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Taipans lose key player ahead of NYE blockbuster

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CQUniversity Cairns Taipans guard Tahjere McCall will not suit up for the game at the Cairns Convention Centre after he slipped on the court and hyperextended his left knee during a shootaround. He was due for scans on Friday afternoon however initial assessments showed no major structural damage.McCall will join Scott Machado and Mirko Djeric on the bench. Development player Brayden Inger will move into the active roster.Taipans announce 11th hour injury signing of Marshall NelsonAN 11th-hour Taipans injury signing of former West Australian guard Marshall Nelson will bolster the numbers of an injury-plagued Snakes out for redemption against the Perth Wildcats in their traditional New Year’s Eve clash on Friday night. On Thursday, the Snakes announced the temporary signing of Nelson as an injury replacement for Scott Machado, who has been sidelined since round two with a heel complaint. The 188cm Nelson recently suited up for the Perth Redbacks in the NBL1 West, where he averaged 20.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists across the 2021 season. Taipans coach Adam Forde, who hails from the west himself, said he had followed Nelson’s career. The 27-year-old has been on the Snakes’ radar for some time and joins the team as a combination guard with an ability to score, Forde said. “Having Marshall is good,” he said. “He has had two practice sessions and I plan on playing him on (Friday) night. Hopefully he can knock down a couple of threes for us. “And also show the league what he is capable of doing. He has had opportunity at Illawarra and has played overseas since then. He has played in Iceland and he’s eager to get back into the NBL. “I know what he is capable of doing on the practice floor (but) obviously it’s a different factor when you are playing games.“He has a clearly defined role of what he needs to be doing out there for us and he’s good for it.”Friday night’s match-up will be the first time the Taipans have hit the court in two weeks amid Covid chaos that at one point had the Snakes pitted against the New Zealand Breakers and the Sydney Kings. Forde said the team had “evolved” to turn around weaknesses in rebound play and turnovers that were exposed in the last Wildcats encounter, when they suffered a 23-point loss. “We have got better each week and started to hit some KPIs to really hone in on,’’ he said. “And now we have a chance at a little bit of redemption.” Fresh from the west, Nelson said he was excited to be hitting the court. “(Training) has been good,” he said. “I have been a little bit unfit but other than that it has been pretty good. “I’m making my shots and the guys have made me feel welcome.”Nelson will suit up in the New Year’s Eve game against the Wildcats at the Cairns Convention Centre from 7pm.Former Taipan Oliver signed to NBA team on Covid ‘hardship’ deal Former Taipans star Cam Oliver has taken another turn in his stint in the NBA, signing with the Atlanta Hawks on a 10-day hardship contract, according to The Athletic.The Hawks have 10 players in COVID-19 protocol after contracting the virus, leading to them signing the human highlight reel.Prior to that, Oliver had put together a hefty resume at the Los Angeles Lakers’ G-League affiliate – the South Bay Lakers.With South Bay, the forward averaged 14.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 27.8 minutes per game across 14 games.Oliver got his time in the LA limelight after an impressive 10-day, four -game tenure he had with the Houston Rockets last NBA season.With the Taipans, Oliver averaged more than 17 points, 9.5 rebounds and more than a block a game in NBL21.While an integral piece of the Taipans outfit, Oliver and the team mutually parted ways in September to allow him to pursue his NBA dreams.Taipans announce new opponent for New Year blockbuster boutThe Taipans have been thrown another curve ball as Covid continues to wreak havoc on the NBL schedule.After initially being scheduled to play the New Zealand Breakers on New Year’s Eve, the Snakes will welcome the Perth Wildcats to town.The change in schedule will make for an interesting match for the 2-1 Taipans, with the Breakers winless at the bottom of the ladder and the Wildcats on top at 4-1.The Taipans said the schedule change was due to the NBL following government and health authorities’ advice regarding Covid health and safety protocols.This will be the second match the between Perth and Cairns, with the two sides’ meeting in round one resulting in a 23-point spanking from the former.The game will still be played at 7pm Queensland time.The news comes after the pandemic caused the postponement of Taipans games against the Brisbane Bullets on Boxing Day and the Illawarra Hawks on January 2 due to positive cases for the latter.Taipans ‘number one team’ in heart of Bullet WignessWhile former Cairns basketballer Tamuri Wigness might have had a Taipans jersey on his Christmas list as a kid, he’ll be staring down his childhood team come Boxing Day on behalf of the Brisbane Bullets.Wigness – Cairns born and raised – is certainly no stranger to the Taipans franchise, having trained with them prior to the NBL21 season.However, playing for his dream team was not meant to be, as the 19-year-old was picked up by intrastate rivals Brisbane.