Ex PM's man Burton now top of Oceania hoops

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 18/05/2014

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He's played golf with the leader of the free world and was the right-hand man for the most powerful person in New Zealand. It's fair to say Burton Shipley is not intimidated by influence.

That's probably just as well because he's now back hanging with the movers and shakers - this time of the hoops world - after being elected president of international basketball's Oceania confederation.

Shipley, the husband of former New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, not only takes leadership of Fiba's most isolated and far-flung confederation (representing 21 nations), but with it he gets a seat at the top table of the game's ruling international body.

Anyone who knows this former Canterbury hoopster, who was good enough in his day to earn a national trial, will understand that Fiba has made a good choice at a vital juncture in the Oceania region.

From next year Oceania joins forces with the Asia zone for the purposes of qualifying routes into Fiba's global events, though the women's process is still to have final signoff.

This is important from a New Zealand perspective because it means Kiwi teams will no longer be roadblocked by Australia in qualifying events, with multiple spots for the joint Asia-Oceania super region. It will also mean much more significant international programmes.

"In Oceania you could have argued that all that really happened was Australia played New Zealand and worked out who was one, who was two and off we went.

"With the new structure we need to demonstrate a pathway all the way through."

Shipley has made a concerted rise through the administrative ranks once time allowed him to become more involved in his sport of passion.

He was chairman of the NBL between 1999 and 2010, was a Basketball NZ board member from 2003-05, its deputy chairman from 2011-14 and was chairman of the Breakers board between 2005-10.

"It's a huge opportunity and huge privilege, but it's also a chance to make a difference," he said.

"With three-on-three taking such a push, the athletic ability and mindset of Pacific Island people is ideally suited to it.

"But we have to get the traction on the ground.

"There are huge challenges too."

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