Maoate-Breen ‘grateful’ for chance

Southern Hoiho point guard Jay Maoate-Breen said playing in Oamaru was an "awesome" experience....
Southern Hoiho point guard Jay Maoate-Breen said playing in Oamaru was an "awesome" experience. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
For Southern Hoiho point guard Jay Maoate-Breen, playing on the North Otago Penguins’ court recently was like coming home.

Married to Oamaru-born Peter Breen, himself a former Penguin, Maoate-Breen said she loved spending time in Oamaru, and playing at the Waitaki Community Recreation Centre in front of family.

Turning out for the Southern Hoiho in a pre-season game against Mainland Pouakai, she is part of a new era in New Zealand women’s basketball with the arrival of the Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa league.

The league is the women’s equivalent of the men’s National Basketball League, and starts tonight, with player payments also on par.

The Melbourne-based couple, who have a 1-year-old daughter, Mia, had been back visiting family in Dunedin, when Maoate-Breen trialled for the Hoiho and made the squad.

The point guard was "very grateful for the opportunity", and together with Breen, they made the decision she should stay and pursue basketball.

Breen has returned to Melbourne, where he is kicking and skills coach for the NRL’s Melbourne Storm, while she had been working as a physiotherapist, and strength and conditioning coach, before going on maternity leave.

The 33-year-old has a long history of representative basketball.

She had played for Otago from a young age, and was in New Zealand development teams growing up.

While playing for New Zealand B against a China development team, she was selected to play 3x3 basketball for the Cook Islands, where her father’s family is from.

The team’s success brought in a lot of funding for the youth programmes in the Cook Islands, and as she moved further along in her career, Maoate-Breen said playing became more about the "bigger picture".

"It’s not so much about what we’re doing right now, but if we can create an amazing club in the south, it’s just going to help grow with the girls coming through."

Playing in the Tauihi league marked the return to basketball after a long hiatus.

The competition ran until late August, and family support was crucial to her participation.

The travelling team was subject to change each week, and was based on performance, she said.

"So if you’re picked one week, that’s awesome, and Mia will just stay here, and just have to get used to all the family and being away from me.

"Even that sort of stuff is a good little challenge, but it’s going well."

Before playing in the league, Maoate-Breen was already following it.

"The talent that is in New Zealand is really high, but a lot of the funding hasn’t been there for many years.

"So to get this whole new league and franchise up and running, where there’s money involved now, helps to pull players in from overseas and current tall ferns, old players, and develop younger players."

By Ashley Smyth

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