Kaitaia basketball issues call to arms

It's been good getting Kaitaia on the map. We want basketball to be big again up here. Muriwhenua men's player coach Pocko Still The Muriwhenua men's basketball team has issued a call to arms to the wider community to come and support the sides playing their last home game of the provincial season when they take on City Hawks at Te Puna Ora this Saturday.

The match is part of a double header, with the Muriwhenua women playing Phoenix Takahiwai in the Triple T Classic league. Both teams' involvement has been thanks in no small part to the work done by passionate basketball exponent, Manuera Riwai. Having successfully lifted the profile of the game, Riwai, however, expressed a desire to step back and let both teams stand on their own, and allowing him to focus his attentions on developing the game in other areas.

The men's team has since been run under the guidance of player coach Pocko Still, also known as a forward of some impact in Mangonui senior club rugby (for Waipap). Still said it had been a welcome return for a Kaitaia-based team in taking part in the Super 6 league which also provided a pathway to higher levels through selection into the Northern Suns side which plays in Auckland during the winter.

However, while proving competitive in their debut season, it was hard to avoid noticing the team's major weakness was the trend to fall away in the latter stage of the game; certainly evident in the fourth and final quarter of the round 8 game at Te Puna Ora last weekend, an otherwise entertaining affair against second placed Portland Blazers.

"The whole season, second half we've dropped away," sighed Still, adding the final 63-41 result also represented an improvement from the last time the two sides met at Kensington when the score blew out to 86-44.

Muriwhenua head into this weekend's penultimate encounter aiming to make the play offs. The side was currently equal on 10 points with the other two bottom teams, City and Maunu. So far this season, the Muriwhenua have recorded a 59-47 loss to City in Kensington, a win/ loss record against both Maunu and Raumanga, and a 75-110 loss to Whangaruru in Kaitaia. With the return match against Whangaruru set to take place in Whangarei in the final round 10 on Saturday, February 2, Muriwhenua faces a daunting challenge to secure a semi final berth. One game at a time but, especially this Saturday's match against the Hawks.

There's no doubt the side's playmakers are the O'Donnell brothers from Taipa, picked up at the loss of Kaikohe from the competition. While the two Northern Suns stars have been the "dominant players" in the side's Super 6 debut, they have been well backed up by local veterans Still and PC Christensen and emerging talents like Tumoana Halkyard.

Still said both men's and women's teams would really like to see more of the local community getting in behind the team, either as supporters or players. The plan was to retain momentum going into next season by keeping the core group as well as attracting other locals particularly those from Kaitaia's fairly strong "streetball" scene. Attracting the more social players into the fold and allowing them to "mingle at team trainings" would help uncover talented players who perhaps just needed a bit of motivation to showcase their skill.

"It's hopefully something to come. There's a lot of ballers around who are just too shy." Overall, Still felt local basketball was heading down the right track.

"It's been good getting Kaitaia on the map. We want basketball to be big again up here."

Saturday's games times at Te Puna Ora have the men set to start at 2pm (although the match may be moved forward to 12 noon, at time of going to press, to allow players to attend a wedding), while the Muriwhenua women were set to play their last home of the season against Phoenix Takahiwai at 2pm.

It was also unlikely there'd be a repeat of the no-show by the Portland Flames ladies team last weekend with many attending a tangi noted Tania Siteine, spokesperson for both the Super 6 and TTT Classic competitions. She advised Kaitaia supporters they could expect both visiting teams to arrive this Saturday.

"City Hawks men are pretty stable and Phoenix Takahiwai need to play this game to stay in top 4 contention so I don't see either team not turning up."

- Northland Age

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