New era to start in women’s game

Peter Drew
Peter Drew
Otago will get the first taste of New Zealand’s new era in women’s basketball.

Dunedin will host the women’s National Basketball League opening weekend tournament from April 30 to May 2.

That includes the six NBL teams which will play three matches each — all to be televised live on Sky Sport — as well as 10 teams in the new development league.

The Otago Gold Rush, which has announced Gavin Briggs as its new head coach, will be among those top six.

Otago will also have a team in the development league.

Basketball New Zealand announced earlier this week the women’s league, previously known as the Women’s Basketball Championship, would be rebranded as part of the NBL for 2020.

It will also televise every game, which includes both the opening and finals tournaments, as well as regular-season home and away games.

The move was part of the push to give the women’s game equal footing with the men’s.

Basketball Otago general manager Peter Drew said it was a ‘‘game-changer’’.

‘‘For us to be able to be on the front foot to launch that exciting new era for women’s basketball is great.

‘‘We’ll try to leverage that and promote that as much as possible.

‘‘That’s a big game-changer for women’s basketball in New Zealand.

‘‘Having that opening tournament gets Otago on the map and able to hopefully capitalise on that.’’

He hoped the increased exposure of the women’s game would trickle down through the grades.

Rugby and cricket were examples he used of sports which had become more popular for girls and women since receiving increased promotion.

BBO would look to maximise that and hoped to attract more people to watch the games.

The team would be guided by Briggs for the first time, as he takes the role from last year’s head coach, Greg Brockbank.

Brockbank would remain on the coaching team.

While Drew said he was a ‘‘really good coach’’ it was a case of Briggs — who finished as head coach of the Junior Tall Blacks last year — being too good to turn down.

‘‘He’s got a great record, really experienced coach at international level with New Zealand.

‘‘To get him coming into work with the Gold Rush is brilliant.

‘‘He’ll bring that experience and hopefully form a really strong team and get them playing at full capacity.’’

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