By Russell Bennett
Unfinished business – that’s what it comes down to for Brent Russell’s Pakenham Warriors senior men’s side for the next Big V basketball season.
The Warriors reached this year’s Division 2 grand final series before losing to a hungry Collingwood All-Stars outfit in two games in the best-of-three contest.
Last year’s Pakenham team built its name on teamwork, togetherness and selflessness – and for 2018 that’s only going to be magnified.
“We only want a team award and the only team award we’re after is a championship,” Russell said simply.
“That’s our motivation.
“To have individual accolades is great, but all the guys are looking for is team success.”
The vast majority of the Warriors’ line-up this year will return for the next campaign, along with some significant inclusions.
Star forward Hayden Davey returns to the Pakenham Big V fold after a 12-month absence and is sure to provide a massive boost to skipper Ben Gaze.
Versatile big man Ash Szalek has also joined the fold – coming across from the Casey Cavaliers to once again play alongside his brother, Brad.
His experience, leadership and team-first mentality is sure to be a massive boost to the Warriors system.
Lewis Newman and Tobie Dean will make the step up into the Warriors senior team after graduating from its youth men’s program, while Jordan Jacotine will also don the Pakenham colours.
James Topp, Tyler Hogg, Cody Fredrickson and Nick Ross are the notable outs from the 2017 season – along with former assistant coach Michael Battle.
Russell said one of the strengths of this year’s lineup will once again be its versatility.
“The plan is to cover every match-up you’ll get in basketball – whether that’s big or small, quick or slow, defensive or offensive,” he said.
“This year I feel we cover everything, whereas last year there were maybe a few gaps in a few places. This year, looking at the rotation, we’ve got versatility from one through to five (point guard to center).”
Though the 2017 playing group was a particularly tightknit one, Russell said the 2018 version will be even more so.
“I think Pakenham is a club to watch out for over the next couple of years, both at a junior and senior level,” he added.
“I feel last year’s success for all the teams was huge and something we can keep building from.
“We’ve got that long-term goal of State Championship (division) and we want to get there.
“We’re putting the headline on this coming season as ‘unfinished business’.
“It’ll really show our character and who we are when it comes to how we approach the season after going so close last year.”
The 2018 Pakenham Warriors Big V senior men’s team includes: Brad Bridgewater, Josh Bjelan, Lewis Newman, Ash Szalek, Brad Szalek, Hayden Davey, Ben Gaze, Mike Godfrey, Craig Drew, Tobie Dean, Rob Maartens, Trent Lee, and Jordan Jacotine. Logan Mills, Mitch Barry and Matt Tielen have also been named as development players.