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Josh Duinker now an import 11 Apr 2017

A complex issue around Josh Duinker's heritage has seen him reclassified as an import for the Wellington Saints.

Article thanks to Liam Hyslop 

The Wellington Saints will play their first import of the season, but not by choice.

Australian-born forward Josh Duinker has played the first six games of the season under the naturalised local player category due to having a New Zealand passport, but has been reclassified as an import after Basketball New Zealand recently discovered a 2013 appearance for the Netherlands national team.

The New Zealand National Basketball League rules state any player who is unable to represent New Zealand must be classed as a "restricted" (import) player. Playing for the Netherlands means he could not play for the Tall Blacks, despite his Kiwi passport.

Josh Duinker in action for the Wellington Saints this season.

Josh Duinker in action for the Wellington Saints this season.


Muddying the waters further was that he played for the Nelson Giants as a Kiwi in the 2015 season, winning New Zealand Forward of the Year. 

Basketball New Zealand chief executive, and interim NBL chairman, Iain Potter said they were unaware Duinker had played for the Netherlands when clearing him to play as a local that season, putting it down to an oversight.

"That wasn't known at the time. It's not his fault, he wasn't asked. 

"At the time we noticed he was Australian-born, so got a clearance from Australia to assure us he'd never represented Australia. We didn't think to ask whether he had played for any other country."

Whoever was in charge of that clearance can't have been a Nelson Mail or Stuff reader. A 2014 story on Duinker signing for the Giants clearly stated he was a "Dutch national team centre".

Saints owner Nick Mills based both the signing of Duinker, and his planning for this season, on the assumption Duinker was a local player, so was understandably disappointed by the news.

"What it does for us is that Corey Webster has an out-clause to go to Europe, so he could go tomorrow, or if Shea Ili gets injured or goes to Europe, we'd need two import guards, which we have planned for and had ready to go, and Josh would then lose his position with the Saints."

"It affects Josh tremendously, he can no longer play in the Australian NBL as a local, or the New Zealand NBL as a local."

Potter said the issue first arose at the start of the season when a team questioned if a naturalised New Zealander would remain naturalised if they played for another national team.

"We looked into it and said no they can't still be a nautralised. That really alerted us not just to him [Duinker], but we've been far more pedantic this year to all player registrations so that we're very clear with every player."

What followed was a thorough process to determine if Duinker should be seen as a restricted player, Potter said.

The NZ Forward of the Year award would stand given he still is a Kiwi.

The other issue was if the Saints would have been punished for playing Duinker if they had also played two imports in the first six games this season - they didn't have any on their books, but in years gone by they would have.

"I can't make that decision unilaterally, but I'm prepared to form an opinion," Potter said. 

"In my opinion, it would be unfair to put that on a team while that issue was being investigated. You couldn't do a retrospective punishment when it did have some complexity in it."

Potter said Basketball New Zealand would look at whether the eligibility rules needed to be changed to make things simpler and that they would be more stringent in checking players for international appearances.

For Mills, it was another sour note which he has become wearily accustomed to in recent times.

"I'm finding it really disappointing. The way the NBL has been run is just not right, it's time for a major shakeup. The league is probably at the lowest standard it has ever been, there are two and a half good teams, that's it."

The Saints play the Southland Sharks at TSB Arena in Wellington on Thursday, in which Duinker will make his first appearance as an import.

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Southland Sharks 13 7 26
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