In every sport, whatever the code, there are heroes and there are villains.
The heroes are adored by their home fans but are equally respected across the league, carrying themselves superbly and displaying sportsmanship and professionalism at every opportunity.
Then there are the villains, who, like their counterparts, are also adored by their home fans but loathed in every other city and town across the country due to their hard-nosed nature and willingness to win at all costs, even if it occasionally means transcending the rules of the game.
With the lack of an actual All-Star centrepiece in the NBL this season, it presents a perfect opportunity for a mock draft-up of two squads – but instead of being based on origin or location, what would the sides look like if it became a case of heroes versus villains?
C: David Andersen (Melbourne United)
PF: Matt Knight (Perth Wildcats)
SF: Kirk Penney (New Zealand Breakers)
SG: Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings)
PG: Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats)
Experience is a theme in the Heroes’ starting five, with a group that has earned plenty of respect sportsmanship across long and fruitful careers. All five guys will go down as legends of the game when all is said and done, with all displaying hard work ethics and unwavering sportsmanship that make it impossible to do anything but love them, regardless of which colours they wear on the court.
Bench: Oscar Forman (Illawarra Hawks), Todd Blanchfield (Melbourne United), Rhys Martin (Illawarra Hawks), Rotnei Clarke (Illawarra Hawks), Jarrad Weeks (Cairns Taipans)
The Heroes’ bench takes on a slightly different look to that of the starters, with only two veterans in Forman and Martin, while the likes of Clarke, Blanchfield and Weeks represent the younger generation of nice guys in the game.
Head Coach: Andrew Gaze (Sydney Kings)
Assistant Coaches: Andrej Lemanis (Brisbane Bullets), Rob Beveridge (Illawarra Hawks)
Who better to lead the Heroes but the ultimate hero of Australian basketball? His assistants have earned plenty of respect along the way as well, with professionalism a big theme amongst the group yet again. Not to say they don’t ever get fired up and toe the line of course – they wouldn’t be coaches if they didn’t.
C: Josh Powell (Sydney Kings)
PF: Shawn Redhage (Perth Wildcats)
SF: Mark Worthington (Cairns Taipans)
SG: Chris Goulding (Melbourne United)
PG: Adam Gibson (Brisbane Bullets)
The Villains’ starters are simply players that are loved to be hated by the fans and lap it up. All five love to get the opposition fans riled up with their perceived arrogance and love of a good old fashioned scrap when the opportunity presents. Other pastimes include flopping and getting under the grill of their on-court opponents at every opportunity.
Bench: Nathan Jawai (Cairns Taipans), Anthony Petrie (Brisbane Bullets), Jesse Wagstaff (Perth Wildcats), Corey Webster (New Zealand Breakers), Kevin White (Illawarra Hawks)
Much like the starting five, the Villains’ bench players are loathed outside of their home cities, and for mostly the same reasons. Getting fired up and in the face of their opponents is exactly what their home fans expect of them, but it comes at the expense of their reputation everywhere else in the country. They don’t seem to mind though; as long as it helps their side win games of basketball along the way.
Head Coach: Trevor Gleeson (Perth Wildcats)
Assistant Coaches: Joey Wright (Adelaide 36ers), Aaron Fearne (Cairns Taipans)
The fiery nature of the coaching staff is the driving force behind their selection here. While all are brilliant minds of the game and respected figures across the league as a result, all three can often be seen getting very fired up on the sidelines, which gives the opposing fans plenty of reason to love to hate. Numerous technical fouls and ejections haven’t slowed them down over the years, either.