COVID-19 cases cost Melbourne NBL season-opener as league revises schedule

The COVID-19 cases in Victoria and New South Wales have cost Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix their season-opener this Sunday with the NBL forced to push back its start date to January 15.

The NBL has had to revise its opening two rounds with the Taipans and Brian Goorjian's Hawks to open the season in Cairns followed by the Wildcats hosting Melbourne United in Perth. The United versus Phoenix game will be played on January 31 and remain at Bendigo Stadium, United's second Bendigo home game will be moved to later in the season.

The 36ers and Phoenix will play in Adelaide on January 16, and the Bullets and Sydney Kings will play the same day in Brisbane while the Taipans and Hawks will play a second game in Cairns on January 17 and Perth will host New Zealand.

The league will turn attention to the next three rounds before the Melbourne hub and they will pause to see if any games can be played in Victoria or NSW.

NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said the league was still confident it would be able to host its NBL Cup competition in a Melbourne hub in February after the Australian Open.

He said the challenge before then was to navigate the travel restrictions placed on certain states and their individual COVID-19 protocols.

United (Cairns), the Kings, Hawks (both Albury), Phoenix and Breakers (both Hobart) are in temporary training locations and Loeliger said those moves were allowing the teams to keep travelling to games in other states.

"We always knew we would have to respond to the challenges of COVID-19 and the travel restrictions that would be imposed by our various state governments from time to time," Loeliger said.

"This is why we proceeded on the basis of a rolling schedule, which will hopefully minimise the inconvenience for our teams and our fans.

"We will wait and see how things progress around the country over the coming weeks before we finalise the schedule for the following three rounds leading into the NBL Cup and the Melbourne NBL hub.

"These changes will give our Australian-based clubs the best opportunity to each play 14 home games across the season and be part of the NBL Cup in Melbourne starting on February 20, the biggest event we have ever staged, with all nine teams playing 36 games across four weeks.

"We will continue to work closely with the clubs and be guided by the advice of the relevant health authorities and the safety of our players, staff, officials and the fans will be our number one priority."

NBL owner Larry Kestelman thanked players, officials and fans for their patience and said he still planned for bigger crowds around the league.

"We know everyone can’t wait for the new season to start and we look forward to seeing as many fans as possible live at venues over the coming months," Kestelman said.

Revised NBL schedule for Round 1 and 2

ROUND 1 (times AEDT)

Friday January 15
Cairns Taipans v Hawks, Cairns Pop-Up Arena, 7.30pm
Perth Wildcats v Melbourne United, RAC Arena, 9.30pm

Saturday January 16
Adelaide 36ers v South East Melbourne Phoenix, Adelaide Entertainment Centre, 5.30pm
Brisbane Bullets v Sydney Kings, Nissan Arena, 8pm

Sunday January 17
Cairns Taipans v The Hawks, Cairns Pop-Up Arena, 3pm
Perth Wildcats v New Zealand Breakers, RAC Arena, 5pm


Wednesday January 20
Adelaide 36ers v New Zealand Breakers, Adelaide Entertainment Centre, 7.30pm

Thursday January 21
Brisbane Bullets v Melbourne United, Nissan Arena, 7.30pm

Friday January 22
Adelaide 36ers v South East Melbourne Phoenix, Adelaide Entertainment Centre, 7.30pm

Saturday January 23
Cairns Taipans v Sydney Kings, Cairns Pop-Up Arena, 8pm

Sunday January 24
New Zealand Breakers v Perth Wildcats, RAC Arena, 5pm

Monday January 25
Cairns Taipans v South East Melbourne Phoenix, Cairns Pop-Up Arena, 7.30pm

Tuesday January 26
Brisbane Bullets v The Hawks, Nissan Arena, 3pm

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