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Finn Delany and his NZ Breakers team-mates celebrate their pre-season victory over the Phoenix on November 20.
The New Zealand Breakers’ NBL season opener against the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Saturday night will go ahead as scheduled.
Australia’s National Basketball League confirmed on Monday evening the game, at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena, would not be postponed, despite the Covid-19 outbreak that has run through the extended Breakers travelling party.
Breakers owner Matt Walsh said the club had made a request to league headquarters to have their first game postponed to allow them time to gather their forces after three players, head coach Dan Shamir, GM Simon Edwards and even Walsh himself had been caught up in the outbreak.
The feeling was that by pushing their opener back six days until December 10, when they are scheduled to meet the Phoenix again, it would have given the Breakers a fairer crack at the contest in light of the disruption caused to the final stages of their pre-season.
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But the NBL said the Breakers did not qualify under their strict Covid-19 guidelines to have their game rescheduled.
“The NBL has a policy regarding the rescheduling, postponement or cancellation of games specific to Covid-19 related scenarios,” it said via a statement.
“Under the policy the New Zealand versus South East Melbourne Phoenix game will continue as planned.”
Walsh had said on Sunday the club’s view was that a postponement of their first game would have been a fair solution.
“Hopefully we get a reprieve and we play our first game on December 10 and we can prepare properly,” he said on Sunday.
“If not, we have been through a lot of adversity the last few years, so this is just a drop in the hat. We will get through it.”
The Covid outbreak struck the Breakers in the wake of their pre-season victory over the Phoenix on November 20. One member of the travelling group felt unwell soon after that contest, and subsequently returned a positive test.
The club had to postponed their planned pre-season finale against the Illawarra Hawks, and have been in health protocols at their Melbourne base ever since the outbreak as detected.
By last weekend the total positive tests among the travelling party of 39 had hit nine, including three players. It is understood two starters were among those afflicted by the virus, and head coach Shamir had not been able to join the team on court when training was able to restart late last week.
By Sunday the Breakers had 12 of their 14 playing squad on the training court – a number that includes injured skipper Tom Abercrombie who is sidelined for around the first three weeks with an oblique strain.
Last year the Breakers spent 154 days in Australia playing the bulk of their campaign on the road. Their planned February return to play a full home schedule for 2021-22 already looks no chance of playing out after recent government confirmation of border regulations has rendered trans-Tasman competition impossible.