Strap yourself in, there’s even more Kiwi basketball coming your way next year.
The Sal’s NBL will not only add an 11th team in the Whai, but elite level men’s basketball across New Zealand will receive another boost with the competition launching the Sky Broadband Rapid League in 2024, adding a further 110 games to the 115 games already on the busy Sal’s NBL schedule between March and July.
Following hot on the heels of its successful launch in the 2023 G.J. Gardner Homes Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa season, the Sky Broadband Rapid League will now enter the men’s side of the game for the first time.
All 11 NBL teams have already started recruiting players following the opening of Free Agency on November 20th, and their plans will also need to include the rostering of teams in this offering as Rapid League Rosters are made up of all players not included in the starting line ups of their NBL counterparts.
The Rapid League, an innovative concept initially proposed by Sky Sport commentator Justin Nelson, hit the court earlier this year and immediately delivered positives to the Tauihi competition, including increased player development, more television coverage, and additional commercial revenue opportunities for the league and teams across the competition.
After feedback from fans, players and viewers, the Rapid League rules have been tweaked, most notably moving to exclude international players, making the shortened format of the game for Kiwi players only.
“As it was a brand new offering in the basketball landscape the Leagues team didn’t want to weigh down the competition with rules as we wanted to see how the Tauihi teams responded,” said Nelson, adding “The overwhelming response post-season from all parties was to only allow Kiwis to play Rapid League to give them an even greater chance to develop and show their skills, which is one of the key tenents of the concept.”
“So that’s what we’ve done. Fans of both the Sal’s NBL and G.J. Gardner Homes Tauihi are going to see more of the players so many of them love watching, the local players they went to school with, played junior basketball against, or grew up in the same town as. That’s what the fans want and that is what is best for the development of the game in New Zealand.”
Sky Broadband Rapid League games will be played immediately prior to Sal’s NBL games, tipping off exactly one hour prior to the later games, with the four-by-four-minute-quarter Rapid League featuring up to seven players named on the bench for each team in the long version of the games that day. As with the G.J. Gardner Homes Tauihi, starters are not eligible to take part in Sky Broadband Rapid League games.
The unique format paid big dividends in Tauihi earlier this year where a raft of rising stars stepped up to the big time and accelerated their development, while fans and viewers were also treated to more basketball both in stadiums and across broadcast.
No less than nine players from the second season of the G.J. Gardner Homes Tauihi pro women’s league are now playing in the Australian women’s league (WNBL), while the likes of 15-year-old Pahlyss Hokianga (Whai) is more recognised after claiming the MVP award in the Sky Broadband Rapid League. It’s anticipated similar opportunities await young men up and down the country who have been itching to show their skillsets on a bigger stage than has been available to them.
League marketing and media manager Casey Frank, who also doubles as a commentator for Sky Sport, believes NBL teams will quickly adapt to the new format and fans will get to see a plethora of young players making their mark, as well as enjoy more local hoops on game day.
“This is a great opportunity to develop talent across the country. In recent years it has become apparent that there are more emerging players in the country then our professional league was able to properly develop, and the Sky Broadband Rapid League proved to be a great avenue for this untapped potential in the women’s game. With 11 teams in the Sal’s NBL this year, the opportunity for developing players across New Zealand is huge.”
The introduction of the Sky Broadband Rapid League will see Sky Sport broadcast commitment in 2024 extend to a whopping 289 games across both the men’s and women’s competitions, with more than 450 hours of NBL, Tauihi and Rapid League action set to entertain fans.
“When I first played in the New Zealand NBL basketball featured on television once a week, and it was sometimes tape delayed from the night before. There has never been a better time to be involved in the game of basketball in New Zealand as it continues to garner more and more of the public’s attention. The partnership with Sky continues to offer opportunities for teams, players and commercial partners that were unheard of in years past and 2024 is shaping up to be yet another banner year.”