The launch of a brand new women’s professional basketball league this winter will showcase world class athletes across Aotearoa. Five new teams will take the court from June 29, with the Mainland Pouākai representing the region from Tāhimana Tasman to Waitaha Canterbury.
According to Mainland Pouākai General Manager Caleb Harrison, the announcement marks a “massive milestone” in New Zealand sporting history.
“It’s a game-changer,” he adds. “Tauihi Women’s Basketball Aotearoa gives the best New Zealand players the opportunity to play on New Zealand soil whereas previously to be a professional player meant playing off-shore. This will make a significant impact for the development of our already established Tall Fern players and aspiring Tall Ferns.
As part of the Mainland Pouākai, Rangiora’s Mary Goulding returns from several years of globetrotting through the US college system and European competition. Goulding can now represent her home region and advance her development in between seasons with Bendigo in the Australian WNBL.
Likewise, Lauryn Hippolite has relied on playing time across the Tasman; playing for the Melbourne Boomers in the Australian WNBL after coming off her debut for the Tall Ferns at the recent FIBA Asia Cup. She represents the geographic range of Mainland Pouākai talent, given her Nelson upbringing and Waimea College credentials.
Harrison is positive about the far-reaching effect of the new league on participation at the community level.
“Seeing this new pathway to high performance and professional sport in their own backyard will also change the way that young women see school, club and representative opportunities. It’s clearly all within their reach.”
The new league’s establishment, in the Mainland region and beyond, improves the resources that each franchise will have, to support more opportunities at the grass roots level.
“Coaching and mentoring in schools is an important part of the Mainland Pouākai community philosophy,” says Harrison. “Our community programmes such as Pouākai Girls Got Game will play a huge role in tamariki and rangatahi being coached by aspirational role models. Tall Fern Tessa Boagni, along with Goulding, will introduce the Pouākai to young people from the Mainland region as coaches for the upcoming Pouākai Camp in the April school holidays.
Together Canterbury Rams and Mainland Pouākai will also actively support the development of community coaches and players at all levels through their regional resource hub. The Pouākai will have a Christchurch training base and a satellite training hub in Nelson for Tasman-based players led by Assistant Coach Kat Jones. Jones will also support Mike Fitchett in leading the Mainland Eagles Academy Top of the South programme.
Although some Mainland Pouākai home games will be played in Christchurch, a key part of the franchise commitment is to take games into the communities. Multiple venues will feature throughout the home season including the Trafalgar Centre in Nelson on the 9th July. The season tips off at Cowles Stadium on Wednesday June 29.
“This league will empower women across New Zealand to embrace and promote the game for future generations,” says Harrison.
“It’s a special moment, bringing many of these athletes in front of a home crowd for the first time in their professional career.”
Mainland Pouākai – Key Signings
Tully Bevilaqua brings both professional and international experience to the upper south region. Tully has three years’ experience as a WNBA assistant coach for the Indiana Fever, and both WNBA and Olympic experience as a player. Through this experience Tully will be able to provide the necessary expertise to best support our players to the next level. The Mainland region will greatly benefit with her leadership for the women’s and girls’ game, including coach and player development. Tully will be actively involved in the community including leading Mainland Eagles Academy sessions and regular coach development clinics.
Boagni is a name well known across Waitaha Canterbury as a longtime member of both the Wildcats and Tall Ferns. She excelled as a multisporter at Christchurch Girls High School, earning MVP honours at National Secondary Championships for both basketball and volleyball. During this time, Boagni was coached by Canterbury basketball coaching legend Te Haere Stirling where she led CGHS to the Secondary School National Championship Title in 2013. She attended California State University (CSUN). As a senior, Boagni was named Big West Conference Tournament MVP, averaging 19.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. She is looking forward to returning home and remaining active in the community through the Pouākai coaching and mentoring programmes.
The former Rangiora High School student and Mainland Eagles Academy alum took her talents overseas upon securing scholarship to Fordham University in 2016. She finished her collegiate career as team captain, leading Fordham to the prestigious Atlantic 10 Championship title and named to the Atlantic 10 First Team All-Conference and AllAcademic teams. After university in the US, Goulding played for IK Eos Lund in the top Swedish professional league and has played the past two seasons for the Bendigo Spirit in the Australian WNBL. She played NBL1 in her WNBL offseasons, averaging 23.8 points and 13.5 rebounds for the East Perth Eagles. The 6’0 forward also enjoyed a successful campaign with the Tall Ferns at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, averaging 8.6 points and 4.4 rebounds. The newly formed Tauihi Women’s Basketball Aotearoa allows Goulding to accelerate her professional development in her home region between Australian NBL seasons.
