Season hangs by thread

Uncertainty surrounds the finals series of the NBL1 South basketball conference following COVID-19 lockdown being extended in Victoria until September 2.

The lockdown has left both the Castec Rural Pioneers and the OneFortyOne Pioneers off Victorian courts and facing doubt over competing in this year’s final series.

Mount Gambier Pioneers president Tom Kosch said while there was no official update as to the recommencement of the season, nor the plans for finals, the situation seemed grim for the Mount Gambier teams.

“The further lockdown announced for Melbourne on Monday does put some doubt to the remaining rounds that we did have,” he said.

“There were some plans being put in place for playing the finals on the weekend of September 17, 18 and 19 in Melbourne.

“That is not confirmed at this stage because there is a bit of doubt given the restrictions and for us being a border team, as well as the two Tasmanian teams being interstate.

“There are doubts over whether we would be able to travel to Melbourne to partake.”

Mr Kosch said the restrictions had placed the 18 team south conference on hold, while on Tuesday morning the northern conference in Queensland cancelled all remaining rounds and will instead head straight to a finals series on August 23.

“Every other conference is a state-based conference so it does not cause them any issues, but for us in the south conference it is a bit concerning,” he said.

“The two Tasmanian teams face the same uncertainty as us based on the being an interstate club and we hope to know more soon.”

Mr Kosch said finals were originally scheduled for next weekend, but the changing restrictions had led to a series of scheduling changes, before arriving on a proposed single finals weekend.

“But I do not think we’ll even get there,” he said.

“It would really mean that even for the Melbourne-based clubs who are all facing lockdown at the moment that if Victoria came out of lockdown on September 2, normally sports would come back a week following that with one week of training, and after not training for 8 weeks, then they would have to play off in a finals weekend.

“The league has been committed to playing out a conference final weekend, because the national final weekend where all the conferences come together has been cancelled.

“The Pioneers are committed to playing it out if they get the opportunity to.”

Mr Kosch said the Pioneers had not played for more than six weeks and had only hosted five of their scheduled 11 home games.

“It’s been pretty challenging for our players, coaches and support staff who continually attend trainings 2-3 times a week, the biggest reward for them is being able to get on court and compete in front of fans and they have not been able to do so,” he said.

“It’s also challenging for those players who have committed to playing in Mount Gambier from out of town, they do not have family close.

“We are hoping that in time the clarity of understanding what the situation might be in 2021 might be known.

“Everyone is expecting that this season now is in jeopardy.

“Our men’s team is currently sitting in a pretty good position and would have been competing in finals, but at this stage it is likely they might not get the chance.

“Unfortunately the OneFortyOne women had been showing some great signs in the weekends before lockdown but would not have won enough games to compete in finals.”

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