The New Zealand National Basketball League (NZ NBL) announced today that the Manawatu Jets will return to play in the 2018 season.Chairman of the NZ NBL, Iain Potter, says the NZ NBL Board is pleased to welcome the Jets back after the team’s two year absence from the League, although the Jets will be required to meet caveats that have been put in place since they withdrew in 2015 citing financial issues. “The Manawatu region has a strong community basketball presence, at both a club and school level, so it’s brilliant to see the Jets return and add to the player pathway, giving opportunities for another cluster of New Zealand players at this level. “The team behind the Jets and their supporters should be congratulated for presenting a strong case to the NZ NBL Board, as this decision was not taken lightly. They showed us that they have a plan in place and strongly believe they can meet their financial and community obligations. Now, more than ever, we require teams to demonstrate sustainability and sound governance.” Mr Potter says these obligations included a commitment to work with Basketball Manawatu, Sport Manawatu and the local community. It also required an outline of how the team would work with financial supporters guaranteeing their backing for the 2018 season. Amongst those leaders involved in preparing that plan was Grant Smith, Mayor of Palmerston North, who was included in the Jets’ pitch to the NZ NBL Board. "Being a basketball town, it’s great that elite basketball is back at the Arena with the Jets competing in the 2018 national league. The hard work begins now to confirm sponsors, assemble a competitive team and ultimately gain home town support, but I’m confident the city and region will rise to the challenge," says Mayor Smith. Jets Board Member Dave Craig says he spent last night contacting those supporters who have worked hard to see the Jets return. “We’re absolutely thrilled with the decision the NBL has made to include the Jets into the 2018 season. Our team has worked tirelessly to rebuild the Jets' business model, focusing on sustainability so further pathways for our youth are secure for years to come. There were obstacles that at times we thought we’d never be able to navigate around, but with determination, a fantastic group of people that believed in us and our core value of ‘community’, we’ve succeeded in the first phase of the Jets’ rebuild – our approval for entry into the 2018 season. “Over the course of the last 24 months, we've rebuilt trust, paid off legacy debt and have put the franchise on a strong footing for the future. This was not easy, but we never gave up. Our core Board persevered so our Manawatu youth, our Junior Jets, have a basketball team to aspire to once again.” Mr Craig added that the Jets welcomed new requirements set by the NZ NBL for the team to be closely involved with their community and to provide financial evidence during the season, that they are operating soundly. “The NBL has made significant, positive changes to the entire league, which we welcome and will support in every way possible. Full transparency from our side to the NBL around our entire model is key to keeping not only the Jets in the League, but also a necessity from each team competing at New Zealand's top basketball level. We're fully vested with BBNZ's plan for the NBL and will do everything in our power to make sure we are always above bar. “When Arena 2 opens next year, you'll know the faces of the guys on our team as they will be engaged in our local community from the get-go. This is no longer something the franchise ‘wants to do,’ it's our commitment to our community that we are here and we will become role models for the Manawatu. A bit like the All Blacks, when those guys put on the singlet, it means something. And that something for the Jets is our strong commitment to our community, which is the franchises' core value,” says Mr Craig. One of those community groups that will benefit from the Jet’s community presence is Basketball Manawatu, and Chairperson Tess Petley says it’s a fantastic result for their members. “I think we've all missed Jets for the last two seasons and we're celebrating their return. There's no doubt that many of our members aspire to play elite level basketball. Having the Jets back not only opens up another roster for Kiwi players to compete at this elite level, but it also provides a tangible pathway locally that our young talent can aspire to by heading down to Arena 2 and supporting them courtside. “What's really exciting for our members is that the Jets are going to be working with our young players, and providing them with training and skill sessions to foster local talent. It's another exciting development when basketball participation is booming here in the Manawatu,” says Petley. Part of today’s announcements from the NZ NBL also included a new ‘Restricted Players’ rule that clearly states the eligibility criteria for players in each team. In the 2018 season, each team can have up to three ‘Restricted Players’. A Restricted Player is defined as not being able to represent New Zealand at the time the NZ NBL season commences. To add to this, each team must have three players aged 22 years or under. This replaces the previous eligibility rules, including the Naturalised Player rule (a person who has gained citizenship after their 16th birthday), and the Oceania Restricted Player (a player affiliated to a Federation in the FIBA Oceania region not including Australia or New Zealand).