The Frankston RSL Blues Men are on the cusp of something special. Having won their first final at NBL1 level for 10 years when they defeated Nunawading in the qualifying final, they stand on the verge of a grand final berth that 12 months ago would have seemed folly to even suggest.
Registering just 4 wins and finishing in second last place in what proved to be the final season of SEABL last year, the Blues have turned their fortunes around in 2019. With a re-tooled roster led by captain Igor Hadziomerovic, Frankston won 14 games in finished their inaugural NBL1 campaign in second place. From second last to second place in just 12 months, Hadziomerovic explained that both he and the playing group were not surprised of their achievement and have been focused on winning every game.
“You could say we have been playing with a chip on our shoulder,” advised Hadziomerovic. “We have been playing with a must-win mentality and a killer mindset all season.”
While star point guard Damon Bozeman has been shortlisted as a league MVP candidate, and fellow import Najeal Young a defensive player of the year contender, Hadziomerovic’s importance to the Blues championship aspirations should not be underestimated. The 193cm versatile guard has been the jack-of-all-trades that has bound the Blues’ stars together while improving his scoring (15ppg), shooting efficiency (51% FG, 42% 3PT), rebounds (5.5rpg) and assists (2.9apg) from last season when he suited up for Sandringham. When the going got tough, it was often Hadziomerovic who was the one stepping up to make big plays at both ends of the court.
With a week off, Hadziomerovic explained that the team had continued to put in the work at training and off the court to best prepare for their preliminary final encounter with Bendigo.
“We have kept really busy,” Hadziomerovic explained. “Everyone is excited and keen to get back out there this week.
“We are looking healthy, and our training sessions have been energetic. Majok [Majok] who has been at training camp with the Perth Wildcats returns at training on Thursday, as does Dan [Trist] who has been in Maryborough with the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
“We all trained well last week and had an open scrimmage on Saturday which was well attended by our fans. Damon [Bozeman] lost in the knockout shooting competition to a little kid! Overall it has been a great build up to this week against Bendigo.”
The Blues are not taking the Braves lightly, especially given the caliber of stars on their roster which includes Ray Turner, Mathiang Muo and Deonte Burton.
“They have some very good players in Ray Turner, Deonte Burton, Mathiang Muo and a host of other good shooters,” added Hadziomerovic. “We have a game plan that we will stick to, and we will continue to bring the effort that we have done so all season.”
Speaking of the terrific attendances the Blues have enjoyed from their fans throughout 2019, Hadziomerovic spoke of how the team fed off the energy generated by one of the most vocal and supportive home crowds in the league.
“The fans have been tremendous! The support we get at home has been nothing short of sensational. The support they provide really does help get us going. They get behind us whether we are up or down. We feed off that energy! They have been there all season, and this is emphasised by the game being sold out in a day or so.”
Hadziomerovic and the rest of the team know how much their success means for Frankston basketball.
“In our first final [against Nunawading] we won Frankston’s first final in 10 years,” he outlined. “To make the grand final would be a tremendous effort for the club and our team.
“We have been working hard to become a ‘destination club’, having built a fantastic culture. A win this weekend would further enhance that as we continue working towards that goal.”
The Frankston RSL Blues’ home preliminary final on Saturday, 10 August with a tip-off at 7:30pm is a sellout. No tickets will be sold on the night, however you can watch the live stream – CLICK HERE.