The WNBL is officially preparing for its 2020-21 season which it announced earlier this week will start on the 20-21 of November, 2020 with a 21 match schedule. To continue those preparations the league opened its free agency period yesterday on June 4, 2020.
The upcoming season, named the 2020-21 Chemist Warehouse WNBL Season, will go ahead and is planned to comprise of the full 21-round competition for the league's eight teams.
The opening round is currently scheduled to start on the 20-21 of November, 2020 with the final round ending on the 2-6 of March, 2021. The Semi-Finals Series is due to occur from the 12-21 of March, 2021 and the Grand Final Series is set to be played from the 25-31 of March, 2021.
The competition is slated to start six weeks later than normal in an effort to align the season's start with the expected state and federal governments' COVID-19 return to play guidelines for elite sport and public movement between states and territories.
These guidelines should allow for fans to attend games in person later on in the 2020-21 season. While there's no information, this is not expected to occur before Christmas. This could be subject to change.
A competition with no crowds would have a major financial impact on all WNBL clubs. Basketball Australia has stated though that the current league minimum player payment for Australian players would be maintained.
One thing that could change in 2020-21 is the number of WNBL foreign players. The league has grown popular in the last decade for overseas talent. However, travel restrictions may prohibit clubs from being able to retain or recruit players from abroad.
It is expected however that many Opals will play in the upcoming competition. Liz Cambage is already rumoured to make a WNBL return, having last played with Perth in the 2017-18 season. Should the pandemic fail to be controlled in nations which host competing leagues, more Opals could follow.
The later start date should help the Australian national team, specifically due to its closer finishing date entering the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. It would allow players a short post-season break while remaining fresh for the upcoming tournament.
Many are breathing a sigh of relief with the confirmation of the upcoming season. Lauren Jackson, the head of women's basketball at Basketball Australia, reiterated the importance of having a full season domestic league.
When speaking of the upcoming season she stated: "With an eye on the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Women's Basketball World Cup in Sydney, having a strong domestic league while providing opportunities for our current and emerging talent is our priority."