NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger has revealed “99 per cent” of the league’s players have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- The NBL credits the delivery of a “really extensive education program”
- The NBA vaccination rate is about 95 per cent
- NBL clubs have taken a tough stance against players refusing to have the vaccine
With the season opener still seven weeks away, Loeliger said there had been a strong reaction to an education campaign aimed at clubs and their playing rosters.
“The really pleasing element is that 99 per cent of our players are already either completely vaccinated or had their first dose,” he said.
“It’s fantastic that they’ve taken such a proactive response to being prepared for the season.
“We’ve ensured that we’ve delivered a really extensive education program for clubs and players to ensure that they are aware of the implications of not being vaccinated … from a health perspective but also from a practical perspective and what that could mean in terms of crossing between state borders or international borders.”
The NBA vaccination rate is about 95 per cent, which includes players who have had one vaccination.
NBL clubs have taken a firm stance on vaccinations, with the New Zealand Breakers and Tai Webster parting ways when he refused any vaccination.
Import guard Travis Trice — who spent time with Cairns and Brisbane before playing in the NBA’s G-League and Europe — had signed with the Illawarra Hawks in July for this coming season.
But the Hawks said they could not carry a player who was not vaccinated, as he would not be able to freely travel between states or to New Zealand.
NBL competition owner and executive chairman, Larry Kestelman, said he took pride in the position taken by players.
“It’s an outcome that I think every sport can be proud, of any business can be proud of,” he said.
Loeliger said the NBL did not have a firm policy in place to deal with a player contracting COVID-19 because he expected states to treat cases differently.
“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 we’ll come up with a policy to suit the circumstances,” he said.
NBL season to start in December
The Tasmania JackJumpers will begin their inaugural NBL season by hosting the league’s opening game against the Adelaide 36ers in Hobart.
The NBL pushed back the 2021/22 season’s start date to optimise crowd attendance.
In a double-header opening night, the Perth Wildcats will face the Brisbane Bullets in Perth.
Initially set for November 18, this season’s launch has been rescheduled to December 3.
Loeliger said the priority would be getting supporters back into stadiums.
The Breakers will again relocate to Australia to start the season, before being expected to head home in the new year.
Melbourne United will begin its championship defence on December 5 against the Sydney Kings.
Matthew Dellavedova is set to make his NBL debut for United in that game.
Other highlights of the schedule include a Boxing Day triple-header, with games in Sydney, Brisbane and Tasmania, while the Hawks and Taipans will host games on New Year’s Eve.
Loeliger said the NBL had contingencies built into its schedule for when borders reopen, vaccination rates hit targets, and crowds were allowed back in arenas.
“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,” he said.