Tall Blacks training in Qatar

Paul Henare.  Photo: Getty Images
Paul Henare. Photo: Getty Images
What to do when there's not enough money for a training camp in New Zealand? Take it to a country 14,585km away, of course.

With World Cup qualifying games against Syria and Lebanon on the horizon next month, the Tall Blacks have eschewed their usual New Zealand training camp in favour of spending a week in a Qatar.

While that can theoretically acclimatise the team before their first game against Syria in Beirut on September 13, Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare said the Qatar camp solely came about due to the financial incentive provided by the Qatari basketball federation.

"It was purely a financial decision – we just don't have the money to fund training camps at home.

"The Qatar Federation are funding this training camp for us – essentially paying for us to train there and stay there and have a couple of practice games, so from that point of view it was a no-brainer to be hosted for seven days. It saves a huge amount of money."

Basketball New Zealand's funding struggles are well known, with the Olympic-focused High Performance Sport New Zealand funding model only awarding BBNZ $150,000 for 2018. With New Zealand national sides now involved in the Asian federation, and more youth sides making World Cups, it has left the coffers light for New Zealand basketball bosses.

"I'm not sure I can stand here like my companion Steve Hansen and claim we're one of New Zealand's biggest brands, we are a good brand but we're well off the pace in terms of funding," analyses Henare.

"With commitments to those tournaments comes more and more financial responsibilities, so while from the on court point of view as a coach and former player I think it's outstanding, from a resources point of view we are well short."

That disparity is also shown through a brutal travel schedule for the two games in the upcoming September window. After their first game against Syria at 5.00pm local time in Beirut, the Tall Blacks will leave on a 1.00am flight to Doha, before then heading to Singapore, where they spend the night in transit. After that connection, they head to Auckland, landing late on the 15th, before driving down to Rotorua on the 16th, where they will take on Lebanon on the 17th.

All of that comes with 12 lanky bodies crammed into economy class, and while Syria and Lebanon are decent opposition, funding stays supreme as the Tall Blacks' greatest foe.

Tall Blacks squad: Tai Webster, Shea Ili, Jarrod Kenny, Reuben Te Rangi, Dion Prewster, Ethan Rusbatch, Jordan Ngatai, Finn Delany, Mika Vukona, Isaac Fotu, Tohi Smith-Milner, Rob Loe

Unavailable: Corey Webster (personal reasons), Tom Abercrombie (hamstring injury)

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