Geraldton Buccaneers turn to youth after team depleted through injury and COVID travel restrictions

Reuben CarderGeraldton Guardian
The Buccs, who will be without several players for this weekend’s clash with the Senators.
Camera IconThe Buccs, who will be without several players for this weekend’s clash with the Senators. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography

Geraldton’s NBL1 West basketball team will take a depleted side that is already looking ahead to next season into Saturday night’s home clash against a team with top-four ambitions.

Buccs coach Dayle Joseph confirmed Taine Wattie was the latest attrition, with the Kiwi import — a new signing this season — opting to head home midweek before the trans-Tasman travel bubble was suspended.

“He’s decided to head back this week before that became an issue for him,” Joseph said.

“The squad’s getting a bit thin.

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“We’re looking towards next season already.”

With Wattie having departed and veterans Aaron Ralph and Mat Wundenberg out for the season and on an injury list that includes fellow 2019 State Basketball League champions ring winner Liam Hunt, Joseph said the Buccs would call up 15-year-old State under-16s captain Robert Griechen, and 17-year-old Jackson Patten from the side’s WABL team to suit up for potential debuts. Teenagers Harry Evans, Tom Dobson and Will Galvin have all had court minutes this season after the Buccs were unable to secure imports from the US, and with senior players including James Paringatai and Brayden Inger also having left the squad.

Aaron Ralph, right, with game winner Mathiang Muo.
Camera IconAaron Ralph, right, with game winner Mathiang Muo. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography

The Buccs faced the Senators, who are fifth with a 4-1 win-loss record in their last five matches, in round 14 on July 18 and almost sprang an upset, going down 76-81.

Joseph said if they won all their games until the end of the regular season, the Buccs could still make play-offs — although he expected Warwick to come prepared after last time, and hoping to gain momentum for a top-four tilt.

Former Perth Wildcat Mathiang Muo hit a buzzer-beater to give the Buccs victory by a single point last week, beating the Perth Redbacks 68-67.

The Buccs came to play and managed to open up a 24-20 lead by quarter-time before the Redbacks got locked in defensively in the second term and saw scores tied at 34-34 by the half-time break.

Scores were still locked at 49-49 by three-quarter-time before the Redbacks took the lead, but a misdirection play by the Buccs allowed Muo to drain his shot from three-point range.

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