The Cairns Taipans pre-season has been a rollercoaster ride, but the team being assembled is set to be formidable.
Following the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and the ongoing Convention Centre redevelopment delays that could have derailed the NBL competition, our Cairns Taipans are now preparing for the most unusual season in the club’s history.
After a nervous wait, basketball fans were buoyed by the Queensland State Government's commitment to Cairns' only national sport team with an announcement they would support a renovation of the old Bunning's site for a temporary home.
While the Palaszczuk Government turns the Spence Street warehouse into a professional sporting venue, the Taipans will enter unfamiliar territory with an identifiable team, having re-signed six of their players from last season’s successful mix.
New NBL rules in response to COVID-19 will see all clubs made up of only 10 players this year, with one less import spot. The Taipans snapped up their Aussie young guns in Mirko Djeric, Fabijan Krslovic and NBA-bound Kouat Noi months ago, to add to Majok Deng who will enter the second year of his contract.
Complementing the young core will be basketball veterans Jarrod Kenny for his third consecutive season, as well as local product Nathan Jawai who has freshly signed a new two-year deal, in a huge testament of loyalty between both parties.
“Winning a championship for Cairns is something I think about a lot,” Jawai admitted to Tropic. “It’s definitely something I want to achieve before the end of my career and with the way the group is coming together – I believe we can do that.”
Jawai won a Championship in his long-awaited return to the NBL in 2016 with the Perth Wildcats, after the league heavyweights lured the brilliant big man from a lucrative stint in Europe.
“That was an important highlight in my career. It was a great experience and I have really fond memories,” he said.
“But the team last year in Cairns was my favourite. It was so much fun, and I’m proud that the Taipans are bringing so many of them back. It’s really exciting for the city, you know?”
The 33-year old will suit up for his sixth season in orange, another achievement in his illustrious career that will forever hold the title as the first Indigenous Australian to ever be drafted in the NBA.
“Of course, I’m at the point where I’m thinking about my future – I need to start considering life after basketball,” Jawai said. “I’m working on something special right now, and the Taipans are focused on helping me. We’re using the extended off-season to our advantage. I am in a really fortunate position to give back. I owe so much to Cairns and to basketball, the next few years are going to be really important for me and the club.”