At the request of FIBA Oceania, Basketball Australia has changed its player eligibility rules now allowing New Zealanders (and Pacific Island nationals) to play in any Australian leagues without restrictions. This is a significant announcement but one that appears to have attracted zero media comment in New Zealand.
2012 Harbour Heat Coach Alex Stojkovic outlines his thoughts on the announcement and the affect it may have on the landscape of New Zealand Basketball
I think it’s very nice of Basketball Australia to make that change, thanks for that! I am not sure if it is in Australia’s best interest at all. Some Aussie players will now miss out on SEABL and State League teams with spots being taken up by good young Kiwi players. It will be interesting to see the feedback from Aussies on this change after a year or two! On the plus side I think the quality of both the Men’s and Women’s SEABL competition will increase with the addition of some top Kiwi talent.
From a development perspective this change is great news for New Zealand basketball as it will allow the next tier of players to get some high level competition that they most likely wouldn’t get in New Zealand. The Men’s SEABL is similar to the NZ National Basketball League but has a longer season and the Women’s SEABL is much better competition than the local Womens Basketball Championship. The SEABL season overlaps both these competitions, meaning players will have to choose one or the other.
The WBC is already a pretty weak competition (most teams not having access to the numerous girls playing College basketball in the States) and if you take out some more top women the league will be weakened further.
I think the solution will have to be to change the focus of the league to a pure development league and encourage Associations have as many U17/19 girls in their teams as possible. Instead of a National League have a Northern and Southern conference and have a finals weekend.
The NZNBL will lose some its middle tier of players. The top players will probably make more money in New Zealand, but the borderline starters can likely make more money in the SEABL. There is not enough depth of players here to compensate for the potential loss of talent and the NBL product will unfortunately be worse than ever. Last season there were already some very average teams in the league and the talent gap could widen more with this rule change.
Should Basketball New Zealand reciprocate and allow Aussies to play in the NZ league? Firstly I think that would be a NBL board decision and not a Basketball New Zealand decision to make. Secondly, what Aussie players are we talking about? You won’t get any SEABL players as the seasons overlap, but you might get some ANBL players once their season is over (similar to the likes of Vukona playing after the Breakers season). Who will benefit from that? Teams with healthy budgets may go after some of those guys, like the Saints and Sharks. You might see CJ Bruton and Darryl Corletto collect another decent pay cheque after the Breakers season, playing as unrestricted players in the NBL. I think it would be in the best interest of New Zealand basketball not to allow Aussies the right to play in New Zealand as locals. Protect your turf! Even though the standard might decrease I think it would be better to give the roster spots to some young locals.
Overall though Kiwi players are the big winners in all of this!
New Zealand players will now have more employment opportunities. I think the quality of New Zealand competitions will decrease, but we will have better players available for the Tall Blacks/Breakers and Tall Ferns, players with more experience at a higher level. Surely that must be good for the game!
Would love to hear other people’s thoughts on the subject!