Basketball: New Zealand NBL set for further trans-Tasman expansion

The Tasmania-based Southern Huskies are amid their inaugural NBL season.
The Tasmania-based Southern Huskies are amid their inaugural NBL season. Photo credit: Photosport

The New Zealand Basketball League looks set to continue its expansion, with confirmation that a further six teams have entered bids to join the competition.

Two of those potential franchises come from across the Tasman, in the wake of the ground-breaking introduction of the Hobart-based Southern Huskies this season - the first Australian team to join a New Zealand sports league.

Of the remaining hopefuls, three are from the North Island and one from the South Island.

NBL CEO Justin Nelson said the nine-team league would ideally be comprised of 10-12 sides, pending the quality of those applications.

"It's not to say that all six will make it through," Nelson told Newshub. "But at this stage, it's very promising that we've got a lot of interest in joining the league."

One of those is likely to have come from the Otago Nuggets, who have publicly indicated they're eager to return to the fold.

The NBL is now working on establishing a "competitive balance system" that details the financial requirements for prospective new clubs, which Nelson deems critical to their on-going growth.

"We want sustainability. We want these teams to be there for the long term, so their fans get rusted on and connected to them, and go week-in, week-out through the season and enjoy watching their teams play."

Basketball has experienced a huge surge in popularity in New Zealand over recent years, to the point where it's now officially the second most-played sport in the country.

That's been reflected in the number of viewers tuning in to the unprecedented levels of coverage now available, courtesy of the NBL's new livestream broadcasting deal with Stuff, as well as free-to-air on Prime TV.

According to Nelson, they've doubled their previous record for viewers through the first two weeks of the season, without yet taking into account TV figures, which has opened plenty of doors financially.

"We've been really encouraged by the amount of people who are watching the league already and it's a nice position to be in, when there's some commercial partners out there knocking on our door.

"They're conversations that will be taking place throughout the season with a very keen eye to the future."