NBL reveals 99 per cent of players have had first vaccination as new season looms
NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger has confirmed 99 per cent of the competition’s players are either fully vaccinated or have had their first dose of a Covid vaccination as the season nears its December tip-off.
The league confirmed a full home and away fixture for the upcoming season will begin on December 3 with competition newcomers Tasmania JackJumpers opening the season against the Adelaide 36ers in Hobart.
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League officials avoided making vaccinations mandatory but two NBL players, Travis Trice and Tai Webster, were both released from their contracts after both refused to be vaccinated.
Players have also been told they won’t be able to play in away games if they haven’t been jabbed and, with issues around border restrictions as well as different freedoms for those who are vaccinated, Loeliger said almost all of the players had contributed to doing their part to get the season under way.
“It’s fantastic that they’ve taken such a proactive response to being prepared for the season,” Loeliger said.
“We’ve ensured that we’ve delivered a really extensive education program for clubs and for players to ensure they are aware of the implications of not being vaccinated both from a health perspective but also from a practical perspective and what that could mean for crossing between state borders and international borders and what it could mean in terms of potentially not being permitted access to venues as well.
“It’s really pleasing that such a high proportion of our players have already taken those steps.”
As a result of the border restrictions in place, it means several teams are somewhat confined in terms of who they can play in the opening month of the season.
With the exception of the JackJumpers in Tasmania, teams from NSW and Victoria don’t face a team outside those states until early January, while teams from Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland all face each other in the opening month of the season.
The border constraints left Loeliger, who expects it will be in “January or February before things really truly open up again”, with no alternative other than to form mini-conferences for the teams in order to get the season up and running.
“We’ve had to be a little creative in terms of how we start the season,” Loeliger said.
“We’ve split our teams into geographic regions, but that won’t affect the full schedule in terms of who plays who and how many times.
“The expectation is that relatively early in the new year, as borders continue to open, that we go back to a more traditional home and away season.”
The New Zealand Breakers are yet to lock in a location for their home games, and Loeliger confirmed the club would be based in an Australian state for their pre-season but couldn’t offer any concrete answers as to where they would call home for the season.
“They (Breakers) will start their pre-season in Tasmania,” Loeliger said.
“They’ll be flying into Tasmania and getting ready for the competition down south.
“But we expect that once the regular season gets under way that they could be based somewhere else.
“It could be Tasmania, it may be somewhere else.”
RECORD NUMBERS FOR MELBOURNE PHOENIX
South East Melbourne’s 2021 NBL finals appearance has translated off the court with the Phoenix’s membership spiking to club-record numbers.
With Victoria’s seemingly endless lockdown set to be lifted, more than 3500 Phoenix fans have signed on as members in the NBL expansion club’s third season.
The Phoenix has also created a buzz in Melbourne’s Chinese community, with the signing of giant former NBA player Zhou Qi sparking global interest.
“It’s fantastic, the support we get in the south-east is very, very good, so, to have members jump on board – especially during a difficult time – is very encouraging,” former NBA man Ryan Broekhoff said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get them to games and have fans and be able to show our appreciation to them once the restrictions ease.”
Phoenix lost to cross-town rival Melbourne United in the first round of the finals last season but will be hoping the additions of Qi, import Xavier Munford and a more settled Broekhoff can help them take another step.
Originally published as NBL reveals 99 per cent of players have had first vaccination as new season looms
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