It’s officially three months until the 2022 Sal’s NBL season tips off on 7th April and free agency is starting to heat up, with all 10 teams working hard behind the scenes to secure players for their respective rosters.
After opening last November, free agency has so far proven to be game of cat and mouse for many teams, with a number of high-profile local players considering multiple offers. In addition, teams have so far been unable to sign players into any of their import slots, as the league waits for further clarity on the current border situation.
But as we start to settle in after the Christmas/New Year holiday period, we are now seeing many of the NBL rosters begin to take shape.
The EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls and the Southland Sharks have been the two most active teams so far with four players locked in each, including the Bull’s prized signature of Jayden Bezzant who moves from the Property Brokers Manawatu Jets and Alonzo Burton re-committing to the Sharks after an injury cut short his 2021 season.
Rob Loe joins the newly-formed Auckland Tuatara as arguably the League’s biggest signing to date - the current NZ Breaker a welcome addition back into the NBL competition – while another Tall Black has confirmed his presence in the NBL this April too; Tai Wynyard returning to the Taranaki Steelformers Airs for another campaign.
Meanwhile the Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks moved quickly to re-sign Ethan Rusbatch, Derone Raukawa and Jordan Hunt, the latter being one of the League’s hottest prospects with as many as seven teams reaching out to him.
NBL General Manager, Huw Beynon says that while free agency had started off slowly in its first few weeks, the signings have been coming thick and fast ever since.
“It’s been great to see teams back involved in the free agency market and players finding both old homes and new homes,” says Beynon.
“Some big fish have gone as well, with Ethan Rusbatch back with the Hawks after losing in the Grand Finals in the past two seasons with them - so he’s got plenty to prove there.
And of course Rob Loe as the inaugural signing for the Tuatara is really exciting too; you don’t get much bigger than the 80-time Tall Black and current Breaker.”
Beynon says that this year has the potential to throw a few curveballs at teams, with Covid creating uncertainty around travel for both Kiwis and international players jetting into the country.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of trepidation right now with the border and how things are going to play out in terms of imports going forward and how teams can navigate those waters.
It’s certainly not an easy off-season to be a GM of one of these teams, but despite this we’ve seen some great moves so far – and what we are seeing is more money available than ever before for kiwi basketballers around our league and some good contracts going down for these guys; it’s exciting to see these big names putting pen to paper ahead of the 2022 Sal’s NBL season.”
One of the first players to re-sign for the 2022 season has been 25-year-old Taylor Britt, who connected back with his hometown Canterbury Rams for another season. Britt says that it’s “awesome” to be back in Canterbury as the Rams look to return to the NBL playoffs.
“The team is still coming together and hopefully there’ll be a few familiar faces back in the team with more announcements coming up soon,” says Britt.
“We really want to be back in the playoffs again next season, we had a few uncontrollable things happen last season with injuries and all that stuff that hindered the team - we couldn’t put our best foot forward all season, so yeah our goal is definitely to be back in the playoffs.”
Here’s a breakdown of all the signings to date:
HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS