The Mike Pero Nelson Giants will play its entire season away from the Hangar this year. Photo: Evan Barnes/Shuttersport

Giants to play season in Auckland

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The Mike Pero Nelson Giants will salvage a 2020 season, however, it will be away from home and could feature some new faces in the squad.

Covid-19 has caused significant disruption to the league however, in an innovative move the New Zealand NBL will go ahead in a condensed format with all teams based in one city.

The Auckland Huskies, Canterbury Rams, Franklin Bulls, Manawatu Jets, Nelson Giants, Otago Nuggets and Taranaki Mountainairs will play up to three games per week, over six weeks.

However, packing up and moving north for six weeks is not an option for all players.

Giants veteran Sam Dempster has two young sons and is yet to decide whether he can be a part of the 2020 season.

“I am very keen to, it sounds like a fun thing to be a part of, however, with family and commitments here it is very hard for me to go.”

Other such as Tom Ingham, who is a full-time teacher, has been granted permission to take time off with the season falling under the school holidays.

Coach Mike Fitchett says the club understands this and any player who opts not to travel will not have his position jeopardised for 2021.

“It’s really just going to come down to individuals. It will be easy for some but not possible for others so it’s just about reassuring them it won’t have any detrimental effect for 2021.”

Mike says they will look to keep those who stay behind involved as much as possible.

“We want to keep them part of team.”

Mike says while the situation is not ideal, the world is a different place at the moment.

“We would obviously prefer to be able to play at home in front of our fans and families but that’s just not possible, I think it’s an interesting alternative and the guys are excited.”

Another exciting innovation is the introduction of a player draft.

The draft that will see 84 players selected by the seven teams on Thursday 11 June.

Not only is it a first-ever for New Zealand’s premier basketball league, but it also comes with a unique set of rules that require plenty of strategic thinking by coaches and players alike.

Anyone that went to school in Nelson for three years or lived here for ten, is eligible.

“For us there are a bunch of guys in that category eligible for us to pick up.”

This means we could see the likes of Max Darling donning a Giants jersey this year.

Mike says he and the squad are itching to get back on court after the “longest pre-season in history”.

“We have had two months off with guys just doing their own training, so they are keen to get back into it.”

He is confident that, despite the disruption, Nelson will step up.

“We will give it a good go, I’m sure everyone will put their hand up.”

Chair of the sports and recreation committee Tim Skinner says the Giants have been one of the biggest users of the Trafalgar Centre for many years and also one of the best supported sports teams in Nelson.

“They normally play up to nine home games at the Trafalgar Centre each winter however, any financial losses to Nelson City Council as a result of this decision are minimal, but this is a loss to the Nelson community who will not get to see their team live this season.”

Time says the closure during the lockdown period fell right in the heart of what would have been the Giants season, which was also a blow for Giants’ fans.

“Nelson City Council is looking at ways to keep the Trafalgar Centre busy during this period and will take alternative bookings as restrictions under alert levels allow.”

The Giants will tip off the season on Tuesday June 23 against the Taranaki Mountainairs at 5.30.