New pro women's basketball league a 'long time coming'

Source: 1News

The new professional women’s basketball league Tauihi is taking flight next week, complete with a promotional photo shoot, money and the chance for some of the best local talent to return home.

Tauihi might translate as 'to soar' but, for these players, a new era has already landed.

For the first time in New Zealand, women will get paid the same as their male counterparts and 1News understands the highest-earning players will receive between $13,000 and $16,000 for an eight-week season.

Jacinta Beckley from the Tokomanawa Queens says "having this opportunity to play in front of family and friends in our hometown is huge and to be paid now equal to the men is super important, it’s been a long time coming".

Basketball New Zealand CEO Dillon Boucher, who has been involved in the game for nearly 30 years, says creating this opportunity hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worthwhile.

“The men have had a lot for a long time, and I think now’s the time for the women to have that equal opportunity. Me having three daughters myself, it shows them there is an opportunity if they wanted to take a pathway like that.”

With the money also comes a raft of talent, both domestically and internationally.

Each of the five teams has three imports, along with big names from the national game.

Micaela Cocks has played nearly 150 games for New Zealand but never in a domestic league.

The 36-year-old has had a decorated career in Australia, being a three-time WNBL Champion and finals MVP.

Earlier in her playing days, she didn’t have the option to play in New Zealand.

"It provides another opportunity and another decision that athletes can make," Cocks said.

"I would’ve loved to have played here sooner and not have to of built a life in Australia."

Then there’s upcoming talent, Sharne Robati who is 21 and an age group rep. She also happens to be the niece of a shot-put great Dame Valerie Adams and NBA player Steven Adams.

Robati says they have inspired her on and off the court, empowering her to be a strong woman and to just enjoy the game no matter what.

But of all the players, there might be no one to who this means more to than Samara Gallager, who after debuting for the Tall Ferns eight years ago was kept off the court for five years due to concussion issues.

It’s a surreal moment for the Southern Hoiho player, who never thought she would get this opportunity again.

"It honestly feels like a dream come true and I know that’s cliché to say but when I was told a few years ago that I couldn’t play any contact sport pretty much ever again my heart was broken because my sport was who I was," she said.

"It’s going to be one of those moments I look back on and be like we did it, and we’re here."

Little surprise, these players are well and truly ready for take-off.