With Mark Worthington now retired, the Cairns Taipans know they need a dominant big man on the boards if they are to remain near the top of the NBL next season.
Not that they aren’t happy with a season that exceeded all expectations before Perth knocked them out of the title race with coach Aaron Fearne revealing he always believed his side could make it this far, even after an 0-3 start to the season.
“I walked into the locker room after game five or six and said ‘guys, you’re good enough to be a playoff team’,” Fearne said.
“‘But, we’re not (in the future) if we don’t become a better rebounding team. We’ve improved in that department, but we haven’t been great.”
They did fall short of the rebounding power that the rest of the NBL boasted.
Their most reliable big man was Worthington, who averaged 4.67 rebounds a game, while Nathan Jawai was next best with 4.32.
Between Worthington and Melbourne United’s Josh Boone though (first with 9.25 per game) were 23 players.
And between now and the start of the next season, the Taipans need to find a replacement for Worthington, who played his last NBL game and ended a distinguished career on Monday night.
Doing that will be no easy task.
As Fearne points out, replacing imports is easier than replacing high-quality locals. There is a world of imports to choose from, but only a limited number of Aussies who have played at a higher level than the NBL.
“Whenever you lose a high-quality Australian in this league, it’s always a challenge to replace that,” he said.
“We’ll find a way; we have for the last eight or nine year and found a way to be competitive and take it to the big boys and we do a good job of that.”