The new Tauihi Women’s Basketball Professional League kicks off next week, with a promotional photo shoot, cash prizes and the chance for some of the best local talent to return home.
Tauihi could be translated as “to soar”, but for these players a new era has already begun.
For the first time in New Zealand, women will be paid the same as their male counterparts and 1News understands the top-earning players will receive between $13,000 and $16,000 for an eight-week season.
Tokomanawa Queens’ Jacinta Beckley says “having this opportunity to play in front of family and friends in our hometown is huge and being paid now on par with the men is super important, it’s been a long time.”
Basketball New Zealand CEO Dillon Boucher, who has been involved in the game for nearly 30 years, said creating this opportunity has not been easy, but it has been worth it.
“Men have had plenty of that for a long time, and I think now is the time for women to have that equal opportunity. Myself having three daughters, it shows them there’s an opportunity if they want to borrow a way like this.
With the money also comes a wealth of talent, both at home and abroad.
Each of the five teams has three imports, as well as big names from the domestic game.
Micaela Cocks played nearly 150 games for New Zealand, but never in a domestic league.
The 36-year-old had a decorated career in Australia, being a three-time WNBL champion and Finals MVP.
Earlier in her playing days, she didn’t have the opportunity to play in New Zealand.
“It provides another opportunity and another decision for athletes to make,” Cocks said.
“I would have loved to play here earlier and not have to build a life in Australia.”
Then there is the upcoming talent, Sharne Robati who is 21 and a representative of the age group. She also happens to be the niece of a leading lady Valerie Adams and NBA player Steven Adams.
Robati says they inspired her on and off the pitch, allowing her to be a strong woman and enjoy the game no matter what.
But of all the players, there is perhaps no one to whom that means more than Samara Gallager, who after making her debut for the Tall Ferns eight years ago was sidelined for five years in due to concussion issues.
It’s a surreal moment for the Southern Hoiho player, who never thought she would get this opportunity again.
“Honestly, it’s like a dream come true and I know it’s cliché to say, but when I was told a few years ago that I couldn’t play any contact sports anymore, my heart sank. broken because my sport was who I was,” she said.
“It’s going to be one of those moments that I look back on and I’ll be like we did it, and here we are.”
Little surprise, these players are indeed ready for take-off.