The advent of the Southern Huskies into the National Basketball League in New Zealand isn't a sign of Australian interests eventually forging alliances as feeder clubs with struggling franchises here to remain in the Kiwi competition.

That's the verdict of Taylor Corporation Hawks coach Zico Coronel after an NBL board disclosure early this month that the Tasmanian franchise had joined the Kiwi league campaign next year.

"I don't think any teams will combine [with the Huskies]," says Coronel when asked if the introduction of the Hobart-based franchise into the Sal's Pizza-sponsored NZNBL can become a catalyst for the likes of perennial strugglers such as the Otago Nuggets in Dunedin and the Waikato Pistons in Hamilton.

He suspects the reintroduction of franchises from Waikato and Otago will be in the pipeline, if not the following season.


In revealing it was a ground-breaking and innovative move, NBL board chairman Iain Potter said it was believed to be the first time in New Zealand sporting history an overseas team had joined a Kiwi-owned league.

"On many occasions we have seen New Zealand teams joining Australian leagues, but not the other way around," Potter had revealed, adding the introduction of the Southern Huskies as the ninth team would add some fizz to the NBL.

The surge in NZNBL viewership, he said, via free livestreaming across numerous digital platforms, including Māori Television, the TAB and the NZ league's website, will benefit even more with the addition of the Huskies, owing to the traditional transtasman rivalry fans from both nations enjoy from myriad codes.

Coronel, whose Hawks contract was extended for a second term in October, says the Southern Huskies will see their entry into the NZNBL as a great opportunity to prove themselves to fortify their platform to foot it on the Australian National Basketball League (ANBL).

Ironically the emergence of the Huskies is tied up with the 2016 drive for a return of an ANBL franchise to the Aussie state since the demise of the Hobart Devils in 1996.

The Huskies' bid for an ANBL licence hit a judder bar in October this year after the franchise's bid to acquire the Derwent Entertainment Centre was rejected.

The ANBL also believed the the potentially small TV audience and the cost of broadcasting games, as well as the lack of potential corporate sponsorship in the region, didn't help the Huskies' cause.

It consequently granted the ANBL licence for the 2019-20 season to the South East Melbourne Phoenix.


The Huskies switched tack, opening dialogue with the NZNBL last month. The Tassy franchise sees the national league here as an ideal platform for the ANBL and more challenging than other lower-tier state leagues in Australia.

Teams will play a home-and-away series in the NZNBL next year. Every Kiwi side will travel to Hobart to play on the Huskies' home courts at least once. The Tasmanians will face every NZNBL campaigner at least once, playing double-headers each time they travel to New Zealand.

"Road games" for the Kiwis will be redefined when they fasten their buckles on seven- to eight-hour flights to Hobart.

"We'll still play nine road games and nine home games so the numbers we'll play won't change but who we play will change slightly," says Coronel.

For the more cash-strapped NZNBL sides, it would have been music to the ears that the Huskies will help with travel costs to Tasmania.

Hawks coach Zico Coronel says it'll be interesting to see how the Southern Huskies' roster will look like next year. Photo/Photosport
Hawks coach Zico Coronel says it'll be interesting to see how the Southern Huskies' roster will look like next year. Photo/Photosport

So is it a carrot for the players here?

Coronel feels for most of them the routine of training and travelling remains.

"You look out the window on the way to the stadium and see some different spots so I don't know if it's a huge carrot for the players."

He says the flight will offer a different challenge but the New Zealand Breakers, plying their trade in the ANBL, have shown it can be done although they don't visit Hobart.

Coronel suspects most players in the NZNBL have tasted overseas stints, even at national age-group level, so there'll be a level of exposure.

He has some reservations about the eligibility rules which will test the Huskies' budget and how much they will restrain themselves in signing players.

The Huskies can have any Kiwi or Australian as an unrestricted player, unless they averaged more than 7.5 minutes a game in the ANBL in the preceding season.

Coronel says the time restriction will curtail the Huskies' desire to sign an ANBL-heavy squad but that still means quality Australian players have played in the NZNBL after missing out in the elite Aussie league.

"It'll be interesting to see the nature of their recruitment because they can still build a very stacked team of Australian players who we can't access, although they have assured our league that isn't their intention in building a future base for their ANBL ... hopefully, they are true to their word."

The Huskies' signing of big man Harry Froling, an Adelaide 36er, to prevent him heading off to Europe is a classic example.

United States imports in the mould of power forward Jalen Billups and point guard Tre Nicholls, and former Perth Wildcat player Mason Braggs, of Tasmania, are all on the roster to date.

"They are going to have deep team and not too many weak players so it'll be interesting to see how strong their starting line up will be because their bench will be very good."

Coronel says there's no doubt the Huskies, who can have a feeding frenzy on Kiwi talent, will hunger for success so it's imperative the NZNBL rules are concise and clear.

"You know, Australia looks down on New Zealand in the ANBL so if they [Huskies] come down to our league and not do well then it won't look too well for their ANBL aspirations so they'll be very motivated to do well."