‘National champions’ has a nice ring to it
THERE has never been a better time to be a Mackay basketball fan.
The Crater is getting a much-needed upgrade, our state league teams are locked in to the newly-minted NBL1 North, and every game this season will be livestreamed and commentated on.
Oh, and that little cherry on top - a national championship to play for.
With six state league titles spread across the Men's and Women's teams since 2012, Mackay boasts one of the best basketball programs in Queensland.
But being the best in the north is no longer the ultimate goal.
Coinciding with the NBL1 North and South fixture release this week, NBL COO Andy Crook also confirmed the winners from each conference would play off in a national championship final.
The stakes have been raised. Be the best in Queensland, then beat the best from Victoria.
That is the goal in Mackay Meteors coach Joel Khalu's sights ahead of the inaugural NBL1 North season.
"It's another huge incentive for us to not only go out and win the men's and women's competitions in Queensland, but also go on to play for a national championship and put Mackay on the national radar," Khalu said.
But that hoop dream is still a ways away just yet.
For now, Khalu's focus is set on getting The Crater ready for opening weekend on April 25, and putting together rosters with enough quality to take the Meteors and Meteorettes back to the promised land.
The Meteors were hit with an unforeseen setback yesterday when Mackay basketball's favourite son Todd Blanchfield chose to take his talents to Rockhampton instead of returning home.
But Khalu was confident even without Blanchfield, his Meteors would still be right in the finals mix.
"That was one we had really circled to hopefully get back," Khalu said of Blanchfield.
"But at least we know now and can look to alternative options."
Incumbent captain Chris Cedar has attracted interest from a number of rival clubs and the Meteors are in talks to keep the star point guard in Mackay.
The club has also been in touch with former US imports Bryce Washington and Titus Robinson to gauge their interest in a return.
On the Meteorettes front, a number of WNBL stars have been sounded out but no signatures just yet.
"Players know our club. They know they get looked after here and the community support here is the best in the league," Khalu said.
"It's not hard to sell that (picture) to players.
"But it's important to find the right fits rather than rush in. Clubs that (rush) … you see where they end up."
NBL1 North 2020 Fixture
Mackay home games
Round 1: April 25 v Toowoomba
Round 5: May 23 v Cairns
Round 7: June 5 v Logan
Round 8: June 12 v South West Metro
Round 11: July 3 v Rockhampton
Round 13: July 18 v Townsville
Round 14: July 25 v Ipswich
Round 15: July 31 v Gold Coast
QF: August 7-9
SF: August 14-16
GF: August 28-30