The Frankston RSL Blues Men are set to return to the playoffs after a long absence at NBL1 level, and it has both the entire club and head coach Andrew Harms excited.
“The last time the club won a final at this level was back in 2009,” expressed Harms who upon further inspection was part of that side 10 years ago.
After a stellar second half of the season, the Blues are currently sitting in equal second in the standings with perennial finalists Nunawading with head-to-head advantage, and with a win against the Southern Sabres this Sunday can lock in a home final next Saturday against the Spectres.
Following a 1-4 start to the season, the naysayers were suggesting another difficult season for the Blues. Yet as the pieces came together, including the additions of Najeal Young and Dan Trist, Frankston would go on to win 12 of their next 14 games to storm into the playoffs as one of the form teams in the competition.
“You can’t microwave continuity,” said Harms in trying to explain his team’s success. “We knew we just needed time together. We had belief in our guys and our system, and we just needed time to embed that and drill the guys and the team into it. We also needed to have the right mindset so we can go at it every week and now the results speak for themselves.”
Queried as to whether he could have envisioned the success of the Blues to date this season, Harms remained steadfast.
“We always had a really strong belief in our group. As a coaching staff and support staff, we didn’t put any ceiling on what we could achieve with this group.
“We wanted to finish top 4 and seal a double chance. We have always been gunning for the best possible position, and with a win on Sunday we can lock that away [second place].”
Named this week as one of the competition’s elite scorers by The Pick and Roll, Damon Bozeman has been an important driver in the Blues success throughout 2019. He had also impressed Harms too.
“Damon has an elite skill that is the ability to score the ball, and we knew we needed to get some scoring out of that position hence why we wanted to rbing him in. However the biggest thing for us was that we challenged him about his overall game.
“He has become that complete point guard that gets his team mates involved, and he has applied himself across all areas. To his absolute credit, he has done that to a really high level.”
The Pick and Roll also recognised fellow import Najeal Young as one of NBL1’s elite defenders, and Harms acknowledged Young’s impact at both ends of the floor this season was vital, especially playing alongside Majok Majok and Dan Trist. Yet Harms explained that he knew something special was brewing after the first month despite a losing record and that Young, along with Trist, were the icing on the cake.
“Being competitive in that first month – that’s when I thought we could really contend this season,” added Harms.
“Recognising we were undermanned, with a lot of new parts we had to put together, we were not far away. We recognised that once we got Dan [Trist] back, and Najeal [Young] in and assimilated, we knew we had really good potential to push for the finals.”
Bringing players in late is always a challenge, even more so for a team with a lot of new pieces. However Harms explained that the culture he had been curating was to look after the best interests of the players despite some of the challenges it sometimes posed when players such as Trist and Majok were in and out of the team throughout the season.
“For sure…we recognised that [the challenges]. It is one of those things that it is part of our philosophy that we want what is best for the playing group. Dan had to take the opportunity in Europe which meant he arrived late. Majok needed to take the time to secure a contract with an NBL team and he has now done that.
“The same also applies to Tom [Garrett] and his college opportunity at Metro State [Denver]. Unfortunately for us that means no finals [for Tom], but we have to have a bigger picture mindset and look after the players and their best interests and for Tom right now that is heading to college. He will enjoy it over there and we are looking forward to seeing how he goes.”
For all the success this season, Harms is under no illusion that there is still plenty of work ahead. While he and the team are acutely aware that they have locked in a top 4 place, their primary focus is on beating the Southern Sabres this Sunday to lock in a home final the following week against Nunawading and avoid an away game at The Graveyard.
“I’m looking forward to solidifying things on Sunday, that’s our main focus. But it would be a great reward for us, our team, our fans and our sponsors to play a home final against Nunawading – against a quality opponent – and make an event of it.
“We will be salivating to get out there.”
The Blues men take on the Southern Sabres this Sunday at 2:30pm at Southern Basketball Stadium as part of a double-header with the Frankston women who tip-off at 12:30pm.