host Logan in the quarter finals at the Ship a week after the last regular season game, the Karlee Adams game, which was also against Logan. The Karlee Adams game was a chance to prepare for the quarter final without Bairstow and Tolo. The team would also be without Teys as preseason camp had started with the Adelaide 36ers. Teys planned to fly back for the quarter final given the result of the last season game was irrelevant. Again the team showed the flexibility and character to move into different roles and contribute and produced a stunning performance to knock off Logan. Captain Vines showed his maturity as court leader and led from the front. Logan legend and new Bullet Mitch Young picked up some early fouls and the Pirates took advantage playing great team basketball to get the win.
After the dispensing of Logan, and with the return of Teys for the quarter final, the confidence was high within the group that the team could progress past the quarter finals. Confident as they had already beaten Brisbane, their likely semi final opponent, as long as they could get past Logan again. Unfortunately it did not pan out that way. Brendan rolled his ankle after he landed on a team mates foot during an Adelaide 36ers training the night before the quarter final. Both Tanner McGrew and Jason Conrad picked up some early fouls in the first quarter and Logan along with their disruptive defence were smart enough to keep the Pirates at bay 85 - 69, thus ending what was a tumultuous season.
Some highlights were the success of game day presentation and atmosphere at games. Tanner McGrew's performances have sparked conversations about MVP selection and All Star Five inclusion. The time effort and attitude given by SBL players Callum Bennie, Abe Yaak, Christian Pang and Jay Washington for attending both QBL and SBL training sessions while we were down on players. The attendance of Rio Olympic Boomers and ex Pirate juniors Brock Motum and Cameron Bairstow at trainings. Ashley Dionysius" game presentation and particularly his quarter final night presentation.
The team could not help being left with the feeling "of what could have been". It was a great bunch of guys who stayed with the "Ship" from one adversity to another and battled through to finish with a 12 and 5 regular season record to finish in third place. The Pirates were the second best defensive team in the league and can rightfully think about what could have been, having beaten both teams that are in the grand final Cairns and Brisbane.
The club will now go through the process of reviewing the season to evaluate and look where improvements can be made and planning can begin. Nominations for the 2017 season will be called for in October or November. Word has it Southern Districts will be rejoining the league so it will be interesting to see what format will be adopted for next year.
Special thanks to all our sponsors, supporters, players, coaches, volunteers and their families for the hours you have given to make this season a success.
A very special mention to Harry Haxton who has been the figure head of our Ship for such a long time. He was the man who through his generous sponsorship enabled South West to enter the QBL in 2002 as the FileForce Pirates. He was with us celebrating when we won the QBL in the men's competition in 2003 and was a key figure in getting the women's team in back to back grand finals in 2008 and 2009. He has helped at every level and always with charm and a smile. We have been blessed to have Harry as part of the crew. Our show court will forever be known as the "Harry Haxton Court"
On behalf of the club, thank you so much! #HoistTheColoursHIgh