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Regional Aust ripe for NBL expansion: Gaze
Rob Forsaith
12:48 AEST Mon Jan 28 2013

Australian basketball icon Andrew Gaze wants the NBL to look at the nation's regional centres when it comes time to expand the league.

Basketball Australia (BA) board member Gaze, a five-time Olympian and flag bearer at the 2000 Sydney Games, says the Boomers will benefit when BA feel confident enough to grow the national league.

While recognising the importance of expansion, Gaze is all too familiar with the NBL's dark days and aware of the need for sustainable growth.

With BA rejecting a bid for a second Melbourne team late last year, expansion is considered most likely in Brisbane.

Former Brisbane Broncos chief executive Bruno Cullen has joined a noted push for a revival of the Brisbane Bullets, who folded in 2008 when owner Eddy Groves handed back his licence to the NBL.

Gaze, a seven-time NBL most valuable player, believes having a Brisbane team in the league is "very, very important".

But the 47-year-old has a more long-term view of where the NBL should extend its borders to.

"Brisbane. Another team in Melbourne ... certainly Sydney you would expect could be able to sustain two teams," Gaze told AAP.

"But ... places like Newcastle, Geelong, Hobart (could field teams). Those areas that have had past experiences in the NBL.

"If the model is right and the formula is right, then I don't know why there can't be teams in those areas as well.

"There's certainly been enough evidence to say cities and towns of that size can support a team.

"Those towns have got tremendous passion and the regional teams usually get great exposure - look what happened in Cairns and Townsville."

Quite apart from BA's bottom line, Gaze noted expansion needed to happen for those young guns on the rise.

"We need to ensure that we've got enough domestic opportunities for those players," he said.

"So they can develop their skills and ... you get a bigger pool to draw on for international competitions."

BA chief executive Kristina Keneally noted expansion was "one of the most serious decisions" that confronted her organisation.

The former NSW premier made no apologies for taking a slow-and-steady approach to expansion.

"In the past we've seen clubs fail to survive. There's not a big margin there," Keneally said.

"I would rather say no to an expansion that might give us a year or two of excitement, but ultimately would disappoint fans and other clubs.

"Expansion is critical to the future of the NBL ... but it requires a team to have a sustainable financial model."

As such, there was no definite timetable for expansion.

As for the regional centres mentioned by Gaze, Keneally noted community support would be a major factor in any new NBL licences handed out by BA.

"In the past we've relied heavily on private ownership. There is no doubt private ownership is incredibly important," she said.

"But if you look at the clubs in our competition that do well off and on the court, they're the ones with a strong community and membership base."