Gold Rush will have to gel quickly

The Otago Gold Rush certainly has a new look to it this year.

One statistic perhaps shows that more than any other.

Forward Bronwyn Kjestrup has played 72 national league games for the team.

That is more than the rest of the squad has played, combined, in Gold Rush colours.

There are others who have played plenty of basketball.

Forward Lisa Wallbutton is a 100-test Tall Fern and former professional.

Queenstown-based American big Savanna Handevidt came through the college system in the United States.

Guard Beth Mackie is a former Scottish international who played in the Women’s British Basketball League.

Forward Hannah Beede joins the team from Brisbane, where she has played in the NBL1 since finishing a college career in the United States.

The former two of that quartet were with the team during last year’s abbreviated 18in18 league.

But that experience does not change the fact this is a very new-look Gold Rush team and one that will have to gel quickly when it begins its women’s NBL season tomorrow in Auckland.

Notably, Zoe Richards is gone.

The Tall Ferns forward, who was named in last year’s NBL All-Star Five when the team finished third, has been playing professionally in Western Australia this year.

Guard Te Araroa Sopoaga, who won youth player of the year last year, is also gone, having begun a college career in the United States.

That does not mean there is not quality left in this squad, though.

Olivia O’Neill has been in the team for several years, and is still only 20.

A do-everything guard with length and athleticism, she is capable of taking a big step this season.

Guards Tara Clement and Hannah Matehaere both showed value last year and will be handy pieces again.

Exceptional defender Millie Simpson has added plenty of scoring to her game and was named the Dunedin club league’s most valuable player, while forward Fay Fualau has made similar strides.

There is a handy young core around that group.

Guards Caitlin O’Connell and Stirling Walker-Pitman were both highly touted juniors from Taranaki and Waikato respectively, and former Canterbury forward Sophie Adams brings similar promise inside.

Kavanagh College’s Annabelle Ring joins that new trio, a forward capable of scoring in several ways and who has been one of club basketball’s top players the past three seasons.

The Gold Rush has 10 games over four weekends, all in Auckland.

If it makes it through those, it will progress to the finals a weekend later.

The Gold Rush tips off its season tomorrow against the Capital Swish at 6pm, before facing the Waikato Wizards on Saturday at 6pm.


National Basketball League

Otago Gold Rush
v Capital Swish, Auckland, tomorrow, 6pm
v Waikato Wizards, Auckland, Saturday, 
Sophie Adams, Hannah Beede, Tara Clement, Fay Fualau, Savanna Handevidt, Bronwyn Kjestrup, Beth Mackie, Hannah Matehaere, Caitlin O’Connell, Olivia O’Neill, Annabelle Ring, Millie Simpson, Stirling Walker-Pitman, Lisa Wallbutton.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter