The draw has been mapped out. Now, the NBL is ready to navigate their second campaign in a COVID world.
The league unveiled the 2021/22 season schedule on Tuesday, which was warmly welcomed by Illawarra fans. The season will tip-off on December 3 with the Hawks set to play seven of their opening nine games at the WEC.
The competition was originally scheduled to begin in mid-November, but was delayed as the NBL works through several issues, including maximising crowd attendance; moving the league through state borders and players getting vaccinated for Coronavirus.
However, NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger on Tuesday said the vast majority of the league's community deserved praise for their response to getting vaccinated.
"The really pleasing element is that 99 per cent of our players are already either completely vaccinated, or have had their first dose. It's fantastic that they've taken such a pro-active response to being prepared for the season," Loeliger said.
"We've ensured that we've delivered a really extensive education program for clubs and players to ensure that they're aware of the implications of not being vaccinated, both from a health perspective but also from a practical perspective, and what that could mean in terms of crossing between state borders and international borders, and what it could mean in terms of potentially not being allowed access to venues as well.
"It's pleasing that such a high proportion of players have already taken those steps and are well and truly ready for the season."
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League owner Larry Kestelman agreed, adding that he "couldn't have asked for anything more".
"I'm proud of them for not only thinking about themselves, but the overall community and the sport, and everyone involved in it," he said. "It's an outcome that every sport could be proud of, every business could be proud of. No doubt there's some concerns that people have, but to put the health of their loved ones and the people around them (first) is so important. The 99 per cent is just amazing and I'm confident we'll get the season up and running with that not being an issue."
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However, the NBL has been busy planning for the situation in which a player contracts COVID. It's something that's proven difficult to navigate due to expectations differing from state to state for issues such as what constitutes a close contact.
"As the regulatory situation evolves, we will adapt policies that take that into account," Loeliger said.
"It's difficult for us to put something in place now, knowing that it's likely states and venues will introduce policies in the not so distant future, and we would have to review everything immediately. As we did in respect of vaccinations, we will wait and see how the situation plays out from a regulatory point of view, and then come up with a policy to suit the circumstances.
"During a COVID environment, we're expecting hiccups at every twist and turn, but I'm very confident that we're prepared to deal with them if and when they arise, just as we did last year."
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