Waikato Pistons out of 2012 national league

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 27/10/2011
Waikato Pistons star Alex Pledger
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
WITHOUT A TEAM: Waikato Pistons star Alex Pledger will now be hot property for other NBL franchises.

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Perennial title contenders Waikato Pistons will not contest the 2012 National Basketball League title.

The 2008 and 2009 champions won't field a team next season after the Waikato Basketball Council decided this week to make community basketball its top priority.

The Waikato Times understands the council has come under pressure from families who struggle to cover expenses for their children in Waikato age-group teams, while hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding are directed towards the Pistons.

"The board unanimously confirmed the resolution to focus on our stakeholder endorsed strategic plan, with community basketball the number one priority," Waikato Basketball Council chairwoman Maggie Christian said in a statement.

"With all of our efforts focused on the training and development of our local coaches, administrators and players, the provision of competitive local leagues and a real pathway of excellence, we have regretfully decided not to field a Pistons team for the 2012 NBL season".

Christian said the WBC had "been working on ways to best implement our strategic plan" and constantly consulted stakeholders "which is everybody involved in basketball in the Waikato".

"We've gone to the stakeholders and said `tell us what you want us to focus on'."

Waikato Basketball chief executive and Pistons boss John Davey said he was supportive of the decision.

"The board need to look at their strategic plan and organise their priorities for that and I don't disagree with their priorities," Davey said.

The Pistons were surprisingly beaten by Hawke's Bay in this season's NBL semifinals after finishing second in the regular season. They featured NZ Breakers stars Thomas Abercrombie, Alex Pledger and BJ Anthony, along with top US imports Jason Crowe and Jerry Smith.

It's likely there will now be a rush among other NBL franchises to secure the services of most of the 2011 Pistons squad.

The Pistons were beaten finalists in 2010 after winning the two previous crowns.

"In tough economic times you can't do everything," Davey said.

"Funding is difficult in any sport – you never have enough."

Davey said the yearly budget for a New Zealand NBL franchise is between $250,000 to $500,000 "depending on which franchise you're with. It may be surprising to some that we're near the lower end of that."

Davey was hopeful that the situation may change for 2013.

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"It's not unusual for a team to take a year out of the NBL and come back. Canterbury and North Harbour did so this year, Auckland the year before that, Taranaki have taken time out before."

Christian admitted that not having a flagship side in the national competition could be seen as detrimental by some.

"I'm sure there is a downside, we had to take into account, but we think that is the best decision at this time."

- Fairfax Media

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