New equal pay women’s basketball league unveiled hailed as ‘game changer’

Veteran Tall Fern Micaela Cocks returns to New Zealand for the new Women's National League.

Phil Walter/Getty Images

Veteran Tall Fern Micaela Cocks returns to New Zealand for the new Women’s National League.

Kiwi basketball legend Megan Compain calls it a ‘game changer’, while Tall Ferns assistant coach Jody Cameron believes the revamped National Women’s Basketball League will have major fallout at the top sports level.

Basketball New Zealand unveiled its new women’s league on Wednesday, dubbed Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa. Tauihi is the Te Reo Māori word for “soar”, and organizers are very optimistic that he can live up to his moniker, with salaries regulated by the league and set “on par” with their male equivalent.

The league will consist of five regional teams who will play each other over eight weeks, with each team playing six home games and six away games. It will begin on June 29, with a series of finals scheduled for August 26 at Nelson’s Trafalgar Center.

The five teams are Northern (name to be announced), Whai (representing the center of the north), Tokomanawa Queens (center), Mainland Pouakai (upper south) and Southern Hoiho (lower south).

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Cameron, who will coach the Auckland-based North team, said Thing the new league provided a much-needed level of development for New Zealand’s top basketball players and welcomed the decision to offer player pay parity with the men’s league.

“Good things take time; it also takes good things for good things,” she said of a league that has been slow to prepare but looks ready to kick things off. whip to women’s football in New Zealand.

“Good people came to the front lines and saw this had to happen. They realized it was the right time and opportunity to launch this thing. It’s truly deserving in the women’s space and all the credit goes to the people who put in that hard work.

Tall Ferns coach Jody Cameron, centre, with Aik Ho and Guy Molloy, believes the new league will have major spin-offs.

Phil Walter/Getty Images

Tall Ferns coach Jody Cameron, centre, with Aik Ho and Guy Molloy, believes the new league will have major spin-offs.

Basketball NZ board member Megan Compain, a former Tall Fern and New Zealand’s only WNBA player, saw the league as a turning point for women’s football.

“This commitment and investment is groundbreaking in that it creates an aspirational pathway for Kiwi women to come home and play,” she said. “The fact that we pay our female athletes at the same level as the male leagues shows that we take this seriously.

“This is a game-changer…our female athletes will earn the kind of money that will allow them to play professionally and invest more in themselves to become better basketball players.”

Cameron said this can only make the game stronger and, in turn, benefit the Tall Ferns.

“It was probably a big boulder that was missing from the program. Coming athletes need this platform to gain experience and grounding in the semi-professional field. It’s time for basketball in this country to move into the women’s space, and it’s going to have massive payoffs.

Cameron’s North side have seen it before, confirming the trademark signing of the Tall Ferns’ most capped player in Micaela Cocks who will return to Auckland to manage the side. She’ll also have the new Ashleigh Kelman-Poto by her side, with the 2020 NBL Grand Finals MVP putting pen to paper.

Micaela Cocks will return from the Townsville Fire to boost Team North in the new Kiwi League.

Will Russell/Getty Images

Micaela Cocks will return from the Townsville Fire to boost Team North in the new Kiwi League.

“Michaela is a North Shore girl, and it’s important for her to reconnect with that,” Cameron said. “She also played in Auckland and Ashleigh in the west. We want to represent our region and our demography. We want young people to see what they can aspire to. These are two important elements of our campaign and our franchise.

Cameron expects the schedule and money available in the new league to encourage top New Zealand players to include home time in their schedules now.

“We have athletes who aspire to go to Europe or play in the WNBA, and that will support them well. They will be able to go home, see families, reconnect and give back. We are Kiwis, we love the house, but these girls also want to operate on the world stage.

Leagues general manager Huw Beynon said each team represented an entire region and expected to play at multiple venues. “It helps give young women something to aspire to; have professional basketball available in their backyard and a platform for players to achieve their hoop dreams.

Cocks, a 2008 Olympian, two-time Commonwealth Games medalist and three-time Australian WNBL champion, said she was delighted to be able to return home before the end of her career.

“It will be very special,” she said. “I always wanted to come home to play but before [daughter] Hazel was born, I was working full time and it was too hard. At this point in my career, I have more to give back to the grassroots. I want to not only be a role model for budding young athletes, but help build a competitive path that young girls want to be part of.

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