Hunters coach Larry Davidson has stepped down because of illness, handing the reins to long-time colleague Darren Nichols

NEWCASTLE Hunters mentor Larry Davidson has stepped down because of illness, handing the reins to long-time coaching colleague Darren Nichols for the 2017 Waratah Basketball League season.

Davidson and Newcastle Basketball general manager Neil Goffet told players of his decision at a pre-season fitness session on Friday.

“Unfortunately I have made the decision to stand down as the coach of the Newcastle men’s team due to medical reasons,” Davidson said. “I wish the team and the Newcastle Hunters club all the best for the future, and they will always have my full support.”

Davidson was named Waratah League Men’s Coach of the Year in 2016 after steering the Hunters to the semi-finals, where they were pipped 64-59 by eventual runners-up Sydney Comets. Nichols, who was Davidson’s assistant in 2015 and 2016, was Newcastle’s head coach from 2010 to 2012.

Nichols was calling the shots and Davidson was his assistant when the Hunters were Waratah League runners-up in 2011 and minor premiers in 2012.

Davidson had overseen the first two selection trials in the past fortnight but Nichols is considering conducting another trial before settling on a squad for next season.

The Hunters will field a new-look team next year after the loss of former Australian big man Russell Hinder and American import Justynn Hammond, the retirement of veteran guard Adam Melmeth, and uncertainty about the futures of some other long-serving players.

HANDING OVER: Darren Nichols, left, is replacing Larry Davidson as Hunters coach.

HANDING OVER: Darren Nichols, left, is replacing Larry Davidson as Hunters coach.

Mark Gledson, the 2016 Basketball NSW Coach of the Year and Waratah League Women’s Coach of the Year, will again be in charge of Newcastle’s women’s team, who won the title last season.

Newcastle will be without captain and point guard Sophie Kleeman, who is moving to Orange with fiancé Willie Heta. 

After leading South Newcastle to the Newcastle Rugby League premiership this year, Heta has signed a two-year deal as captain-coach of Orange Hawks.

Meanwhile, the Newcastle Hunters junior teams will hold their annual induction camp at Broadmeadow this weekend as part of their preparations for the 2017 representative season.

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