The Illawarra Hawks will reignite professional basketball in the capital with an Australia Day blockbuster after finalising a deal to end Canberra's 10-year wait for NBL action.
Fairfax Media can reveal the Hawks and the ACT government are set to announce details of a one-off deal and both parties hope it will be the start of a GWS Giants-style relationship.
The Hawks are expected to play against the Cairns Taipans at the AIS Arena on January 26 in a free-to-air television match, with the move to be made official next week. News of the the Illawarra-Canberra partnership emerged on the same day the capital's A-League bid joined forces with the Wollongong Wolves to strengthen the campaign for a licence in the soccer competition.
Both basketball and soccer and trying to win fans in the city given there is a lack of elite-men's summer sports in Canberra. The Hawks view Canberra as an area of potential growth and have been working with the government for years to try to find an appropriate partnership.
A sold-out pre-season game at Tuggeranong two months ago and the growing popularity of the NBL has convinced officials now is the time to strike for the first time since 2008.
The Hawks have been keen to ensure the Canberra partnership does not impact on their existing fan base in Wollongong, but the financial reality made the deal an attractive prospect.
The NBL haven't had a regular-season game in Canberra since the now-defunct Sydney Spirit
"The vision for me now is even in this season. We've still got the ability to bring an actual regular season game down here," Hawks general manager Mat Campbell said after the pre-season game.
"That's not over the line yet and obviously there's some things that have to be in place from the government's point of view for us to be able to bring that down here given we've got our built-in clientele in Wollongong who expect 14 home games.
"To take one of those games away, there is obviously costs involved from our end, and I have to make sure the members are are on side with the vision from the club's point of view to try and grow the club and expand out of our own region, and expand the footprint of the Hawks."