Australian women’s league moves north to Queensland

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Women’s National Basketball League is moving to northern Queensland state for a shortened season starting next month.

Queensland state managed to control COVID-19 outbreaks better than most in Australia. As a result, many of the country’s professional sports leagues moved teams and matches to the so-called Sunshine State over the past six months in order to complete their pandemic-interrupted seasons.

On Friday, the WNBL decided to do the same — to start and finish its season over a six-week period in three hubs from Nov. 12 to Dec. 20.

The Australian Football League and the National Rugby League also moved matches and relocated teams to Queensland, where the coronavirus was mostly contained because of a stringent policy of closing the state borders.

The WNBL said the northern Queensland cities of Cairns, Townsville and Mackay would host the 56-game regular season and four-game finals series.

Players and officials from COVID-19 hotspots — Victorian state teams the Southside Flyers, Melbourne Boomers and Bendigo Spirit as well as the Sydney Uni Flames in New South Wales — will arrive in Brisbane this month for a 14-day quarantine period before heading further north to play in the league. The players and staff will remain inside so-called bio-security bubbles.

Basketball Australia said playing rosters for all eight clubs will increase from 10 to 12 athletes.

Just as fans have been allowed to watch NRL and AFL games in Queensland, spectators will be permitted at WNBL games in line with the latest state government protocols. No imports will feature this season but a bulk of the Australia’s national women’s squad, the Opals, will be playing, including WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage.

Lauren Jackson, the former Seattle Storm star, is now Basketball Australia’s head of women’s basketball.

“Basketball Australia acknowledges the many sacrifices that the players, coaches, officials and administrators will be making to ensure the 2020 WNBL season goes ahead, and that’s why we are putting in place a series of structures and processes to provide holistic support to them while in quarantine and the North Queensland hub,” Jackson said.

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