Mike & Gordo's Draft Preview - MLP Australia S2

Thursday, July 4, 2024

As excitement builds for the Major League Pickleball (MLP) Australia draft taking place this week, Player Coach Mike Newell offers his thoughts on what promises to be a pivotal moment in the sport. 

Known for his keen insights, Newell’s perspective sheds light on the potential outcomes and key players to watch. Mike sits down with PPA Tour Australia Commentator Gordon Watson.

Gordon: Ok Mike, let us not beat around the bush – who is going to be the number one draft pick for the season two 2024 MLP Australia. The draft list for season two is absolutely star studded, do you think captains will be able to resist the temptation to go with an international player – or will they lock in a home grow?

Mike: The rumour is Dani Elle Townsend is being looked at by several captains including the New Zealand Hustle (who have the first draft pick). For me personally, Armaan Bhatia, Roos Van Reek may get the nod over superstars like Kyle Yates and Michelle Esquivel, Rob Cassidy, and Harsh Metha. It is a big call and because the Hustle will be last pick in round two, they will really want to secure a strong first draft pick – a pick that will set a solid foundation.

Gordon: Mike you would pick Armaan or Roos over Kyle Yates. 

Mike: Yeh, Armaan had an incredible season one and has placed 5th recently at the US Open with his partner Harsh Metha while Roos has just won the triple crown in Madrid at the Spanish Open.

Gordon: They are on fire! And great ambassadors for the game no doubt! So, Mike, you are in the draft yourself and coached the Eastern Rush last season – how do you rate your chances, and what do you bring to the table for one of the 12 teams?

Mike: (Mike laughs) My chances of being drafted are minimal, I must be realistic.

Gordon: Hang on there Mike, you did reserve for the Sydney Smash in 2023 and helped the team to a win in Sydney. And you are an exceptional coach, you do have a lot to bring to the table.

Mike: True it was great to reserve in that team, and when partnered with a strong pairing where I can play the placement game and set my partner up it works well. But I still need to be realistic. 

Gordon: There are some absolute show-stopping names in the draft list – and we have touched on a few already, who do you think some of the dark horses could be? After the success of Nicola Schoeman and Simon Pilt at the Queensland Championship do you think they have a tilt and who else would you have your eye on?

Mike: Definitely, Nicola had a highly successful Queensland Championships on the weekend and at the age of only 16 she is improving fast, and if she were to be drafted, she could well be an MVP that we could be talking about at the end of the season. Another player I would have my eye on would be Andi Dikosavljevic. She is proving to be a force on the Australian pickleball and like Nicola she too is improving fast. One thing is clear with the new rulings and the teams that finished at the bottom of the ladder getting the early picks in the season two draft my thoughts are the teams should be a lot more even – or at least they should be.

Gordon: It would be hard being a captain because we have not even mentioned, PPA stars Emilia Schmidt and Liz Truluck, and Vanshik Kapadia, and Mikki Haet, Jason Taylor, and Ryan Henry!

Mike: Thats it Gordo, it will be tough for the 12 captains, one thing they will need to do is their homework.

Gordon: I guess the sad thing is, there will be some stars from season one who may not get the nod in season two, such is the ‘Pickleball Pull’ of the MLP Australia.

Mike: You are right Gordo, and the competition for international places is fierce, because India falls in the international category. There is a total of 12 out of the 36 places that can be filled by international players, so we will see some of the stars in the draft miss out too.

Gordon: What other considerations come up at draft time Mike. What are the things that keep you up at night in the lead up to the draft?

Mike: Team captains and team coaches like me (Eastern Rush) need to consider not just individual skills but how players will gel together. Chemistry and teamwork are crucial in pickleball, and getting the right mix can make all the difference. Simply things like being able to train together can make a massive difference and can sway a decision. This draft is not just about selecting players; it is about building teams that can compete at the highest level and inspire new fans and players to join the sport. In Redcliffe we saw how Gold Coast really inspired each other and brought the crowd along with them. It is an exciting time for everyone involved.

Gordon: Mike, thank you so much for your insights into the MLP Australia season two draft. One thing is for sure, the excitement is building and will spill over live on Thursday evening 4 July from 5:30pm.

Tune in for the live season two draft on MLP Australia YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKyIe4KdDw0&ab_channel=PPATourAustralia

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