The New Zealand Breakers face a nervous 10 days as they face a major COVID setback.
An unnamed member of the group, which includes players, staff, and owner Matt Walsh, reported symptoms on Saturday night immediately after the pre-season clash with South East Melbourne Phoenix. After undergoing a PCR test on Sunday, the unnamed person tested positive for COVID-19.
Further testing showed three more positives within the group. Speaking to media on Tuesday afternoon, Walsh said the club would not be identifying who had tested positive, but did confirm it was both players and staff.
The Breakers will be required to undergo PCR testing tomorrow, which could put their season opener in 11 days against the Phoenix in jeopardy of being rescheduled.
Their NBL Blitz match on Thursday against the Illawarra Hawks has already been cancelled.
“We prepared for this possibility when we came here, knowing at some point we could face something like this, COVID going through the team,” Walsh said.
“We followed all the NBL protocols… right now we’re all in isolation. We’re going to get further testing tomorrow.
“A lot of the answer to that [the season opener] is what happens with the test results we get tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’re all going to get tested again.
“If it’s just the four, and everyone can recover under the guidelines here – which is 10 days isolation – and no one gets too sick, I feel pretty confident that we’ll able to continue with that game on December 4.
“It’s very much a moving target… we’ve communicated with the NBL, they’re across everything. If things escalate… the league was expressed a willingness to reschedule games this year.”
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After spending the majority of NBL21 away from home across Victoria and Tasmania, the Breakers are set to do so again this season with the closure of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble.
The initial fixture release has them slated in Australia until at least early-February. Walsh says the group is staying positive in the face of another mounting challenge.
“Given what we’ve gone through the last few years, this is just a little hiccup,” he said.
“It’s not ideal, no question about that, we don’t want to be dealing with this in the pre-season. Better now than the first week of December, if we’re being honest.”
Should no more players or staff return positive tests, the Breakers will be able to return to training while the positive parties remain in isolation.
Walsh believes arrangements will be made to play another pre-season game against a Melbourne-based team should no more positive COVID tests be returned.
In a statement from the Phoenix, the club told The Inner Sanctum:
‘We were advised of the Breakers test results and are following advice from the government and NBL.’
There is currently no confirmation whether any Phoenix players or staff members are considered close contacts of any of the positive cases.
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