Hawks fans, get ready for an early Christmas present.
The NBL on Tuesday released the draw for the 2021/22 season - tipping off on December 3 - which makes for great reading for Brian Goorjian's men. After spending the majority of their last campaign on the road, Illawarra will play seven of their opening nine games at the WEC, including the traditional New Year's Eve derby with the Kings.
The Hawks will kick off their season against the Phoenix in Melbourne on December 4 before heading up the highway a week later to face rivals Sydney. The side will then return to Wollongong to meet the Breakers on December 17 to begin a stretch of home games that runs for a month.
It is welcomed news for Hawkheads, with their team beginning last season's campaign on the road. The side relocated to Albury on Christmas Eve before subsequently shifting to North Queensland. With the Melbourne-based NBL Cup added to the schedule, the Hawks played 16 of their first 17 games on the road, not returning to Wollongong full-time until April.
The 2021/22 NBL season was originally set to tip-off in mid-November, but was delayed in a bid to maximise crowd attendance.
Hawks coach Brian Goorjian said their home schedule was extremely "fan friendly" and would hopefully provide his team with a good springboard into the season.
"I know there was a lot of hype around the team last year with so many new faces and a new ownership group, but I can assure you, this season is going to be bigger and better," Goorjian said.
"It's also great to see so many games spread across the weekend this season and hopefully that means more families and kids in particular can come down to our home games and really get behind this exciting young team."
The season will get under way with a double header on December 3, with newcomers the JackJumpers hosting the 36ers in Hobart. The Wildcats will also take on the Bullets in Perth.
Due to the ongoing impact of COVID, NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said they had again adopted a flexible approach with contingencies built into the schedule. These include for when the borders reopen; vaccination rates reach state targets; venue changes and lockdown rules ease.
"There are a lot of factors to consider and we've tried to plan for them all, so as some or all of those various events unfold and begin to materialise, we will enter a different phase of the schedule and certain things change as a result and as we deem necessary," Loeliger said.
"We are confident that as the country opens back up, our schedule will open up with it and we will get back to running the competition like we used to with all teams playing and traveling from their home bases."
The only team expected to spend an extended period away from home are the Breakers, who will again relocate to Australia to start their campaign. However, the side is expected to return to New Zealand in early 2022.
The NBL is also working on the schedule for a pre-season tournament, which is set to be announced soon.
"Each team will be able to get their squads together and prepare for the season with four practice matches to be played," Loeliger said.
Check out the NBL's full draw here.
- Hawks to play seven out of first nine NBL games at the WEC
- Illawarra to host traditional NYE showdown with Kings
- Double header to tip-off NBL season on December 3
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