Sports

Craig Moller earns NBL All-Australian call up for China tour

When Andrew Gaze coached Craig Moller as a development player with the Sydney Kings, he tipped the former AFL player as a future Australian Boomer.

That call was met with scepticism but it looks prophetic after Moller was selected for the NBL All-Australian side to play a three-game series against China in China next month.

While the NBL side is not an official national team, it has quickly become the final step between the national league and the Boomers with coach Andrej Lemanis leading both teams and using the tours to blood potential players.

The 23-year-old Melbourne United forward took a big step in his career this past season playing a role for the NBL champions as a defensive small forward and even starting during the semi-finals.

Melbourne United's Craig Moller.

Photo: AAP

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When NBL major events and programs general manager Tommy Greer called to invite him to join the tour, Moller was quick to take up the place.

He is in strong company, too, with Olympians Chris Goulding, Adam Gibson, David Barlow and Brad Newley on the roster along with current “NBL” Boomers such as Daniel Kickert and Cameron Gliddon.

“Its a pretty strong side, so its a proud achievement at this stage in my career,” Moller said.

It seems like a lifetime ago Moller was on Fremantles list, where he played one AFL game before being delisted at the end of the 2015 season

Moller was quick to move back to basketball and he has moved from outside the sport to the fringe of the national squad.

Moller played for the Emerging Boomers at the World University Games last year although this will be his first chance to play for Lemanis.

“Playing in the uni games last year was the first step in that path and playing for Australia is something I certainly want to do,” Moller said.

“I think Im one of the younger guys on the team so it makes me think Im going down the right path – to get an opportunity this early in my career is fantastic.”

Lemanis said he looked forward to seeing how Moller handled the tour.

“Im excited to see how he [Moller] performs after a breakout NBL season and Im happy hes getting an opportunity to taste international basketball,” Lemanis said.

“History has proven that players playing in quality international games improve their individual games and this will not only help those who get selected for the June qualifying window but all players for the upcoming NBL season.”

Under the new FIBA qualifying system the Boomers play every three months and are left without their NBA stars when the US league is in season so NBL players have been taking their chance with the Boomers.

NBL stars such as Mitch Creek have done so well they could be lured overseas in the near future and this could open places for the likes of Moller to step forward.

“To see the best guys we play against going away with the Boomers, for a player like me I see that as my next step,” Moller said.

But Moller knows he cant cheat any steps and that the bar to making the NBA-laden Boomers for major tournament remains far in the distance.

So he will do his best in China, keep working in his winter job with Hobart Chargers in the SEABL and then prepare for Melbournes title defence later in the year.

“Any chance to get in there with Andrej and the team is a chance Im going to take,” Moller said.

The tour also falls either side of the Queen's Birthday weekend so he is unlikely to miss any Chargers games.

The NBL All-Australian side plays China in Jiyuan on June 8, Hengyang on June 10 and Beijing on June 12 with Fox Sports showing all three games.

NBL ALL-AUSTRALIAN TOURING TEAM 2018: Angus Brandt (Perth Wildcats), Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets), Adam Gibson (Brisbane Bullets), Chris Goulding (Melbourne United), Craig Moller (Melbourne United), Jason Cadee (Brisbane Bullets), Tom Jervis (Brisbane Bullets), Brad Newley (Sydney Kings), David Barlow (Melbourne United), Jesse Wagstaff (Perth Wildcats), Alex Loughton (Cairns Taipans), Daniel Kickert (Sydney Kings).

Melbourne United's Craig Moller.

Photo: AAP

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Roy Ward

Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.

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