NATIONAL WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL LEAGUE
Wollongong coach Ben Ettridge believes the Roller Hawks won't be brought undone by overconfidence in this week's season-opening "cluster" round at Shellharbour Basketball Stadium.
All six NWBL teams are in the Illawarra this weekend; each team plays three games over three days.
The Roller Hawks meet Queensland on Friday, title holders Perth on Saturday and Sydney on Sunday.
"The cluster round is a great initiative by the league because it minimises costs and it's a good chance for teams to see each other at this early stage of the season," Ettridge said.
"In two weeks there's another two mini-clusters, with three teams playing in Perth and three in Melbourne.
"We get a fair whack of the season out of the way in the first two rounds but it's just something we have to do."
Wollongong won back-to-back titles in 2011 and '12 before the Perth Wheelcats took the honours last year.
The Roller Hawks added Adam Deans and Marcus Chiavelli to their roster although they lost three-time Paralympian Tristan Knowles and Shawn Russell.
"It's changed across the board," Ettridge said.
"I can see this weekend being really close. The biggest margin will probably be five points between anyone. That's what you want. You want quality, you want teams pushing each other.
"Perth will still be strong and Victoria will be the surprise after adding two quality players. Queensland are always around the mark. They finished third last year and their juniors won the nationals a month ago.
"Adelaide accumulated a few quality recruits and Sydney might surprise people," Ettridge said.
"It's probably the closest the league has ever been in my memory.
"We're ready to go. The last three weeks, the boys have been itching to play.
"Even for me, because I haven't coached in the league for five years, so it's exciting for me."
SHELLHARBOUR BASKETBALL STADIUM
4pm – Victoria v Sydney Uni Wheelkings
6pm – Wollongong Roller Hawks v Queensland Spinning Bullets
8pm – Perth Wheelcats v Adelaide Red Dust Heelers
2pm – Queensland Spinning Bullets v Victoria
4pm – Sydney Uni Wheelkings v Adelaide Red Dust Heelers
6pm – Wollongong Roller Hawks v Perth Wheelcats
10am – Adelaide Red Dust Heelers v Queensland Spinning Bullets
12 – Victoria v Perth Wheelcats
2pm – Wollongong Roller Hawks v Sydney Uni Wheelkings
Entry $5. Kids under 12 free