Tasmania’s push for a team in the National Basketball League will see the newly-formed Southern Huskies playing more games in Launceston than their base in Hobart.
Since being created and widely promoted in a publicity campaign involving former state Premier David Bartlett, the franchise appears to have focused predominantly on the capital.
But Wednesday’s announcement that the team will begin playing in next season’s New Zealand league also revealed that it would stage five games at the Silverdome.
On the same day that it landed its annual Super League Netball fixture, the basketball news represents a significant coup for the Launceston venue which has also hosted international boxing and netball in recent times.
Huskies coach and Tasmanian basketball icon Anthony Stewart saw the NZ NBL as a significant stepping stone to joining the Australian NBL, which he said could not happen without statewide support.
“The NBL is looking to expand with a tenth team and there has been a lot of talk that the Huskies should be that team,” he said.
“All we can do is build on this product and hopefully the whole of Tasmania will get behind it because we deserve an NBL team.
“Tasmania deserves something of our own at the national level, whether it is footy, soccer or basketball. As yet, we haven’t been able to crack it but our communities deserve it and our kids deserve it.
“With my passion and background, I won’t leave any stone unturned. This is a great start towards achieving that and we’re calling on the people of the North and North-West to get behind it.”
Stewart, who is on a three-year contract as the club’s inaugural coach, said while based in Hobart for logistical reasons, the Huskies are keen to embrace the entire state and only the lack of a large enough venue prevented them playing a game on the coach’s native North-West Coast.
He understood the initial roster would involve five home games at the Silverdome and four at Derwent Entertainment Centre.
“Although it is based in Hobart, we’re working hard across Tasmania to make sure the whole of the state realises it’s a Tasmanian team,” Stewart said.
“We could have gone with nine games at the DEC but we always planned to play games across Tasmania and the Silverdome is where our investment is. The set-up there is very exciting for everyone.”
Stewart said he met with Basketball Tasmania chief executive Chris McCoy in Launceston on Monday and the state body is behind the venture.
He also felt the team can field a strong side and will rely on the Hobart Chargers and North-West Thunder to continue to develop Tasmanian talent.
“This is a Tasmanian team. We need our SEABL teams to continue to provide a pathway for our younger guys. The Huskies are really going to rely on more Tasmanians getting to a higher level. So while it might be a different league, the Chargers and Thunder will be a huge part of our development.
“The team we put on the floor will definitely be the best since the days of the Devils. Our starting five either are playing NBL or could be.”
That team would include NBA prospect Harry Froling, fellow Adelaide 36er Mason Bragg, of Burnie, reigning NBL and SEABL champion Craig Moller, former Perth Wildcat Mathiang Muo and potentially gun American import Jalen Billups.
Stewart said it had been a difficult decision to branch away from the Chargers who he said had been his family since his days in the NBL.
The Huskies, who already have 6000 foundation members, will become the first overseas team in a New Zealand owned league with the season beginning on April 11.
Created in 1982, the league consists of nine teams with others based in Auckland, Christchurch, Invercargill, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington.