Two months ago
Shout Out to Alex Pledger
As most of you will know, Alex Pledger has been fighting his battle with cancer here in New Zealand. He was signed by the Southland Sharks for his fifth season before he received his diagnosis. I am a Sharks fan and a local, and go to every home game I can. For the record, I don't know Alex personally. I met him once at a post-game event for the Breakers several years ago and found him to be a really nice dude. He said he liked our stadium facilities (well before he played for Southland), and as fate would have it he ended up down here a couple of years later.
I want to give a huge shout out to this guy. He is not a local to Southland, but he has been at almost every home game, on the bench, supporting our team. You could see the physical changes to Alex from when I saw them training preseason at the stadium through to now. You can tell he has been fighting hard, and that's only what you can see from afar. But the man was there at the games, up on his feet encouraging his teammates, contributing where he could. I also understand he had been attending trainings where he was able.
Last round was a home game, Sharks vs. Canterbury Rams. Alex suited up and ended up playing a shade over five and a half minutes over two stints, contributing three points and three rebounds. I swear my ears are still ringing from the applause when he took the court, it was unbelievable. If the tears were not present, they would have been on the brink for anyone there who understood the moment. He did four and half minutes in that first quarter, and boy did he work hard. I think he was looking for a sub a couple of minutes earlier but with no breaks in the play, he muscled up and kept going. No intentional fouls just to get off the court. This wasn't just a token appearance, he came to play.
The last minute in the last quarter, he converted a technical free throw, but the highlight was him breaking free of the defence for a swift pass inside and a quick conversion, as smooth as you like and reminiscent of classic Alex Pledger. He can still cover a lot of ground in two steps. I have never been so proud to be associated with the Southland Sharks with such a player on the roster.
He was clearly visible on the bench again last night for our semi-final against the Hawks. Although he didn't take the court, the same support was there.
I always had high respect for him as a player, but my respect for him as a person after what he has put forward this year for the organisation and more importantly himself in his personal fight, eclipses that.