On Tuesday, August 28, after prolonged negotiations, ownership and management of the Hawks programme was transferred to Basketball Hawke's Bay.
For many years, I have been a key supporter of the Hawks programme, having completed two extended periods of ownership and many years of naming sponsorship.
I have continued my involvement because of my enjoyment of the sport and my determination to see the Hawks, an iconic local team, not only continue to participate, but achieve at the highest level. I have always maintained a strong commitment to, and belief in, HB players and coaching staff.
I have been delighted with the performance of the team, on and off the court, and have been very happy with the crowd attendances and the support of the incredible fan base. It was the combination of many elements which saw the 2012 team undefeated at home and winners of the regular season competition.
However, bearing the responsibility for maintaining a high-profile, intensive and financially challenging programme is a burden too great for one person to sustain.
Although I have enjoyed support from a small group of volunteers, the continuous workload and responsibility was proving too great. My decision was based solely around the need to spread the load and find a long-term management structure for the Hawks programme.
In recent years, I have recognised the improved strength and viability of BBHB: its structure, governance, admin offices and permanent staff. At the end of the 2012 season, I decided it was time to discuss passing on the Hawks programme.
When I initiated negotiations with BBHB, I knew that I was passing on an excellent, robust programme. An outstanding naming sponsor in the HBS Bank, an enviable group of associate sponsors, a debt-free regime, respected and successful local coaching staff, an excellent support team, strong administration, local players and a history of on court success.
Unfortunately, things have changed and Paul Henare has chosen to ply his trade in Southland. I am disappointed in his decision. Both I and Paul Trass had indicated that his contract would be renewed.
On the negative side:
I have struggled to understand some of the political decisions made by the NBL board. The board has been hell-bent on attracting Sky coverage, at any cost, to the detriment of the competition. In 2011, Sky covered a game each Wednesday night, dictating Auckland or Hamilton as the only venues. Such midweek games are usually not well-attended, place considerable pressure on the draw, often result in double-headers, and impact on players who work full-time.
The 2011 coverage (usually in front of a poor crowd) worked in the favour of the two fortunate host teams but did nothing for the fans or sponsors of the remaining competitors.
I don't believe that the weekly coverage lifted the profile of the competition or put any more bums on seats.
Teams had been led to believe that if 2011 was a success, Sky might look at extending its coverage. However, in 2012, despite a draw scheduling Wednesday games, Sky provided no weekly coverage, choosing to only film the final, again dictating Sunday night. This decision would have eliminated Paora Winitana from a second straight final, had the Hawks not fallen short.
I believe that administrators have a responsibility to ensure that the quality of their sporting competition is their top priority.
I have found being a volunteer administrator in a professional sporting environment increasingly non-rewarding.
- Rodney Earnshaw
Ex-Hawks franchise owner