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Game day program Semi Final 1

MELBOURNE READY FOR THE

MELBOURNE READY FOR THE FIGHT Melbourne United know what needs to be done. It has been a season of growth and development for United – a newfound belief in one another, the system and playing the game the right way. The team has building to this moment all season. Because of this growth, with clubs first Finals game in two years about to tip-off and what could be United’s first ever Finals game win, there is a sense of calm heading into Game One against New Zealand. This isn’t because of cockiness, it’s because of the body of work the group has done this season and the belief that their defence will stand up when push comes to shove – as it has done all season long. Achieving something the club has never done before is exactly what newly crowned 2018 NBL Coach of the Year, Dean Vickerman and is team is focused on. “We understand that it’s the next step for us. We haven’t won a Playoff game yet, so that’s the total focus of this group – how we can get a win and how we can build our strategy over the week.” Vickerman said. Asked about the struggles Melbourne have endured against New Zealand in recent years, Vickerman brushed aside any concerns about the Breakers having the edge over his team. “We don’t really worry about what has happened in the past. Right now, we are trying to stay in the present – what this group has done this year and what this group is capable of doing,” Vickerman continued. “We know that they’ve been a quality Finals team over the years and there’s a lot of experience there… We expect nothing but an unbelievably competitive game with them.” Superstar Casey Prather – whose Perth team defeated New Zealand in the Grand Final series in 2016 – talked about what it is that makes New Zealand such a threatening prospect. “Their experience alone is very dangerous,” Prather continued. “Anytime you have a team that has put themselves in a position over and over again, they kind of have a bit of an advantage.” Prather said. “Also, they’re really physical, they’re a great team and organisation where the coaching staff and the players, they all buy-in to the system. When you mix those things together, that’s pretty dangerous.” Stifling the likes of Edgar Sosa, Mika Vukona DJ Newbill, Tom Abercrombie and Kirk Penney is going to demand a team effort and a defensive intensity that is second to none. “It’s going to be the defence – it’s been the defence all year.” United big man Josh Boone said. “Our defence is what has gotten us to this point... Ultimately, our defence is what is going to hopefully win this Championship.” 2 Game Day Program

There’s no doubt that Game One at Hisense Arena is the key to the series. Boone is hoping, with help from the Melbourne crowd, to put New Zealand on the backfoot early. “[Game One] is hugely key. We lose that game, we lose home-court advantage and then we have to win there just to bring the series back to here.” Boone said. “We’re thankful that we can play the first game here, in front of what I’m sure is going to be a great crowd as it has been all year. That’s going to hopefully propel us and keep the home-court advantage so that we can finish it over there.” The FIBA World Cup Qualifying window has allowed Melbourne to focus on their physicality, through tough practice and wrestling sessions, all in hopes of matching the signature New Zealand intensity and thirst for the contest. Having matched that physicality on their way to back-to-back late season wins over the Breakers, Boone talked about the work the team has done in preparations for New Zealand. “Last week was a very tough week of practice and it started off tough again this week but we got through it and we’re fixing some things that we knew needed to be fixed.” Boone said. With even more on the line on Saturday night, expect plenty of fireworks from two competitors looking to stamp their authority on the series early. Tai Wesley and Mika Vukona are two big men that provide so much for their respective teams. Wesley has been a man possessed this season for Melbourne and Vukona has done as he has for so many years – effort plays and a constant threat on the boards. In February, Ware talked about what Wesley does for the team. “Tai [Wesley] is like a point forward for us and I can just give it up to him and he makes plays happen.” Ware said. “During games we close out with [Wesley] – go straight to the post and he makes the right decision for us. Just to have that added dynamic on our team is great.” New Zealand will be looking to play Wesley extremely physically, to try to disrupt his flow – something that Vukona loves to do and is very effect at. Wesley’s ability to make the right play at the right time will be key to the outcome of the series. “We’ve been overly physical for this entire period, so I’m hoping that it’s going to translate. That’s what we need and Dean does a great job of giving us what we need at the time we need it.” The last time Casper Ware and Edgar Sosa went head-to-head at Hisense Arena, it’s fair to say things got fiery. The two points guards didn’t take a backwards step as Sosa got off to a hot start, but Ware got the last laugh as he led Melbourne home down the stretch to a crucial late season win. 3 Game Day Program

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