Otago Daily Times

Long build­up fi­nally over for Gold Rush

BASKETBALL Otago Gold Rush

- JEFF CHESHIRE Sports · Otago · National Basketball League (Australasien) · Waikato · Washington Wizards · Canterbury · Dunedin · New Zealand · National Basketball League

IT must have had one the long­est pre­sea­sons in sports his­tory.

The Otago Gold Rush started its cam­paign on Fe­bru­ary 28.

Some of its play­ers be­gan pre­par­ing for that in Septem­ber last year.

On Mon­day, it will fi­nally play its first game, when it faces the Har­bour Breeze in its women’s Na­tional Basketball League opener in Auck­land.

It is not that it in­tended to have a 269­day build­up.

The NBL’s orig­i­nal start date was go­ing to be April 30.

Then Covid­19 hit and, like ev­ery­thing else, the league was put on hold.

The dates changed sev­eral times for the resched­uled sea­son — which is now be­ing played over 18 days in Auck­land and be­gan on Thurs­day.

There must have been plenty of doubt as to whether it would go ahead at all.

How­ever, even with that un­cer­tainty the Gold Rush pushed through.

‘‘It’s been re­ally tough,’’ coach Gavin Briggs said.

‘‘It’s been on again, off again, we’ve come back training and it’s been put off be­cause of alert lev­els.

‘‘I think it shows the ea­ger­ness of the women to be in­volved in the league.

‘‘We were al­ways told there would be some­thing so I guess there was light at the end of the tun­nel.

‘‘You’ve just got to con­grat­u­late the women for stay­ing with it un­til we get to we are with the league kick­ing off.’’

Lo­gis­ti­cally, there were plenty of chal­lenges in­volved, al­though at this point it was just a case of find­ing a way around them.

The side would make three trips to and from Auck­land in less than two weeks.

It will fly up on game day, stay the

Har­bour Breeze, Mon­day Nov 23

Waikato Wiz­ards, Tues­day Nov 24

Cap­i­tal Swish, Satur­day Nov 28

Auck­land Dream, Sun­day Nov 29

Can­ter­bury Wild­cats, Thurs­day Dec 3

All games in Auck­land, tip­off at 7.30pm. Squad: Tara Clement, Fay Fualau, Hay­ley Gray, Sa­vanna Han­de­v­idt, Bron­wyn Kjestrup,

Han­nah Mate­haere, Olivia O’Neill, Zoe Richards, Mil­lie Simp­son, Te Araroa Sopoaga, Ge­or­gia Te Au, Kelly Thomp­son, Lisa Wall­but­ton.

night for a dou­ble­header and then re­turn early the next morn­ing so peo­ple could go to work.

It would have to ad­here to do­mes­tic travel pro­to­cols, such as wear­ing face masks on planes.

Get­ting leave from work it­self had proved chal­leng­ing, given the league had been resched­uled sev­eral times.

Some of its stu­dents had de­layed start­ing their sum­mer jobs.

Oth­ers were do­ing what­ever they had to in or­der to make it fit.

Bron­wyn Kjestrup, a doc­tor at Dunedin Hos­pi­tal, was work­ing night shifts the three nights be­fore the side left.

Given the late­ness of the sched­ule, it had been the only way she was able to get the dates off to travel with the team.

That was the at­ti­tude the team was tak­ing.

‘‘You just make this year work, there’s no walls you can’t climb over, you just make it hap­pen,’’ Briggs said.

‘‘ . . . it’s about get­ting on the floor and play­ing.

‘‘It’s about pro­mot­ing the women’s game through New Zealand.

‘‘It’s about what we can do as ladies in the Gold Rush to pro­mote women’s basketball.’’

All games will be tele­vised for the first time.

 ?? PHOTO: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON ?? To the hoop . . . Otago Gold Rush guard Mil­lie Simp­son takes a layup dur­ing the team’s training on Thurs­day night.
PHOTO: GRE­GOR RICHARD­SON To the hoop . . . Otago Gold Rush guard Mil­lie Simp­son takes a layup dur­ing the team’s training on Thurs­day night.

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