PREVIEW | 2023 NBL1 Men’s National Championship

THE National Basketball League (NBL)1 National Championships are set to kick off this weekend in Joondalup over in Western Australia, with the best sides in the country locking horns for the ultimate prize.

The winners of each of the five NBL1 competitions around Australia will go head to head in a weekend tournament, that will crown the premier basketball side in the nation. It comes after a thrilling batch of grand finals, setting up a thrilling few days of action.

In this article, Rookie Me Central will be taking a look at the first group of games in the Men’s competition, which is proving difficult to predict given the close nature of the sides when comparing form.

Knox Raiders vs. West Adelaide Bearcats

The first matchup of the National Championship is between the victors of the South and Central competitions respectively.

The Knox Raiders stormed home in the final quarter of their grand final matchup against the Sandringham Sabres on the weekend, claiming a four-point win in dramatic fashion. They will come into Friday’s game on the back of their best quarter of the season, and will be eager to keep that momentum rolling against the Bearcats. Keep an eye on Ke’Jhan Feagin, who dominated the grand final with 26 points.

The Bearcats got the job done in the Central Men’s decider on the weekend, defeating the Forestville Eagles by 11 points. They showed the ability to reach triple-figures on the scoreboard against the best sides in that competition, and that feat will be tested at the National Championships in the coming days. Rising youngster Lachlan Olbrich delivered his best performance of the season in the decider last week, and brings strong form into this match.

Rockingham Flames vs. Ipswich Force

Last year’s winners take on the champions of the North in the second matchup to begin proceedings in Joondalup.

The Flames took home the chocolates in last year’s National Championship, and earned automatic selection in the 2023 tournament. They were the best side in the West competition this year, but fell short of claiming back to back titles after being bested in the preliminary finals in heartbreaking fashion. However, the 2023 fixture showed that at its best, Rockingham can beat anyone, so that form may serve it well this weekend. Devondrick Walker claimed consecutive MVP awards this season, and looms as the best player in the tournament.

During their best of three tournament against the Gold Coast Rollers, the Force turned things around in the final two matches to take home the trophy in the North competition. Coming up against a star-studded side, Ipswich showed grit and determination in its final two games to earn a spot at the big show this weekend. Nathan Sobey will be key to the Force’s success, given his resume and skillset.

Geraldton Buccaneers vs. Sutherland Sharks

The final match of Friday will see the champions of the West take on the best side in the East.

The Buccaneers were the best side in the West when it mattered most last weekend, downing the in-form Wolves on Saturday and advancing to a National Championships tournament in their home state. Although not on their court specifically, they will be more familiar with the Joondalup court than most, and certainly have the form to back that up. Jonny Narkle had a massive game in the grand final with 21 points and 11 rebounds, and has a key role to play once again.

Sutherland got the job done in dramatic fashion during the East Men’s grand final over the weekend, scraping past the Maitland Mustangs for a three-point win. Although a tense result, it justified the Sharks’ presence at the National Championship, and their ability to hold on in clutch situations could come in handy here. Four of their starters posted 15 or more points in the decider, and a similar level of team performance will be required to get the job done against Geraldton.

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