Basketball: Tall Ferns hope for financial windfall from HPSNZ funding shake-up

By RNZ's Felicity Reid

After years of playing on the international stage without financial support, New Zealand's top women basketballers could be among the big winners in a shake-up of sports funding.

Funding for the Tall Ferns is at the top of Basketball New Zealand's wish list under High Performance Sport New Zealand's new funding model.

HPSNZ's 2024 strategy promises to cater more to sports that New Zealanders can relate to - including many sports that have previously fallen short of the organisation's funding criteria.

A new $27.6 million contestable ‘Aspirational Fund’ will be available between 2022-24, which could provide a lifeline for sports struggling in a COVID-19 environment.

Basketball has grown exponentially at a grassroots level in New Zealand, but has faced tough funding decisions for their elite teams this year.

The Tall Blacks and NZ 3x3 teams pulled out of Olympic qualifying tournaments, due to funding constraints, but Basketball New Zealand chief executive Iain Potter sees the Aspirational Fund as a way to make sure it doesn’t have to make that kind of call again.

Potter plans to be "at the front of the line" when the contestable fund opens and he will request support across their international programmes.

"I don't want to let my wild optimism get ahead of the realities, because we don't know yet what specifically we will receive, but we are really optimistic and buoyed by this change," Potter says.

"Obviously our Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns are right at the top of the [wish] list - the Tall Ferns, dare I say it, even more than the Tall Blacks, because we've got a lot of great athletes in the women's programme and we think they have enormous potential.

"We also have the 3x3 version of our game, which is now an Olympic sport, and we think those athletes and teams have a lot of potential in the Aspirational Fund."

Potter has often been in HPSNZ's ear about a lack of funding.

But Potter says it was always about being a voice for other sports - not just basketball - and he's "delighted" HPSNZ are taking notice.

"We've made representations over the years, and we've always been very careful to make representations about ourselves and other sports.

"It's about the principle of having sports that many, many, many young people play and aspire to be the very best they can be, and they aspire to represent their country. We'd like to think that over the years, we've been able to articulate that in a way that's made sense and helped High Performance Sport New Zealand move their position.

“Good on them for doing so and good on them for listening."