IN a new era for women’s basketball in New Zealand, the 2022 Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa tips off tonight. There are five teams competing for the prize this season, with a seven-round competition followed by a knockout finals series over two days. The top four sides will play finals, meaning the teams just have to avoid finishing on the bottom of the ladder and then bring their best on the final weekend of August 26-27.
Northern Kahu is one of the big contenders in this year’s Tauihi Basketball Aoteroa competition, with a stack of top-end talent sure to test any opposition defence. Micaela Cocks is a proven performer at Australian WNBL level, as well as New Zealand NZNBL level, and is the most experienced Tall Fern in history. Another one with ANBL experience is Tahlia Tupaea and the pair will form a formidable combination. Never mind consistent local talent with Krystal Leger-Walker and Ashleigh Kelman-Poto who have tons of potential in their own rights. Kahu could well be the team to beat, especially if the full-strength lineup can remain steady throughout the entire season.
Mid-North Whai also has some talent coming through, perhaps not as much top-end depth as Kahu, but still with the deadly Esra McGoldrick in the starting five. The 3X3 Tall Ferns Star has proven herself in this league before, and will team up with Tiarna Clarke who has so much potential. The Whai have no shortage in youth, with Sharne Robati remarkably still 21, but having a big impact on the international stage. Though perhaps not as strong defensively as Kahu, Whai has scoring potential in spades, and if former WNBA player Nikki Greene can impact at both ends, then watch out.
Tokomanawa Queens have a big question mark compared to both the Whai and Kahu, with a lot of X-factor but also unknown. One big recruit will be known in netball circles, with Central Pulse talent Parris Mason crossing back to basketball having been impressive at junior level for the Tall Ferns. The Queens have picked up a couple of unique imports for the season, with Argentinian guard Florencia Chagas having played at junior international level and was deemed good enough for the WNBA Draft. She will be joined by Swedish international Elin Gustavsson. The big name coming into the side is Stella Beck, with the Tall Ferns veteran suiting up for the Queens with fellow New Zealand international Jacinta Beckley.
Mainland Pouakai will be a major contender in this year’s championship with a quartet of Tall Ferns leading the way. Mary Goulding and Lauryn Hippolite are two names that jump off the page, with the pair set to be huge inclusions for the team at this level, having competed strongly at ANBL the last few years. Gabriella Fotu and Tessa Boagni are other Tall Ferns on the list, so all up they match the Kahu for total New Zealand Internationals. Rising star Maia Jones is one earmarked as a high potential player, and though still in school, has already been capped at Under 17s international level this year. Tessa Morrison – who is returning from a serious knee injury – will be a key player on and off the court for Pouakai.
Southern Hoihi are not as experienced as some of the other sides in the competition, with a mix of ages across their list, but still wield some serious youth in the team. Zoe Richards is one name to keep an eye on in season 2022 alongside rising talent Olivia O’Neill who can both do a lot of damage. Samara Gallaher will add the defensive pressure at the other end of the court, with Shelby Cheslek, one of the American imports for the Hoiho, also a renowned shot-blocker. Jillian Harmon is one with experience all around the world to settle the youngsters, with the question mark being if the team can outscore others, but should be up for a scrap.