date_range Published 04 May 2018

Story by Jeff Cheshire ODT Friday 4 May

There will be plenty of new mixed in with the old for the Otago Gold Rush this weekend.

That should provide a balance of stability and freshness for the side, which begins its WBC season with a tournament in Tauranga today.

It tips off against the host tonight, before playing Harbour Breeze tomorrow and Auckland Dream on Sunday.

Four new players - Kelly Thompson, Rosie Davison, Hannah Matehaere and import Dana Goularte - will suit up for the team, while Claudia Flaws returns after a year overseas.

There remains plenty of experience, however, notably in the coaching ranks.

Todd Marshall is back despite resigning at the end of last season.

A change in plans from the Gold Rush end around Christmas resulted in the side asking Marshall if he would do one more year.

He agreed and is not regretting the decision.

“Being around this group is a really enjoyable exercise,” he said.

“So it wasn’t hard to say yes from that side of things.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve got Dean [Ruske] back with me and I’ve brought Greg Brockbank among the mix as well this year.

“It’s good. There’s some change, some new faces, some regulars that set a really good platform for how the Gold Rush do things.”

Among others to return are captain Natalie Smith and veteran Natalie Visger, who form the basis of a strong front court.

Joining them is Goularte, a forward who played at Western Oregon University and brings scoring and rebounding to the side.

Gone from last year are Grace Love, Janet Main and Jeanie Pattison, all of whom have moved away.

Unavailable for this weekend are twins Zoe and Brittany Richards, who are still completing the university year in the United States, and Soraya Umaga-Jensen.

Despite that, Marshall is hoping the side will bring the attitude that has brought it success in past.

“I’m expecting us to go out there with the same sort of Gold Rush attitude where we’re going to be a damn tough team to play.

“We’re going to play tough basketball, keep the speed up and really challenge teams to match us.

“That’s what we want to do, so we’ll see how it goes.”

The competition this year is divided into three tiers, with the Gold Rush one of eight teams in the top tier.

After this weekend it will play two home games and two away, before the finals weekend in Dunedin on July 5-7.

Otago Gold Rush squad for first tournament:

Natalie Smith, Nicole Ruske, Natalie Visger, Kelly Thompson, Aleisha Ruske, Claudia Flaws, Bronwyn Kjestrup, Danielle Frost, Dana Goularte, Hannah Matehaere, Rosie Davison.