WNBL to be 'flexible' with season schedule

WNBL fans will be able to watch Adelaide's Alanna Smith do battle with Perth on December 2.
WNBL fans will be able to watch Adelaide's Alanna Smith do battle with Perth on December 2.

The WNBL is braced for fixture disruptions but is hopeful of completing a full campaign for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit, having delayed the start of the 2021/22 season to December.

After last year's condensed hub season, the league will return to a regular home-and-away schedule with officials expecting capacity crowds will be allowed from tip-off on December 2.

However, there is still uncertainty around whether all teams will be able to move freely across interstate borders throughout the season.

Perth Lynx could be impacted, with the Western Australia government yet to confirm when it will further open up interstate travel.

The WNBL has contingency plans in place, adopting a "flexible schedule to allow for any changes due to change in circumstances".

"We continue to operate in unprecedented times and we will continue to work with relevant government organisations to ensure the safety of the players and fans comes first," WNBL executive general manager Paul Maley said.

The official 2021/22 fixture was released on Tuesday and Maley said the league's priority was to play games in front of supporters this season.

"It's imperative for our clubs and the league that we have a home-and-away season," he said.

"The delay to the season-opener will allow us to have crowds at the games, which is a great win for the fans."

A strong contingent of Opals from the Tokyo Olympic team will suit up in the WNBL this season, including Southside Flyers teammates Jenna O'Hea and Sara Blicavs, Cayla George (Melbourne Boomers) and Leilani Mitchell (Bendigo Spirit).

Alanna Smith has signed for Adelaide Lightning, having completed her WNBA commitments with Phoenix Mercury, and will line up alonsgide reigning MVP Steph Talbot, while rising star Shyla Heal will team up with father and coach Shane Heal at Sydney.

Also featuring in the league are a host of bronze medal-winning Opals from the recent FIBA Women's Asia Cup, including Darcee Garbin (Perth), Lauren Nicholson (Townsville Fire) and Jade Melbourne (UC Capitals).

The season is slated to begin with a pair of Perth-Adelaide match-ups on December 2 and 4, while reigning champions Southside start their title defence at home to Bendigo and Sydney host the Capitals to complete the opening round.

In round four, Southside host Townsville in the first meeting between the two sides since last season's grand final, while the Fire will host a New Year's Eve clash with the Capitals.

Each of the 84 home-and-away games will be broadcast, along with the finals series, after a new deal was struck with Foxtel, Kayo and the ABC.

The four-team finals series will begin on March 30.

Australian Associated Press