The Brothers Cedar: Indigenous pioneers, veteran QBL leaders

Leaders. Champions. Brothers.

Chris (Mackay Meteors) and Michael Cedar (Logan Thunder) are two star players in their own right, and as veteran players they continue to light up the QBL on the eve of the 2018 playoffs. Both of their teams are in contention, and the brothers Cedar are at their respective helms as captain.

The Pick and Roll spoke with Chris and Michael about their team’s successes so far this season and what is yet to come.

Born and bred in Townsville, their love of the sport came at a young age. With a well-known father locally and within football circles, their sporting careers were originally destined for another code. Thankfully the brothers chose basketball, with both soaring to indvidual heights in basketball, a sport they developed a passion for.

Chris is the Meteors’ star point guard and their captain for a fourth consecutive season. They sit top of the ladder with 14 wins and three losses leading into the final round after they finished second last season (14W, 3L) and only just lost the championship to a fast-finishing Townsville side.

He led the Townsville High’s basketball team to the 2006 National Schools title, and it was from here his star began to rise. In 2007 he led the Queensland under 20s side to the National Championship in Ballarat, Victoria.

"I went to 'Town' High for about six years with the extra senior year," explained Chris. "That run was great for us! In the Nationals we had come second two years in a row while both my brother and Luke [Cann, Thunder men’s coach] were both there, [it] was great as we played Brisbane High who had guys like Mitch Young, Brock Motum and Drew Phillips in it."

His professional basketball career has spanned more than a decade, playing for three QBL sides; Townsville Heat (2008-2013), Rockhampton Rockets (2014) and Mackay (2015-present). He gained NBL experience with the Townsville Crocodiles (2007-2013, 2016), an opportunity that helped shaped him into the skillful star and reliable leader we see today.

A QBL champion with the Rockets (2014) and Meteors (2015), in the 2017 grand final he dropped 50 points in a display that showed there’s plenty more play in the younger Cedar brother.

Being captain of his squad is something he takes great pride in and we discussed the success of the season so far. My suggestion of red-hot form from the squad resulted in a humble Cedar confirming his thoughts.

"We had an eye-opening game against Rip [USC Rip City], which we see as a great thing for us to have that and know that if we drop a game in the final round we are playing at second in playoffs and who knows how the ladder will end up," added Chris. "I don’t want to play Logan just yet, looking big picture, I would rather play Mick [brother] in the grand final."

The brothers played alongside each other while at the Crocodiles in the NBL. In the 2014 QBL finals series their respective teams (Chris with the Rockets and Michael with Mackay) played in the grand final. Chris’ Rockets swept the Meteors 2–0 to win back-to-back championships for the first time in the club’s history. The possibility of a repeat QBL grand final between these two brothers is something the younger Cedar is aiming towards.

"It would be massive! At the moment we would likely be hosting so it would be great to have family come here to watch us both play. Any chance I get to play against him at this point in our careers, as they are coming closer towards the end, is going to be important and very special."

In any league - or any code for that matter – it is not often that you see two brothers play on the same team. They became the first two Indigenous siblings to play on the same team together, with their culture something they are both deeply proud of.

"As adults and Indigenous men, we see ourselves as leaders within our communities of Logan and Mackay," explained Chris. "We are the pinnacle team here with the Cutters, and we are held highly in Mackay and are who all our juniors look to and we cannot make any slips, but need to be strong role models for them."

Throughout the season I have always asked who each team are looking forward to clashing with and the majority respond with the North Queensland sides, with Mackay setting the benchmark. I asked the Meteors captain why he thought this squad was held so highly.

"I would put it all down to Joel Khalu [former QBL player, head coach, program manager]," outlined Chris. "When he came up here he set a high standard for everyone to follow. It was guys like him who have really made the league take it to another level – becoming more professional. We are representing a brand and if we are not looking clean and really representing well we may see sponsors walk and risk a lot.

“This year we have taken the loss of that grand final and saw what we had to find this season. Nelson [Larkins] has fitted in really well this year and brought a lot to our game for us and feel he has a lot to prove, and this final season will be great for him to show the fans what he has been doing in Adelaide [36ers development player]. We also have Toddy [Todd Blanchfield] who I had the opportunity to play with earlier in his career, and he is hitting form and will just come out and the chance to play with him again now towards the end of my career and seeing his growth is amazing."

