Game change: Home boost for tough challenge
PLAYING his former team with the Brisbane Bullets' most valuable player would be a daunting task for Mick Conlon at the best of times.
But at least the latest Queensland Basketball League encounter will be aided by having a home crowd to cheer on Conlon's spirited players.
Saturday night's game was scheduled for the Gold Coast. That was until the Southport School courts - the Gold Coast's home base - were affected by recent flooding.
With the courts yet to be fully repaired, the match has been switched to Ipswich, where the Force women play at 5pm before the men's encounter at 7pm.
After what he called an ugly win over Toowoomba last weekend, Ipswich men's coach Conlon was excited about Saturday night's challenge.
The reputable team he was involved with before joining Force has recruited Bullets NBL star Torrey Craig.
"It's very much a large part of the team that I coached when I was down there for four years,'' Conlon said, preparing for the unexpected home clash.
"They are still playing and they've got the MVP from the Bullets, the defensive player of the year.
"That's a pretty significant signing for them.''
Conlon said Saturday's game will be Force's first real test of the new season. Gold Coast are rated one of the QBL men's favourites.
Conlon was hoping for more in last weekend's 83-80 season-opening victory over Toowoomba.
"It was uglier than we needed it to be,'' he said.
"But I said to the guys, 'the sign of a good team is to win ugly games'.
"I watched a lot of the games from the weekend and they were all pretty ugly.''
Conlon said one of his side's main challenges was switching on and concentrating for four quarters after enjoying the relaxed team atmosphere before games.
"There's a good vibe about the group,'' he said.
"The guys need to learn how to play the full 40 minutes and that's something that I've really been working on . . . and having that killer instinct, wanting to put the foot on the throat.''
One player expected to provide that added experience is former Gold Coaster Robert Manson, who will suit up for the Ipswich side on Saturday night.
Manson is expected to strengthen the bench, along with American import Kyle Harvey who provided some quality support in last weekend's win over Toowoomba.
With more players yet to complete his roster, Conlon gave Queensland junior player Kane Bishop a starting role. He received 18 valuable minutes.
The Force coach also gave players like Mitch Poulain (14 minutes) important time early in the season.
"They do the same amount of work as all the stars or starters,'' Conlon said, encouraging a strong squad ethos.
Force just need to capitalise on another early game at home.
"We want to take advantage and treat it like a real home game,'' he said.
Saturday: QBL - Ipswich is hosting the men's and women's games against the Gold Coast due to their flood-affected venue not being ready. The women's match is at 5pm with the men's encounter at 7pm.