Basketball: NZ Breakers owner Matt Walsh proposes New Zealand based hub for ANBL season

NZ Breakers owner Matt Walsh is pushing for a New Zealand 'hub' to host the first half of the 2020/21 Australian NBL season. 

League officials have guaranteed that a season will take place in some shape or form, tentatively scheduled to tip off on December 3.

Recent COVID-19 events in Victoria and other parts of Australia have raised doubts over the safety of interstate travel for teams, so Walsh is championing the coronavirus-safe zone of New Zealand.

Walsh's proposal would see all Australian teams based in various cities around the country, playing 'home' games in front of crowds for the first half of the season. 

"I can assure you I am strongly endorsing New Zealand as the hub," Walsh says. "It's the only place in the world where we can do safe travel and have zero risk of coronavirus.

"It makes a lot of sense."

The league could be pushed back to a February start date and still feature a full 28-game campaign, but Walsh reveals several Australian clubs are interested in the NZ bubble scenario.

"A number of teams are looking at making a New Zealand city their hub city, if they can work out with the Government and travel here safely. You think about it and it makes a lot of sense.

Horncastle Arena in Christchurch
Horncastle Arena in Christchurch. Photo credit: Photosport

"If you are a Melbourne team, you come here and station yourself in Wellington or Christchurch. You will get some good crowds, if you play your home games there. 

"There are real discussions happening around that."

Walsh says anything is possible, with three options currently at play.

The first would see the Breakers mirror NZ Warriors and Wellington Phoenix, and base themselves in Australia for the season - most likely the Gold Coast.  

The second would see the season delayed until February in the hope that Australia can fight off COVID-19 and a trans-Tasman bubble can be established. 

And then there's the New Zealand bubble that would see all nine teams play their first 14 games here, before the league shifts to an Australian-based hub. 

Obviously, Walsh favours option three and says the club will bend over backwards to ensure all the right precautions are taken, should the league go with New Zealand. 

"We will work with whomever we need to to make sure it works for the health and wellbeing of New Zealand.

"There are a lot of factors here at play much bigger than basketball and we are well aware of that."

Breakers owner Matt Walsh
Breakers owner Matt Walsh Photo credit: Photosport

Walsh also confirms the club is in no danger of folding, despite the potential financial implications of a full season with no home games.

The American says the ownership group are fully behind their venture and have propped the club up where needed.

"The NZ Breakers will endure and we are committed to this, and committed to the sport in New Zealand and the fans -  we will be fine."

Regardless of when and where the league is played, Walsh doesn't envision a jam-packed schedule, similar to the recently completed NBL Showdown.

Instead, the league would run as normal, with 1-2 games a week per team.