Nick Mills eyes place for Saints in fresh ANBL

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:03 03/05/2013
Nick Mills
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ
BIG VISION: Wellington Saints owner Nick Mills wants to see a Wellington team in the ANBL.

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God loves a trier and Wellington Saints owner Nick Mills is just that.

Mills was in game mode yesterday, believing the door to his dream of putting a second New Zealand team in the Australian National Basketball League is ajar again.

No sooner had news broke that the ANBL's club owners were set to retake control of the league, Mills was doing his sums and plotting his next move.

He has long held the ambition of a Wellington-based franchise joining the NZ Breakers, but has had the door repeatedly slammed in his face by Basketball Australia.

With BA out of the picture and commercial operations back in the hands of clubs, Mills believes his proposal could finally get a fair hearing.

"They [BA] wanted a A$1 million bond, which is now gone," he said.

"They were concentrating on the benefits of the league for basketball in Australia rather than the true entertainment and commercial benefits of having two teams in New Zealand.

"It would obviously strengthen basketball in New Zealand having a team in Wellington.

"I don't know that Basketball Australia would have had that as an ambition.

"Now it will be about getting bums on seats, having the best television viewing so they can sell it to the broadcasters."

Mills is convinced a second New Zealand franchise would hold appeal on both sides of the Tasman.

"Another New Zealand team travelling in Australia would attract a lot of expat Kiwis to games over there," he said.

"In New Zealand, teams would fly in and play Thursday night in Auckland, then Friday or Saturday in Wellington and fly out, or vice versa.

"The whole thing makes perfect sense. It's a no brainer."

It's unclear whether that view is shared by Australia's clubs, but Mills believes the Melbourne Tigers are the main players in the new set up and plans to contact that club immediately.

Though the future the Townsville Crocs is uncertain, past talk of replacement or expansion has centred on the Brisbane and Melbourne markets.

And though Breakers general manager Richard Clarke didn't return calls last night, the three-time defending champions may not share enthusiasm for a local competitor.

None of which will deter Mills, a 30-year veteran administrator, who will dust off the proposal he took to BA two years ago.

"It will have to be updated and rearranged, but we believe we could put a deal to the new consortium that shows, A, we are strong enough, and B, we are going to be there long term.

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"We've had 30 years in the [New Zealand] league and 15 years we've made the grand final and seven times won the championship."

And Mills believes he could field a competitive team off the bat, listing Lindsay Tait, Benny Anthony, Nick Horvath, Casey Frank, Mark Dickel, Leon Henry and Marcell Jones as top Kiwi players not currently contracted in the ANBL.

"Throw in two imports and a couple of Australians we could push for the playoffs," he said.

After such a long time trying to break into the league, Mills envisions a team marketed along the lines of the side nobody wanted, and not necessarily under the Saints banner.

The team would probably not be mooted as the Saints, which could become a feeder to the club and an avenue for an academy.

- The Dominion Post

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