Canberra has been confirmed as one of two Australian bids to join the Southern Huskies in the New Zealand NBL for the 2020 season.
In an official league release, the NZ NBL are working through six official franchise bids to enter the league next year, with Franklin Basketball (South Auckland), Basketball Otago (Dunedin) joining Canberra as confirmed bids.
League General Manager Justin Nelson confirmed three of the six bids, yet remained tight lipped on the other three.
"We currently have six prospective franchises in play for a spot in the Sal's NBL next season, three of which have now publicly spoken about their desire to join this growing competition," said Nelson. "These include Franklin Basketball in South Auckland, Basketball Otago based in Dunedin, and an entity out of Canberra, Australia.
"We've been very transparent through this process, however we fully respect the commercial aspects of each entity and the confidentiality that is required. In each case it is up to them to announce their intentions publicly. First and foremost their ambition to join the competition is about them, not us."
While Nelson and the league would not reveal the other three bids, he did confirm that they include a further two teams from New Zealand's north island and one more from Australia.
Based on the league’s 2023 Growth Strategy, the optimum NZNBL competition will have between 10 and 12 teams, so the chance of increasing on the current nine teams in 2020 is likely.
The Tasmanian-based Southern Huskies are currently playing their debut season in the league, with Managing Director, Justin Hickey expressed optimism on success in the NZ NBL.
“The New Zealand NBL is a super strong competition and we are excited to be there.
“Aside from the level of quality basketball we are excited to be playing, the opportunities to showcase both Tasmania and New Zealand from a tourism perspective are tremendous,” Hickey added.
With the league embracing the Huskies who currently have a 2-4 record and sitting in sixth position, the chances that a second - if not a third - Australian team in the league next season are increasing.
Canberra basketball has a rich history of elite level basketball, with the city boasting one of the inaugural ten Australian NBL teams. The Canberra Cannons would win championships in 1983, 1984 and 1988, but would fold in 2003 due to financial issues. In 2009 the club was re-born under the Canberra Gunners banner, and played in the SEABL until the league was disbanded last year by Basketball Australia.
With the Canberra Gunners forced to play in the Waratah League in 2019 rather than the Victorian managed NBL1, it appears basketball in Canberra is taking aim at a return to national league prominence, just like the Huskies, albeit in the NZ NBL.
The Pick and Roll have learned that Basketball ACT have not had any involvement in the NZ NBL bid, meaning the Canberra Gunners will not be the team involved. While purists may like the idea of a return for the Canberra Cannons, it appears that the Canberra bid is not linked either.