Revamped NZ NBL set to tip off next month, featuring return of Nuggets and unique 'first-to-seven' rule

Source: 1News

The NZ NBL is officially returning, with organisers confirming a revamped competition scheduled to tip off next month.

Gareth Dawson of the Rams gets the rebound ahead of James Hunter of the Sharks during the NBL basketball match, Southland Sharks v Canterbury Rams, ILT Stadium Southland, Invercargill, New Zealand, Friday, May 05, 2017. © Copyright photo: Dianne Manson / www.photosport.nz

Seven teams will take part in this year’s NZNBL over six weeks starting from June 23, with the entire competition based in Auckland at a yet-to-be-announced venue. Teams will play up to three games per week and will be based in Auckland.

The teams confirmed for the competition are the Auckland Huskies, Canterbury Rams, Franklin Bulls, Manawatu Jets, Nelson Giants, and Taranaki Mountainairs. The Otago Nuggets take the final spot, returning to the NZNBL for the first time since 2014.

Noteable teams not involved in the competition are the Southland Sharks and 2019 champions Wellington Saints. Although organisers made no comment on their absences, the Saints told 1 NEWS last month they weren't interested in an initially pitched five-week competition for "a factor of reasons".

NBL general manager Justin Nelson said a new world-first innovation will also be trialled to decide tied games with a unique ‘first-team-to-score-seven-points’ concept instead of the traditional overtime period.

“It’s likely this competition will be one of the few basketball leagues being played in the world at this time, that offers a big opportunity for an extended audience,” Nelson said.

“It also presents us with a chance to try something new. We like to think of ourselves as innovators here in New Zealand and the ‘first-to-seven’ concept is a bit outside the square, which we think will be engaging for fans.”

Like most sports leagues around the world, the NZNBL was put in limbo as the threat of Covid-19 became more apparent.

Chair of the NBL Board, Iain Potter, said the NBL management and teams have needed to think differently and work together in order to make the competition work this year in the current environment.

“The teams have been willing to innovate to see the return of the NBL, which is so important for all of basketball,” Potter said.

“It lifts the game’s presence in New Zealand tremendously, plus the League will see an international reach too.

“Young players will watch this and remember there is a pathway to the top in New Zealand, with Tall Blacks and US college stars on the floor.”

With that in mind, Tall Blacks coach Pero Cameron said he will be keeping a close eye on the competition as it may be the only chance he gets to see players before the next scheduled FIBA international window in November.

“I know some of the guys really want this - they want to get back to work. For the Tall Blacks coaching staff, it’s really valuable as we look for that emerging talent putting their hand up for the national squad,” Cameron said.

“There are young talented players who are back from US college who will be out to impress, plus we hope to see a number of current Tall Blacks in action as well. We will be watching with interest.”

The league will make further announcements about the competition, including a full schedule, in the coming days.