THE Mount Gambier Pioneers Basketball Club’s bid to enter the New Zealand NBL competition in 2020 has taken an eleventh-hour blow.
Club president Tom Kosch yesterday revealed Basketball Australia would not clear the Pioneers to play in the international competition.
Mr Kosch said the Pioneers met all the requirements of the NZ NBL and was accepted by the league, but the bid was blocked by Australia’s national sporting body.
Once again that leaves the club in limbo, as was the case last year when the South East Australian Basketball League folded.
At that stage the Pioneers were left out in the cold by Basketball Australia and Basketball Victoria and refused entry into a new competition, which has been re-badged as the NBL1.
The majority of SEABL clubs were included, but the Pioneers were not and joined the Basketball SA Premier League for 2019, which allowed the club to continue to play basketball and create a women’s team.
The men currently lead the competition, while the women sit in equal second after a stellar debut season for both sides.
Mount Gambier placed a bid to join the New Zealand NBL to provide a valid level of competition for the men’s team.
It comes as the NZ NBL looks to expand its competition, which it hopes will include two sides from Australia.
Basketball Australia has granted the Southern Huskies entry out of Tasmania, but the Pioneers have since been knocked back.
It is a blow to the men’s team which had become one of the most successful SEABL clubs in the history of the league.
“The Pioneers Basketball Club board is extremely disappointed with the decision by BA not to grant Mount Gambier the opportunity to explore entry to the NZ NBL to its full potential,” Mr Kosch said.
“The opportunity to work with the NZ NBL and the Southern Huskies was an exciting one and one that would have provided some hope for a sustainable future and restored high-level competition in Mount Gambier.
“I know this disappointment will be shared by our members and community.”
The decision once again effectively leaves the club out in the cold.
“This unfortunately puts us in the same position we were back in August last year, where we had no understanding where we would land,” Mr Kosch said.
“The greater question is, where to from here?
“While we are committed to 2019 and our teams competing in the Adelaide Premier League, our focus is and has always been to do whatever we could to restore high-level men’s and women’s competition within Mount Gambier.
“We will do that by exploring every opportunity which might be possible with Basketball Victoria to enter the NBL1 in season 2020.
“We expect to receive an invitation to apply for that in August.”
Despite a pending invitation, Mr Kosch said there were no guarantees.
“There have been discussions along the way with Basketball Australia and Basketball Victoria, but there are no guarantees at this stage,” he said.
“We will continue to work with them.
“We are continuing conversations with Basketball SA – we are not closing the door on anything.
“We have to be open to all opportunities which are out there.”
For now it is again a matter of waiting for an invitation to the NBL1 competition, then a further delay until a decision is made, leaving the Pioneers players again unsure of their future.
Last year the similar scenario saw all-but two players seek other opportunities to continue their basketball careers.
However, the Pioneers regrouped and put together a team which has started to dominate the Premier League competition, along with creating the women’s program from scratch, which in itself has provided an unexpected level of competitiveness, now surely playoff bound.
Meanwhile Mr Kosch thanked those involved from Basketball NZ.
“I would like to thank general manager of the NZ NBL Justin Nelson and chief executive of Basketball NZ Iain Potter for their professionalism throughout the formal bid process,” he said.
“We wish them well with their endeavours in expanding what is already a high-level competition.
“The Pioneers advisory committee will meet early next week to provide recommendations to be considered by the Pioneers board in respect to the club’s future.”