THE Thunderdome is set to erupt on Saturday night as the Thunderbolts launch into the finals series of the Waratah State League with a do or die game over Hawkesbury Jets Orange.
A win will propel them into the finals weekend and a loss will end their season.
The squad will welcome back shooting guard Luke Krug this week who sat out last week’s double header in Coffs Harbour.
While Krug was in Minto coaching the Thunderbolt U16 girls squad at the State Cup, the Bolts were at home defeating the Coffs Suns and the Central Coast Rollers in a huge double header to earn the home final.
The poetic justice of beating the Suns to make the finals was not lost on Krug.
Two years ago the Suns were the only team that stood between the Thunderbolts and their first State League premiership.
“They beat us in the final that year,” Krug said.
“It is good to get one back on them.”
The win also gave them the home ground advantage for this year’s quarter final.
Last year a different Hawkesbury side knocked the Thunderbolts out at this stage, but that was in Hawkesbury.
“Having a home final is huge for us,” Krug said.
“We are very successful at home and have only lost four games since the Sportsdome opened in 2011.”
Last weekend the dome was a bit empty as seven junior Thunderbolt sides and supporters were away.
With their seasons ending at the State Cup last week a booming crowd is expected tomorrow night.
This year’s Thunderbolts are a bit younger and a lot quicker than previous years, but also have the tall timber.
The return of captain David Bourke adds to the height of Cody Miller and Rhys Chillingworth, while import Tevin Hurd adds speed and the X factor the side has been after.
“We have a lot more depth this year and don’t lose much with our bench players,” Krug said.
“We want to run them off the floor.”
John Ireland has had the boys concentrating not only on speed and pace but also on their defensive transitions.
“Getting the ball quickly from our defence up to the front,” Krug said.
This is the guard’s 14th year with the Thunderbolts and sixth year playing in the top grade in the State League.
This will be the Thunderbolts final home game of the season with tip-off at 7pm Saturday night.
o TWO representatives from Manilla Central School will pull on the blue of NSW next week at the All Schools National Basketball Championships in Townsville.
Teacher Jono Willis will join Thunderbolts star and Manilla Central student Taylor Skelton as they both pull on the blue of NSW.
Willis will be managing the NSW PSSA boys’ side, with the region producing the only two non metro players.
Armidale giant Mangarchot Maluach will join Quirindi’s Nathan Clark in the side as they begin their campaign on Sunday.
“It is great to get two players from around here in the side – the rest are from Sydney,” Willis said.
Skelton will continue her rise through the ranks in her second year with the NSWCHS side.
Following a great year in the Northern Junior League that included the title, skelton is keen to get back in the winner’s circle after an unsuccessful State Cup campaign last weekend.
The year 11 student could have a big career ahead of her after representing NSW in the U16s and now NSWCHS twice.
The quartet will leave for Townsville on Saturday morning with the primary boys to tip off the carnival on Sunday morning with a game against Western Australia.
“Hopefully we will still be playing on Friday in the finals,” Willis said.