Women’s game set for major change

New Zealand women’s basketball appears set for a major revamp.

It is understood the existing national league format is set for a complete overhaul.

The National Basketball League was unable to confirm anything beyond it being a "watch this space" situation.

Basketball Otago general manager Peter Drew confirmed there were "likely some significant changes coming to the women’s NBL".

He said the changes were geared towards putting the league on a more equal footing with the men’s league, notably in terms of player payments.

More details were expected to be announced soon, he said.

Multiple sources have told the Otago Daily Times the league is set to move away from the model of six top-tier, association-based teams, one of which is the Otago Gold Rush.

A five-team, franchise-based league is believed to be in the works.

Two of those franchises would be based in the South Island.

Those teams would be more heavily funded, with significant increases in player payments.

That would be aimed at luring New Zealand’s top women back to play in the league.

Many of those play in the Australia’s WNBL, although some have returned to play for their New Zealand teams at different stages.

The women’s league has undergone several changes through the years.

Initially, it was played over several weekends with all teams meeting in one place to minimise travel costs.

That progressed to include home and away games, in conjunction with an opening weekend tournament, in 2018 and 2019.

Two years ago, it shifted from the Women’s Basketball Championship, to fall under the NBL banner.

However, it has been severely impacted by Covid-19 in both those years.

In 2020, it was postponed until the end of the year and played as a shortened season in Auckland, in which 18 matches were played in 18 days.

This year’s league was eventually cancelled as the latest set of alert level restrictions were implemented the week after its opening weekend.

Boosting the women’s league was the key area recently departed general manager Justin Nelson had said needed to be the next focus, acknowledging how compromised the past two years had been.

jeff.cheshire@odt.co.nz

 

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