Wellington Saints

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Wellington Saints
Wellington Saints logo
LeagueNational Basketball League
HistoryWellington Saints
ArenaTSB Bank Arena
LocationWellington, New Zealand
Team coloursBlue & white
Main sponsorCigna New Zealand
CEOJordan Mills
PresidentNick Mills
General managerTina Wieczorek
Head coachPaul Henare
OwnershipNick Mills
Championships10 (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2003, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017)

The Wellington Saints are a New Zealand basketball team based in Wellington. The Saints compete in the National Basketball League (NBL) and play their home games at TSB Bank Arena. For sponsorship reasons, they are known as the Cigna Saints.

Team history[edit]


In 1968, Father Terry O'Neil suggested to a tight-knit Senior 'A-team' that they form a St. Pat's Old Boys' Basketball Club. The newly formed club proved healthy competition to the established Marist Club, which became a healthy rivalry and an exciting competition for fans. In 1979, plans were beginning to form in order to start a National Basketball League in New Zealand. The established Marist Club and the Old Boys' Club began to look for a Physical Education teacher to coach both teams. Well-known American Fred Sawaya was appointed, becoming the first imported basketball coach.[1]

Early years[edit]

By the time the National League started in 1981, a strong men's team was ready for action. The powerful new club was officially named "the Saints" after it was strengthened by amalgamation of four St. Pat's teams and 12 Southern Basketball Club teams. In 1982, the Exchequer Saints won the second division title with the help of American import Kenny McFadden, promoting them to the first division for the 1983 season. From there on, the Saints built a dynasty in the 1980s, collecting four championships (1984, 1985, 1987 & 1988) and were runners-up in 1983 and 1986. McFadden was named most outstanding guard in 1983 and 1984 after leading the league in scoring both years. McFadden's performance during the 1980s was acknowledged in 2010 by his No. 5 jersey becoming the first in the NBL to be retired.[2][3]


The 1990s held dwindling fortunes for the Saints. Following the conclusion of the 1996 season, both the Capital Power Saints and the Hutt Valley Lakers were struggling to survive. They amalgamated for the 1997 season and became TransAlta Wellington after gaining naming rights sponsorship from energy company TransAlta. However, fans of the team wanted a 'real' name and so, for the 1998 season, they became the TransAlta Wizards. Even this wasn't strong enough for the fans and so, for the 1999 season, they returned to the original identity and became the Wellington Saints.[4]

Return to powerhouse team[edit]

The Saints returned to title contenders in the early 2000s, as they finished runners-up in 2001 and won their fifth title in 2003. The Saints stumbled through the rest of the decade before becoming the powerhouse team in 2010 following the demise of the Auckland Stars. They went back-to-back in 2010 and 2011 behind the leadership of Lindsay Tait, and with the help of Corey Webster, the Saints garnered their eighth title in 2014. Between 2008 and 2016, the Saints were grand finalists every year except 2009 and 2013. The team won their ninth title in 2016 with the help of import Torrey Craig, Tai Wesley, Leon Henry, B. J. Anthony and Shea Ili.[5] In 2017, the Saints made National Basketball League history by becoming the first team to complete a perfect regular season, going 18–0.[6][7] They went on to defeat the Canterbury Rams in the semi-finals before coming out victorious in the grand final over the Southland Sharks. They finished the 2017 season as the undisputed best NBL team of all time, after they became the first team to complete an unbeaten season, capping off a perfect 20–0 campaign by beating Southland 108–75 in the NBL championship decider. The victory sealed a 10th championship for the Saints; their second in a row and fifth in eight years.[8][9] The Saints returned to the grand final in 2018 behind league MVP Shea Ili, but missed the chance at their first three-peat with a 98–96 loss to the Sharks.[10]

Australian NBL hopes[edit]

In February 2014, after many years of angling for a Wellington presence in the Australian National Basketball League, Saints' CEO Nick Mills appeared set to get his wish, with ANBL boss Fraser Neill viewing a capital-based team as a prime candidate for a proposed four-team expansion in the 2015–16 season. With the ANBL hoping to expand from eight to 16 teams within five years, Wellington, Brisbane, Tasmania, Canberra and a second Melbourne side were all in the mix for 2015–16.[11] Initial talks between Mills and Neill were positive but they struck a speed bump during a meeting in May 2014 after Mills' bid differed from the ANBL's preference.[12]

Current roster[edit]

Note: Flags indicate national team eligibility at FIBA sanctioned events. Players may hold other non-FIBA nationality not displayed.

Wellington Saints roster
Players Coaches
Pos. No. Nat. Name Ht.
F 2 Australia Kay, Nick (I) 2.06 m (6 ft 9 in)
G 3 Australia Dech, Sunday (I) 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)
6 New Zealand McClure, Finn
G/F 7 New Zealand Te Rangi, Reuben 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)
G 8 New Zealand Tait-Jones, Aniwaniwa 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in)
G/F 9 New Zealand Johnson, Theo 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)
F 11 New Zealand Ngatai, Jordan 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)
F 13 New Zealand Rissetto, Anzac 2.02 m (6 ft 8 in)
F/C 14 New Zealand Loe, Robert 2.11 m (6 ft 11 in)
F 15 New Zealand Henry, Leon (C) 2.00 m (6 ft 7 in)
G 21 New Zealand Cawthorn, James 1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)
G 33 New Zealand Walsh, Jacob 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
G 55 New Zealand Ili, Shea 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Development player
  • (IN) Inactive
  • (I) Import player
  • Injured Injured

Updated: 19 April 2019


  1. ^ Wellington Saints – Wo Are We
  2. ^ "Saints Legend Kenny McFadden becomes first NBL player with a retired jersey". Saints.co.nz. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013.
  3. ^ Hyslop, Liam (11 April 2019). "'Mr Wellington Saints' Kenny McFadden back as assistant coach". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 11 April 2019. Former Wellington Saints chief executive Justin Toebes, left, presents then assistant coach Kenny McFadden with the number five shirt, retired in his honour, in 2010.
  4. ^ "Locations – Exodus Saints". Wotzon.com. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013.
  6. ^ Wellington Saints complete perfect National Basketball League regular season
  7. ^ Wellington Saints' NBL season won't be perfect without another championship
  8. ^ Basketball: Wellington Saints complete perfect NBL season
  9. ^ Wellington Saints complete perfect season with NBL final win over Southland Sharks
  11. ^ ANBL dream now a step closer for Nick Mills
  12. ^ Contrary visions stall Wellington's ANBL talks

External links[edit]