In the final round, the Meteors host the South West Metro Pirates with tip-off at 8:30pm on Friday, 3 August at Mackay Basketball Stadium. The captain was very optimistic and said that the team knew what the task ahead was.

"It’s simple - no slip ups, Chris stated. "It’s right there for us and we cannot take it too easy. Second isn’t where we wanted to finish the season – first it is."

Chris has performed on different levels and for different teams, always improving his game and leading from the front with a dominant skillset. He shared that it is the QBL where any future aspirations remain. He’s currently focused and his family is everything.

"I have a young son who has started playing under 8s and my eyes are on him completely and what he wants to do," Chris said. "I will be his biggest fan always, just as he is mine.”

Older brother Michael is not a player to be ignored either.

At 32 years of age, he possesses silky skills mixed with effective leadership whenever he hits the hardwood. He conducts himself as a natural leader, without displaying the arrogance that some with his experience and talent tend to have. Any team with Michael in it should never be written off; when captaining the Thunder his performances speak for themselves.

Currently third on the ladder, and as was the case with the last round win over Toowoomba, the Thunder maintains control under composure. It would be great if these two teams and these two brothers came head-to-head deep into the QBL playoffs, providing a true showcase of what our great state league offers.

Over a professional career that spans fifteen years, Michael has played with four QBL sides; Townsville, Mackay, Gladstone and Logan. He also brings eight seasons of experience in the NBL with the Townsville Crocodiles (2005-2013), something that is proving invaluable for his teammates as a starring veteran of the game. He had his first start in the point guard role at 19, and now at twelve years later there seems to be no signs of slowing down, which is a great sign for the Thunder.

Michael, like his brother, holds his background and heritage highly and at the core of everything he does.

"We both hold our Indigenous heritage close to our hearts as proud Torres Strait Island people, Michael explained. "I cherish playing with my brother and see it as so important to be role models for kids and to be able to show that if the Cedar brothers can do it, anybody can do it."

The Thunder captain takes pride in his role for a number of reasons but dedicated his maturity to the game.

"Basketball helped me grow up as a person," Michael further explained. "I owe a lot to the QBL - I feel it’s the competition that helped me grow the most! It made me realise and learn what the game is actually about both on and off the court. It’s taught me what is truly important in life. At training I try to teach the guys to take advantage of the moment we are living in right now."

This Thunder squad have all the parts needed to have intense impact on the play-offs and take those steps towards winning a championship. This season they’ve found ways to win across the court.

"We all understand that the team we have right now is something special, and it’s probably never going to be together again and we really play off that. For example, on the weekend our three best scorers for the year [Obei Kyei, Mitch Young and Cedar himself] may not have had a great game, but we have reliable guys like Ray Simmons and Shaun Carroll really stepping up and driving the bus for us. It also really helps that we have easily the most positive and encouraging coach in the league in Luke [Cann]. He shows his emotions all game every game and we feed off that too."

In the final round of the regular season, the Thunder head to Gladstone for a game on Sunday, 5 August at Kev Broome Stadium for a 2pm start. Gladstone sit 13th on the table, but north or central Queensland road trips are always a danger; especially when Gladstone have nothing to lose. The task is set for the Thunder leading into the playoffs.

"The foundation is set but we need to keep building and get it crisper," added Michael. "We know our weaknesses and know we can really explode over the next couple of weeks and put on a real offensive show."

Michael is a basketball veteran, fan favourite and true leader of this squad that is capable of anything this season. As we look to the future, I spoke with him about his own goals.

"I will continue to play the game at the highest level possible for me while I enjoy it. I have always said that once I become more of a distraction rather than a benefit for a squad, I will walk away from the game.

"Family is what drives us and makes us do what we do. It would be a dream to take on my brother in another grand final. He is 1-0 over me in grand finals and I would love to have a crack at it to make it one all. That way if either one of us want to ride off into the sunset after that we have had great careers that have meant a lot to us.

"Growing up he has had to live in my shadows you know. But he is one of the most dominant guards in this league and I don’t think there are many players in this competition or even in this country that could out-play him one-on-one."

No matter the outcome from the playoffs these two men will always be the Cedar brothers from Townsville with unwavering passion, love for the game and for their families.