Young road warriors

THE Grafton City Vikings youth league squad will face a baptism of fire in the opening two rounds of the State Basketball League (SBL), beginning this weekend against the Central Coast Power.

The young basketball stars will spend more time in transit than they will on the basketball court as they traverse two round trips to Central Coast, Maitland and Cessnock in the space of just over a week.

Vikings youth league coach Dion Parbery said it was a 'horror start' to the campaign.

“It's a bit tough on the young guys,” he said.

“For some of them it will be a big shock ... it should knock them around a bit.

“Against Central Coast I'm hoping to get away with at least a loss and a win.”

The SBL youth league is split into division one - predominantly Sydney sides - and division two, comprising squads outside the metropolitan areas, with the Vikings the most northern team past Newcastle.

The effects of travelling six out of 12 rounds will impact heavily on the Vikings squad, which will hope to reap most of its points when teams visit the Grafton Regional Sports and Entertainment Centre.

“I think we are a chance for the playoffs,” Parbery said.

“I'm aiming for at least fourth or fifth position.”

Parbery said the Vikings regional positioning within the division had spawned a 'unique' squad.

“We are the only youth league squad in this area ... Lismore, Coffs Harbour have teams in the men's division, but for young players, we are it,” he said.

“Most of our playing roster comes from within Grafton, but we do have players from Lismore and outside the Clarence.”

The majority of the Viking squad is also a lot younger than the cut-off youth league age of 22, but Parbery said he was convinced he had found the right blend of experience and youth.

“We have about 13 players in the squad ... and most of our guys are around 18 years old,” he said.

“So we will have a few guys who won't know what to expect.

“We have about four guys with reasonable (senior) state league experience so it will be a good mix.”

Travelling might be the squad's Achilles heel, but if pre-season training is anything to go by, the Vikings could cause a stir in the competition.

“We have been training really hard since the start of February,” Parbery said.

“It has been a really good effort.”

Parbery said the long-term ambition of the youth league squad was to create the next generation of senior Vikings stars.

“It is all about the benefits of development,” he said.

“We have some good kids which we will gradually blend into the team.

“We have two who will definitely get some game time this year (with the senior squad).”

The Vikings men and women begin their season on March 21 at home.

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