Nuggets back in NBL next year - well, hopefully

Time to walk the talk, Otago.

That was National Basketball League general manager Justin Nelson's message yesterday.

The Otago Nuggets have been granted provisional entry to next year's league.

It would be the team's first appearance since 2014.

All that remains is getting the final requirements together by August 7.

That notably includes forming an "agreed financial operational base and appointing of a key management resource".

Notable in that is getting the funds together to employ someone to find $165,000 in sponsorship.

That will help make up the proposed $400,000 budget.

Pledges from the community are being sought to help secure that start-up fund.

Nuggets franchise spokeswoman Angela Ruske said about $15,000 had already been gathered.

That operation will be more actively pursued over the next month.

If the provisions are not met by deadline, entry will be delayed until 2021.

For Nelson, the region's support for the team has been key.

Now it is a case of acting on that.

"There's a lot of people through the momentum of this bid, who have spoken about being part of the operation, whether it be commercially or hands on deck," he said.

"What we now want over the next month through making this decision is for all of those people to come forward and walk the talk.

"We're really excited the Otago Nuggets will not only be returning to the NBL, but will also be returning with a real vision for sustainability and success."

The business side of the operation featured largely in the Otago bid. However, Nelson said it was the emphasis on its community and fans which made it stand out.

The league took a "fans-first" approach, which Otago fits into.

"It's just such a passionate fan base for basketball throughout the Otago region.

"And they've demonstrated they have an enormous amount of love and passion for the Nuggets.

"It's something we're really excited about."

Former Nugget and prominent Dunedin coach Brent Matehaere said it was great news.

He felt Ruske and her team had done a great job and hoped they were able to get the team over the line.

"It brings exposure to the sport," he said.

"Young basketball players here in Dunedin will see a pathway through to the Nuggets and see good quality basketball.

"You've got the Breakers on television, but they're not quite close enough to touch.

"Being able to get down to the stadium and watch the games is really important for the locals."

He felt there was national league-quality talent around.

That came from those in region, those from Otago who had moved away and others who previously had ties to the region.

Community support would be key and Matehaere felt it was important to make a strong early impression.

"I think initially when you haven't had something for a while - the pavlova syndrome, you haven't had pavlova so you're dying for it.

"Then it's about making sure the pavlova tastes nice.

"You don't want to leave a sour taste, get the egg white and sugar ratio wrong or something.

"You want to get that right, have a product that people are prepared to pay money to go and watch."

The Otago Gold Rush will play in the Women's Basketball Championship's second-tier semifinals beginning today at North Harbour.

After finishing fifth in the top division's regular season, it will play Wellington, which finished second in the second division.


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