Orange Roughies delighted with finals time

INVERCARGILL is filling up and there’s a buzz in the air as players, family and friends arrive for the National Basketball League (NBL) finals weekend.
With the Auckland Super City Rangers, Wellington Saints and Canterbury Rams all making the finals there is a nice geographical spread of visitors.
But the loudest, most loyal fans are here already, spurring on ‘‘their’’ team, the Zero Fees Southland Sharks.
It is not the first time the Sharks have made the finals — they claimed the national title last year — but it is the first time the finals have been held in Invercargill.
Members of the ‘‘beating heart of the Sharks support group’’, the Orange Roughies fan club, are delighted.
Each time there is a home game they leave in buses from their base at the Lone Star restaurant and head to ILT Stadium Southland.
‘‘It’s going to be exciting,’’ Roughies organiser Dion Cameron said.
‘‘We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for some time, and we’ve always thought we could do a fantastic job of hosting [finals weekend], as opposed to what we have seen and witnessed ourselves away from here.’’
Two semi-finals will be played tomorrow evening and the final on Saturday evening. Stadium marketing and business development manager Laura Morrison said a late run on tickets this week had assured crowds of 3000-4000 for each game.
Adding to the party atmosphere, Southern Institute of Technology music students would play in the foyer before the games, she said.
Invercargill Licensing Trust (ILT) marketing and sales manager Chris Ramsay said bookings were ‘‘very solid’’ at ILT accommodation facilities, including the Ascot Park Hotel, where the visiting teams are based.
‘‘I know we have had a lot of family and friends connected with the teams booking in there as well.’’
So who will win the 2016 NBL title? For Mr Cameron, there is no doubt it will be the Sharks.
‘‘I’m somewhat biased, but I genuinely believe we’ve got the experience within the squad, a great management team, and a fantastic head coach. And the guys have done it before.’’
Back at the Lone Star, there could be a change on the menu if the Sharks win, manager Barry Morrison said.
‘‘We might have to change our fish of the day from blue cod to orange roughy.’’
Support: Sharks fans barracks for their team ahead of NBL finals weekend at ILT Stadium Southland.
Support: Sharks fans barracks for their team ahead of NBL finals weekend at ILT Stadium Southland.

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