Owners of the ex-Southern Huskies have upped a shut down Tasmanian franchise and taken its old identity to Auckland to continue to play in the New Zealand NBL as early as this year.
The shock late return was only confirmed on Friday in which competition general manager Justin Nelson called a "stunning development".
The team that is missing its Tasmanian influence and players has been rebranded under the Auckland Huskies name, and will be one of two new clubs in New Zealand's largest city of 1.6 million to replace Super City Rangers.
"We've been speaking with the NZNBL since last year. We always intended to keep our franchise license alive and had started planning for a move in 2021," Huskies chief operation officer Mike Sutton said in a statement.
"We heard about the possibility of a competition in 2020 and we really liked the creative approach the league had taken during a difficult time. We saw an opportunity to speed up the process and give something back."
The Tasmanian side were the first ever from Australia to play in any New Zealand domestic sporting league.
It only lasted one season after club owners said their relationship with Basketball Tasmania was "untenable" after allegedly investing $1.7 million into the state basketball market in just 12 months.
But the owners exited both Launceston and Hobart that they would make arrangements to pay out remaining creditors excluding the state government that handed out a $200,000 midseason grant when the club had struggled to cope financially already.
The Huskies had first bid to be Tasmania's Australian NBL franchise before being rejected in favour of South East Melbourne Phoenix.
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That led the owners to sign a five-year licence with the New Zealand competition.
The newcomers finished fifth with nine wins and nine losses in the only year for the Tasmanians, missing out on the top-four finals series.
The touted 2020 season is set to be announced next week amid a backdrop of the flattening of the COVID-19 curve across the ditch.
The new-look Huskies have already appointed former New Zealand Breakers coach Kevin Braswell, who was sacked last year in the first of a three-year deal. No players have been named yet.
Sutton has leaned on the Tasmanian team's experiences to give the the Huskies' name a second crack and a chance to forge new ground where three past clubs in metropolitan Auckland since 1982 have failed to continue despite nine championships coming out of the same city.
"Every time we travelled to New Zealand we loved it," Sutton said on Friday.
"The hospitality and support shown was fantastic, we were welcomed with open arms and that really became the biggest factor when we started looking at relocating. We already felt like family.
"The NZNBL board and management have been so good to work with and we appreciate their support in helping us bring the Auckland Huskies to life. We can't wait to get started.
"We aim to have local staff, coaches, players and community partnerships.
"We also intend to quickly open up ownership opportunities for others to come and join us in owning and operating the Auckland Huskies."
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