“The Taipans were definitely my number one team in my heart when I was growing up,” Wigness said.“When I pictured playing in the NBL, I pictured playing in the Cairns Convention Centre with the Taipans.”Nonetheless, Wigness stands by his decision to head south, saying his time in Brisbane has helped him work on his craft.“I’m not the type of person who looks back and says ‘I should have made a different decision’,” he said. “I obide by the decisions I made.”Wigness did not cut ties with his Far North brethren, however, maintaining a bond with Bamaga baller Nate Jawai.“Me and Nate have a really close bond – he’s one of my mentors when it comes to the game,” he said.“I’m always super grateful to work with Nate … keeping in contact and he’s checking up on where I’m at and if I need help with mentoring off and on the court.”Bragging rights on the lineThe Bullets dominated the Taipans last season, winning all four games.With both Cairns and Brisbane coming of huge wins against Adelaide and Illawarra respectively, Sunday’s game will be see two teams looking to their best players to maintain their success.For the Taipans, this includes centre Stephen Zimmerman, who leads the league in average rebounds with 11.67 per game.“That’s something I come into seasons ready to do – rebound,” he said.“Trying to average double digit rebounds is important for me.”The Taipans have gotten used to playing a hard, defensive ball game through three rounds of the NBL.Zimmerman expected nothing less this weekend for the usually feisty Queensland rivalry game.“I’m expecting it to be physical, we’re going in there ready to get after and be dogs defensively,” he said.‘They still do the same sh*t’: Jawai fed up with getting fouledTaipans tall Nate Jawai is over opposing players doing the same “sh*t” and being used as a punching bag for easy fouls.The Bamaga big has averaged a foul every three minutes across 30 minutes of play during NBL22. Coach Adam Forde said after the team’s round two win against the Jack Jumpers that Jawai was ‘under a microscope’ by opposing players and refs when it came to being aggressive in the paint.“I can’t be physical in this league today but I can get pushed around,” Jawai said.“As soon as I ramp it up, I get penalised so it’s something to adjust on.”The 17-year veteran has certainly played his share of ball, and appears over being tested by players and having the fouls explained to him by officials. “I don’t really want to know who they are and talk to the referees anymore on what I need to work on,” Jawai said.“They expect to have a conversation with you and they still do the same sh*t.”Forde said it was a case of “old dogs, new tricks” when it came to Jawai, adding his 209cm tall centre was working hard to play his less foul friendly type of basketball.“Nate – in 12 minutes – had six points, four assists and three rebounds – dominant,” Forde said.“But there was a foul, and he was looking to me, and even I was on the sideline being like ‘c’mon Nate, that was a foul’.“To his credit, at his age, the fact he’s still working on himself for the betterment of the team is great.“If I can turn that 12 minutes into 15 or 16, hopefully that translates into nine points, more assists and five rebounds with a couple of stops on the other end.”Jawai, 35, admitted making the transition to fewer fouls would be difficult, but not impossible.“I’m an emotional guy and I feel like I’m getting hard done by,” he said.“I get handy, it’s just the nature of who I am – I need to do a better job of controlling that.”Feels like homeJawai, like other seasoned Snakes, said being back and playing at the Cairns Convention Centre made for a “huge“ home field advantage en route to their two-game win streak.“Last year in Bunnings it was a different environment, we thought we’d be okay there but we didn’t realise how much the convention centre meant,” he said.“I’ve played all over the world and there’s nothing like the Cairns Convention Centre.”Jawai added how proud he was of teammate and friend Majok Deng with his performance in the team’s win against the Adelaide 36ers in which he posted a career-high 23 points.“When he came to Cairns, I was so happy,” Jawai said.“I told him he needs to be more aggressive … he is a major role in the team.“Him stepping up, getting that confidence is really good … I think he’s going to be even better soon.”The Taipans will play the Brisbane Bullets on Boxing Day.Cairns Post where to get newsharrison.murtough@news.com.au



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