Covid-19 forces schedule change

South East Melbourne Phoenix point guard Kyle Adnam looks set for a big NBL21. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Lance Jenkinson

Change seems to be the only constant when living in the middle of a pandemic.

So, it did not come as too much of a surprise for South East Melbourne Phoenix that its National Basketball League schedule would somehow be disrupted this season.

Last Sunday night was supposed to be the new-look Phoenix’s first game of the season in the first draft of fixtures, but a spike in recent Covid-19 cases has caused havoc for the schedule makers and forced a raft of fixtures changes.

The latest change, forcing a delay to the start of the Phoenix’s season, was brought about by the border restrictions imposed on Victoria and New South Wales.

The decision has been made to send both Victorian teams – South East Melbourne Phoenix and Melbourne United – to Adelaide to play their season openers.

There were no qualms about the arrangement from the Phoenix.

In fact, to the contrary, Phoenix CEO Tommy Greer was complimentary of the fast-acting nature of NBL officials.

“This represents a small change to our schedule,” Greer said.

“We applaud the NBL on again moving quickly to ensure a start to the season.”

Barring any late changes, South East Melbourne Phoenix’s season opener will now take place on Sunday at 3pm (AEDT) against Adelaide 36ers at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

The opening round of NBL games will be exclusively played in South Australia and Queensland.

Sydney-based teams Illawarra Hawks and Sydney Kings will face Cairns Taipans in Cairns this weekend.

It is hoped the Brisbane Bullets will be able to host a game, but that is dependent on the situation surrounding Covid in the Brisbane metropolitan area.

The good news is that it finally looks as though the long preseason will be over and NBL21 will get underway.

NBL commissioner Jeremy Loelinger expects a full season to be played, even if there are some headaches along the way.

“We are tremendously excited about NBL21 tipping off next Friday with five games scheduled over the first four days of the season and we can’t wait to play in front of as many fans as possible over the coming months,” he said.

“We will start the season in Cairns and Adelaide, but we will continue to monitor the situation in Brisbane in the hope we can also host a game there in the opening round.

“We will continue to stay flexible and be guided by the relevant state health authorities, but our intention is still for all teams to play 14 home games across the season when they are able to do so.

“As always, we remain grateful to our clubs, players, officials, partners and fans for their understanding and patience as we navigate these ongoing challenges and now look forward to the start of our 43rd consecutive season.”