THE McDonald's Rockhampton Rockets' pursuit of back-to-back championships took a blow yesterday with the release of the 2014 Queensland Basketball League men's draw.
The Rockets launch their season at Hegvold Stadium with consecutive home matches before hitting the road to meet what head coach Neal Tweedy believes will be four of the competition's top five teams in 2014.
The Rockets host Cairns Marlins on May 23 in their round one clash before returning on the following Sunday to face 2013 cellar dwellers Ipswich Force.
Tweedy's troops hit the road for four straight matches out of town, starting with a bus trip north to face Townsville Fire on May 16 before backing up the following day against 2011 and 2012 champions Mackay Meteors at Candlestick Park, Mackay.
The following weekend they're on the road again, this time heading further north to face semi-finalists Cairns at Bendigo Bank Stadium, before flying south to meet last year's grand final opponents Brisbane Capitals.
Rockhampton Rockets and Cyclones 2014 QBL DRAW
Rd 1: v Cairns at Hegvold Stadium, May 3
Rd 2: v Ipswich at Hegvold Stadium, May 11
Rd 3: v Townsville away, May 16 & v Mackay away, May 17
Rd 4: v Cairns away, May 23, v Brisbane away, May 24
Rd 5: bye
Rd 6: v Toowoomba at Hegvold Stadium, June 7
Rd 7: v Gladstone away, June 14
Rd 8: v Gold Coast at Hegvold Stadium, June 20
Rd 9: v Northside away, June 27 & v Suncoast Clippers away, June 28
Rd 10: v Bundaberg away, July 7
Rd 11: v Townsville at Hegvold Stadium, July 13
Rd 12: bye
Rd 13: v Mackay, Hegvold Stadium, July 26
Rd 14: v Gladstone, Hegvold Stadium, August 2
Rd 15: v South West, Hegvold Stadium, August 9
FINALS: QBL quarter-finals, August 15-17, QBL semi-finals August 22-24, QBL grand final August 29-31.
"It's very tough first-up. You don't ask for anything in this competition," Tweedy said.
"We start with Cairns at home, first game of the year, and then Ipswich at home the following Sunday. Then Townsville away, Mackay away, Cairns away and Brisbane away.
"Ipswich is looking like they're on the way up. Brisbane and Ipswich are the potential threats for the top spot this year.
"Everyone of those teams are top-five teams."
Following their mammoth away run, the Rockets return to Hegvold Stadium to meet Toowoomba Mountaineers in the lead-up to the local derby against Gladstone's Phoenix Power.
In a boost to their finals chances, the Rockets start their run towards the finals with consecutive matches against Mackay, Gladstone and South West in front of their home fans.