Ipswich prepares for QABL transformation

THE Force will be with Ipswich for the 2007 Queensland Australian Basketball League (QABL) season.

After months of uncertainty for the team formerly known as the Eagles, Ipswich Basketball has decided on the forceful moniker for its senior men's and women's outfits.

The release of the new name follows hot on the heals of the QABL's announcement of the major restructuring of the 2007 competition.

Men's head coach Danny Breen yesterday welcomed the new name.

"It's an exciting time. A new name for a new competition," Breen said.

The new QABL format will see the Sunstate and Southern Cross Divisions combine to have a statewide league of only one division.

The new competition ? to be known as the QABL State Championship ? will be comprised of three pools of teams: North: Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone; Wide Bay/North Coast/Brisbane: Bundaberg, Maroochydore, Caboolture, Northside, Brisbane; South/West: Logan, Gold Coast, South West, Ipswich, Toowoomba.

During the season all 15 teams will play each other once, and play others in their pool twice, which will see all teams playing 18 fixture games before finals.

While Ipswich had previously played in the Southern Cross division, widely considered a weaker competition than Sunstate, Breen said the club's incorporation into the new State Championship would benefit basketball across Queensland. "I've heard comments from other people that the standard of the league will drop a bit," he said.

"The reality is, I think it will improve, now that it's a full state league."

Breen said Ipswich could now avoid losing some of its best junior players, such as Nathan Niesler and Chris Hill, who left the Eagles after the 2005 season to play in the more highly-touted Sunstate competition.

"I can see a big benefit for us is that promising young players won't leave us to play elsewhere, so they can get noticed, because we will now be part of a pathway to the highest level," Breen said.

The Force mentor said the core of the 2006 senior men's side remained in place for next season, with pre-season training kicking off last Sunday.

Breen said the mood among senior players following the announcement of the league's restructuring was one of excitement.

"I think the attitude of some players is already significantly different to last year," he said.

They know the mountain is higher, whereas last year we were playing in the second level ? at times our attitudes and efforts reflected that.

"We've got guys now already doing speed and agility training, which is testament that they want to make a stand for Ipwich and the league."

Breen, however, said import Michael Gomez would not be rejoining the club in 2007, with the Force mentor in negotiations for another US-based player to join the club.

"We're on the hunt for a couple of big men, to play that big role," Breen said.

The 2007 QABL season will begin in April, with state finals in early August followed by national finals in late August.

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