Otago Daily Times

Long buildup finally over for Gold Rush

BASKETBALL Otago Gold Rush


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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