CHANGING COVID conditions continue to wreak havoc with the start of the NBL season, with the Hawks season tip-off pushed back four days in a further revised round one schedule released on Saturday.
The Hawks were due to tip-off the initially revised schedule this coming Friday against Cairns, but will now wait until January 18 to face the Taipans in their first outing of the season.
It follows WA Premier Mark McGowan's move to close his state's borders to Queensland after a quarantine hotel cleaner returned a positive test for the highly infectious UK strain of the virus in Brisbane on Thursday.
It prompted a three-day lockdown in the Queensland capital where the Wildcats are currently located for pre-season clashes with the Bullets. They will return to Perth on Saturday night with a government exemption but will need to quarantine on arrival.
It means the defending champs won't be in action in round one, with two games they were due to host at RAC Arena in round one scrapped.
The season will still open on January 15, with the 36ers now hosting Melbourne United in Adelaide, while South East Melbourne will travel from Hobart to South Australia two days later.
Cairns will host the Kings and Hawks in the opening round, with the Breakers not scheduled to take part in any opening round fixtures.
The Hawks could be in action earlier than next Monday, with Brisbane pencilled in to host a 'TBC' opponent on January 16, though it will largely depend on whether lockdown measures are relaxed.
"The latest changes to the schedule have been made necessary by the developments in Queensland where we currently have five teams, Brisbane Bullets, Cairns Taipans, Melbourne United, Adelaide 36ers and Perth Wildcats," NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger 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."
It comes amid fears of a further spread of the UK strain of the virus after a returned traveler quarantined in Melbourne before flying to Queensland where a positive test for the highly transmissible variant was discovered.