WNBL considers hub life as the way forward for 2020-21 season

The WNBL is exploring all options on the structure of its 2020-21 season. Picture: DARREN HOWE
The WNBL is exploring all options on the structure of its 2020-21 season. Picture: DARREN HOWE

THE WNBL is strongly considering the use of quarantine hubs in a bid to get its 2020-21 season started.

Basketball Australia executive general Paul Maley and head of women's basketball Lauren Jackson on Thursday confirmed the use of hubs was one of several options being explored by the league as it navigates its way towards November, when the competition is scheduled to start.

But Maley did not rule out an even later season tip-off, as the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis, particularly in Victoria, which is home to three of the league's eight clubs, including the Bendigo Spirit.

"We are in discussions with a few governing bodies and those discussions at this stage remain commercial in confidence ... we can't confirm (locations) ... but we are definitely pursuing the hub as a potential solution," he said.

Asked what a possible hub season would entail, Maley added:

"A full season within a hub would be around a seven-week duration, but we are also still considering a couple of one-to-two week hubs within different locations to get us started if we are confident we could then revert to a home-away (season).

"There's still that hybrid model that is under consideration."

The league has all but ruled out a full 21 game schedule if hubs were to operate for the entire season.

Of particular interest to the Spirit and their followers, Maley indicated that despite what model was eventually adopted, it was unlikely there would be any games played in front of crowds in Victoria before Christmas.

Further likely - though not entirely ruled out - is the Spirit playing all pre-Christmas games away from their home at Bendigo Stadium

"Most of the scenarios that are under consideration would involve games not played in Victoria before Christmas," Maley said.

Jackson, an Opals legend and three-time WNBA MVP with the Seattle Storm, said no consideration had been given to either cancelling the season or a potential cut-off date on a decision

A full 21-game season for the Bendigo Spirit and its seven rival clubs is now considered unlikely in 2020-21.Picture: DARREN HOWE

A full 21-game season for the Bendigo Spirit and its seven rival clubs is now considered unlikely in 2020-21.Picture: DARREN HOWE

"You can never say never, right, but it's definitely not something we are considering at this point in time," she said.

"Obviously all our conversations are about having a season. What that looks like at the moment, we remain flexible.

"We have been in constant contact with the (WNBL) commission and the players association and we are working really closely with them at the moment around what the season is going to look like, how it is going to impact the athletes.

"We are trying to consider definitely everybody at this point in time, to make sure we put together something that is good."

Jackson and Maley feel the WNBL is in a fortunate position, following on the heels of the AFL, NRL and Super Netball, which have continued to run their seasons by using hubs.

"One of the benefits of the timing for the WNBL is we have been able to look at those sports that had to react so quickly and learn from some of the things they have run into - the obstacles and challenges they have had," Maley said.

He said priorities for a new 'hubs' working party established by the WNBL commission included player and official welfare, with particular reference to the requirements of families entering the hub.

The WNBL in late-May announced plans for the season to tip-off on November 20, with teams initially budgeting to play without fans at stadiums until Christmas.

A potential fixture is yet to be announced.

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