Originally from Nelson, Lauryn attended Waimea and Middleton Grange Schools before heading to Hawaii Pacific University on a sports scholarship. She is well known in the community for her time with the Mainland Eagles Academy and contributions to the Canterbury Wildcats, which served as a springboard for her opportunities in Australia’s WNBL. Most recently, Hippolite has been playing for the WNBL’s Melbourne Boomers and made her debut for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA Asia Cup. She is currently studying at Lincoln University. Home fans will welcome the familiar face and Hippolite’s world class experience.
Ella Fotu attended Rangitoto College before attending Boise State and Hawaii Pacific on US College scholarships. Ella debuted for the Tall Ferns in 2019 against Japan and played at the 2019 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Auckland. Most recently Ella played for the 3×3 Tall Ferns who qualified for the 2022 FIBA Wold Cup. Ella is currently a firefighter.
Mid Canterbury’s Tessa Morrison is part of the Basketball New Zealand team as Community Lead – Women and Girls. She is advancing opportunities in the sport throughout Aotearoa and a champion for change at the grass roots level. Morrison is well known across the Mainland region for her time with the Mainland Eagles Academy, Canterbury Wildcats and Wildcats 3×3 team in the Schick Cup. She earned Mid Canterbury and Canterbury representative honours, after competing for her two high schools, Ashburton College and Christchurch Girls’ High. Morrison attracted the attention of overseas programmes, awarded a scholarship to play basketball for Southern New Hampshire University in the US.
Elia originally from New Plymouth attending New Plymouth Girls High School. She spent 4 years playing US College for Crowder College and Central Arkansas University. During her 2 years at Central Arkansas, Terai averaged 5.8 points per game & 4.6 rebounds per game. Terai has represented the Cook Islands at the Pacific Games and has been a member of past Canterbury Wildcats teams.
Nisbet attended Burnside High School before attending Georgia Southern University, where she was most recently the captain during her senior season. She has been part of both Canterbury Representative teams and the Mainland Eagles Academy. The newly formed league allows players like Nisbet to come home and play in New Zealand while developing and pursuing other offshore leagues and national team opportunities in the future.
Lauren Whittaker (Development Player)
Whittaker is currently in Year 12 at St Andrews College and has played for both North Canterbury and Canterbury representative teams. She is currently part of the U16 New Zealand national squad preparing for the Asia Cup and potentially the U17 FIBA World Cup (pending qualification). Lauren is also part of the Mainland Eagles Academy. The Mainland Pouākai is committed to support the development of players like Lauren who have aspirations for playing at the collegiate, national and professional level in the future.
Maia Jones (Development Player)
The Year 13 Waimea College student is presently part of the U16 New Zealand national squad preparing for the Asia Cup and potentially the U17 FIBA World Cup (pending qualification). Jones is part of the Mainland Eagles Academy in the top of the south, led by Mike Fitchett and supported by Kat Jones, who is also the Pouākai assistant coach. As a regional team, the Mainland Pouākai creates pathways for players across the entire upper South Island region, providing training hubs that help players outside of Christchurch access excellent opportunities to advance and develop.
*3 import players will be announced at a later date along with other squad members
2022 – Season opener:
Mainland Pouākai v Southern Hoiho
June 29 2022
2022 – Double Header @ Christchurch Arena:
Mainland Pouākai v Northern Kahu
Canterbury Rams v Nelson Giants
July 23 2022
About Mainland Pouākai
Our vision is for the Mainland Pouākai to support the Women’s National Basketball League by being a world class women’s professional franchise that is a game changer in our region, championing equality of outcomes and excellence in women’s professional basketball.
The Mainland is considered the most common label for the combined region of Canterbury, Tasman and the West Coast. The Pouākai (Haast Eagle) was indigenous to the Mainland Takiwa and and symbolised in song and narrative. The Pouākai was said to have been one of the most magnificent birds to have existed in Aotearoa. Given the Pouākai’s reverence and mana within the Mainland Takiwa, we couldn’t think of a better representation to symbolise the franchise’s values and principles as part of Tauihi Women’s Basketball Aotearoa.
Mainland Pouākai – Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa
- Facebook: @MainlandPouakai
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About Tauihi Women’s Basketball Aotearoa
The name of the new professional league for New Zealand women’s basketball is based on the concept of taking women’s basketball in Aotearoa to the next level.
Tauihi: To soar
Flying high – teammates and whānau their wings.
Building their legend by showcasing their creativity, tenacity and power for all to see. Shining, joyful and relatable examples to the next generation of where basketball can take you.
Sparking dreams and instilling belief in girls that the boundaries they face exist only to be
A source of permission and courage to think bigger and aim higher – on and off the court.