Basketball-NZ Breakers looking at Australian base for new season

The New Zealand Breakers may have to follow the lead of the Wellington Phoenix football team and rugby league's NZ Warriors by basing themselves in Australia for the next National Basketball League (NBL) season.

WELLINGTON, Aug 5 (Reuters) - The New Zealand Breakers may have to follow the lead of the Wellington Phoenix football team and rugby league's NZ Warriors by basing themselves in Australia for the next National Basketball League (NBL) season.

The four-time NBL champions are based in Auckland and regularly commute across the Tasman Sea for away games in the Australia-based competition.

Breakers' owner Matt Walsh said on Wednesday it was a "50-50" prospect his team would relocate for the new season, which starts on Dec. 3, with Australia imposing another round of COVID-19 restrictions.

"I'd love to say I anticipate having home games this season," Walsh told reporters in Auckland on Wednesday.

"But I think its 50-50 whether we're calling a city in Australia our home, or whether we load up with all our home games at the beginning or end of the season."

Walsh said basketball officials had been hopeful a 'trans-Tasman bubble' would be set up by the time the season began, allowing people to move between New Zealand and Australia without quarantine restrictions.

But a spike in infections in Victoria, which has seen both of the NBL's Melbourne-based teams placed in isolation, and border closures between states made that unlikely.

Walsh added there was also the possibility Australian teams could relocate to New Zealand and operate in a 'hub' type competition, similar to that employed by the NBA to restart their season in the United States.

While there was no risk, at this stage, to the season being cancelled one option could be to delay its start, he said.

"We do have the ability to push the season back all the way to a February start and still get a full season in."

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

((Greg.Stutchbury@thomsonreuters.com; +64 4 802-8162;))

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