The final game in the 2021 season vs The Wellington Saints, was a fitting send off for the EnviroNZ Bulls home season. While the game and the score didn't reflect the 2021 campaign very well, the fans did.
The Almost sell out crowd stayed to the bitter end of a game, one that was always going to be tough, against an in form and championship bound Saints squad, who shot a record 29 three pointers, tying the NBA record in 8 less minutes!
That aside, our boys played to the very end and they did so for a crowd that also stuck around. While most stadiums would have emptied by the end, with such a large defeat, not the Stockyard! Bulls fans stayed to celebrate the end of the first ever home season, one that has been fraught with injury and setback. The team however battled to a solid 8th place to finish two spots from the bottom, determined to not go home with the wooden spoon.
"We know that a healthy Bulls squad is playoff bound. 100%. But I can't speak higher of the team we have built, despite all the set backs. These guys played through and battled. I'm extremely proud of the guts and grit they have showed this year." Says General Manager Scott Kelso
Head Coach, Jamie Reddish in his first stint in the top job, reflects on what could have been...
"2021 will always been the season that should have been.... We'll never get the chance to see how far this team could have gone. Personally what we ended up with was a foundation for the future. I think I am more excited by that, than anything!"
While the 5-13 record was not the goal, the EnviroNZ Bulls season has provided players the chance to emerge as future stars. Joseph Nunag, Jett Thompson, Bradyon Iuli are three guards that showed there's a strong future for the team, with Thompson especially getting the starting nod in place of injured star guard,
Josh Selby. Nunag, shooting 39% from three and Iuli showing there's some exciting local talent emerging in Franklin.
Denhym Brooke also had a break out season, becoming a leader and improving his shooting range, not to mention his 1.5 blocks per game and a season high 6, now the most in Bulls history.
Isaac Davidson continued his form and illustrating that a stint with the Breakers has helped develop his game, almost doubling his rebounding numbers and increasing his assists to 3.7 per game. Davidson now holds the Bulls records for total Points, Rebounds and Assists.
NBL Vets, Dane Brooks, Jaylen Gerrand and Nick Fee all played career highs in minutes (excluding NBL Showdown 2020) and providing the leadership needed to keep the team moving forward despite the challenges, which included Brooks going down with concussion during practice, midway through the season.
As for the Bulls imports, three MVP calibre stars went down with injury before the end of the season. Zane Waterman (hand), Josh Selby (Hamstring), Kyrin Galloway (hand). The lone import survivor was Manel Ayol. Ayol was brought in last minute, adding some much need energy to help the Bulls get wins over the Airs and the Huskies.
Another loss was shooting forward, Matt Freeman. This season was to be Matt's first SalsNBL and adding Matt's shooting and size would have significantly helped the team this season, not to mention helping the young Bulls deal with the challenges. Matt however moved into a coaching and support role for the club and his leadership has been invaluable.
Zac Easthope and Adam Dunstan were thrust into playing additional minutes with import bigs unavailable and making big statements. Zac with a season high of 8 points and 9 rebounds in 11 minutes against the Giants and Dunstan with 10 points and 6 rebounds in 13 minutes against the Hawks.
Also a huge congrats to Dylan Wilkie, Tyrone McLennan, Corey Perry and Te Maire Van Der Leden, who took the court in the NBL for the very first time. All part of a promising Bulls future!
The future is not only bright for the Bulls, but for the league! In what has been the closest competition in recent memory, the 8th placed Bulls managed to get wins against two of the top 4 teams, the Huskies and the Sharks and coming close in the last hit out against a full strength Hawks side (95-90).
The EnviroNZ Bulls now prepare to field a squad for the Schick NBL 3X3 competition and begin building towards 2022.