North Queensland to host condensed 2020 WNBL season

The 2020 WNBL season will be played entirely in North Queensland, and everyone will literally be home by Christmas!

In a massive boost for Australian women’s basketball, Basketball Australia have announced that the WNBL will tip off on 12 November with every game to be played in Far North Queensland as part of a deal brokered with the Queensland Government.

A six-week condensed season has been scheduled. It will see all eight teams play 56 regular season games and a knockout finals series of four games, including two semi finals, a preliminary final and grand final, to be played on Sunday, 20 December 2020. It confirms the likely outcome that we reported on back in September.

Along with the support of the Queensland government, a collaborative arrangement that also involves the Cairns regional council, Mackay regional council and the city of Townsville will see Cairns, Mackay and Townsville play host to the entire season. Mackay Basketball Stadium will host eight games, Cairns Pop-Up Arena will showcase 20 games, with a combined 32 games to be played at Townville Stadium and Townsville Entertainment Centre, including the entire final series.

With COVID-19 impacting all sport globally, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk explained that her Government was keen to do their part in helping Australia recover, and that included the WNBL.

“Major events are an important part of my Government’s strategy to continue rebuilding and growing our economy and to support local jobs,” explained Palaszczuk.

“The tourism and events sectors throughout our state have done it tough this year.

“Major sporting events pump millions of dollars into local businesses. Securing the WNBL is a great win for the whole of North Queensland and a dream come true for basketball fans in the region.”

Tourism Minister Kate Jones added that Queensland has proven how important events can be to the economic recovery.

“Great local events like the recent Horn fight in Townsville - which was also secured by the government - generate millions of dollars for local businesses that have struggled throughout this pandemic,” the Minister said.

“Through our major boost to events funding, we’re working hard to secure more events like this to support tourism businesses to rebuild and recover faster.”

On the eve of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, coupled with Australia hosting the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup, the importance of the WNBL finding a way to play their 2020 season underpins the success of the Opals at the Olympics and in hosting the World Cup, showcasing the sport to back home down under. As Lachy France explored in June, a new golden era of women’s basketball in Australia beckons.

Basketball Australia CEO Jerril Rechter AM said that everyone connected with the league was excited and grateful to have the backing of the Queensland Government.

“The support from the Queensland Government ensures we are able to deliver the season in 2020, providing a stage for Australia’s best established and emerging talent to contest the 41st edition of Australia’s longest-running elite women’s sporting competition, the Chemist Warehouse WNBL,” explained Rechter.

“On behalf of Basketball Australia, the WNBL clubs, players, coaches, officials, members and fans, I would like to thank Premier Palaszczuk and Minister Kate Jones for their visionary support of women’s basketball in Australia.

“Basketball Australia has been working in partnership with the eight club owners via their participation and collaboration on the WNBL Commission since the beginning of the pandemic. We all agreed it was critical to deliver the season and ensure the league puts a much-needed smile on the face of our fans and members, maintains the growth of women’s basketball throughout Australia, and continues to inspire future generations of players, coaches and officials. All of this as basketball finds itself on the doorstep of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics where the Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals are eyeing glory again and, just twelve months later, the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup will be hosted by Sydney.”

While the exact details of the season fixture, ticketing information and broadcast arrangements have yet to be announced, it is expected that every game will be broadcast live. The announcement is a massive step in the right direction for a league that has experienced more than its fair share of challenges. It is a scenario that many may have thought impossible, but through the tireless work and collective resolve of many, Australian women’s basketball and the WNBL is set to prevail and prosper.

It was a collaborative effort not lost on Basketball Australia Head of Women in Basketball Lauren Jackson AO, who paid tribute to everyone involved, including club General Managers for their hands-on involvement in working groups over recent months, as all parties sought solutions to deliver the 2020 WNBL season against the challenges presented by COVID-19.

“The passion and commitment of all involved in the league and their unwavering love of Australian basketball are the core reasons why players, coaches, officials and club staff will be making significant sacrifices to ensure the 2020 Chemist Warehouse WNBL season is contested,” said Jackson.

“The WNBL is one of the world’s best elite basketball leagues and we have such depth in talent within Australian women’s basketball. The 2020 season plays a pivotal role in preparing the Chemist Warehouse Australian Opals for two important global tournaments and I want to thank all parties for the selfless and big picture approach in wanting to ensure the season went ahead.”

With no imports featuring this season, the opportunities presented to young talent provides a new dimension of interest for the league.

Athletes, coaches, officials and other required personnel associated with the league from areas identified as ‘hotspots’ will this month arrive in Brisbane and undertake the 14-day quarantine period before relocating to North Queensland. During the quarantine period, teams and referees will have controlled access to training facilities at Nissan Arena in Brisbane.

Update: The league also announced that rosters have been increased to 12 players, comprising of 10 plus two development players. In addition, all players have accepted a pay reduction of 15% (not for players on minimum), with player contracts ending on 3 January 21. A host of player health and wellbeing initiatives were also outlined, including:

  • Daily recovery options including priority access to pools and gyms

  • VIP access to medical practitioners and resources

  • Access to leading independent welfare support

  • Dedicated space for study and or work commitments

  • Child minding services for players who are primary carers

  • Support from BA High Performance Unit including national team doctor plus strength and conditioning staff