Albury-Wodonga Bandits looking to 2021 after 2020 NBL1 season cancelled due to coronavirus

GOODBYE FOR NOW: Albury-Wodonga Bandits' Ai Yamada was one of several new players to the Bandits' roster this season, with the side not playing for the first time in the club's history due to the coronavirus.
GOODBYE FOR NOW: Albury-Wodonga Bandits' Ai Yamada was one of several new players to the Bandits' roster this season, with the side not playing for the first time in the club's history due to the coronavirus.

The Albury-Wodonga Bandits are determined to come back stronger than ever next year, according to club president Luke Smith.

The Border basketball outfit is facing their first season off the court in the club's history since the establishment of the Bandits' men's team in 1986 and women''s in 2006.

It comes after the NBL1 announced on Tuesday it would be pulling the pin on the entire season for all three conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Something like this hasn't happened before," Smith said.

"It's unfortunate, but we just have to worry about the safety of everyone before we worry about a game of basketball.

"We'll be back bigger and better in 2021.

"All of the players will be itching to play and hopefully the supporters will be flocking to watch."

The Bandits had recruited a number of new players for the NBL1 season, with majority of the men's team assembling on the Border a couple of weeks ago in preparation for the competition.

Among the new recruits were US imports Brandan Jenkins and Jerimiah Ingram, who have now returned home to the US.

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Australian based players Bijan Johnson, Liam Thomas and Johnny Crnogorac also departed the Border last week in anticipation that the season would be cancelled.

"We saw the writing on the wall," Smith said.

"On advice from the NBL1 we sent the Australians home on the Wednesday and the American imports flew out on Saturday back to the States."

The Bandits new women's imports were still yet to arrive on the Border, with Danni Williams competing in Iceland and Daniel Raber in Israel.

With new COVID-19 guidelines putting a stop to crowds and indoor fitness facilities, Smith admits there was no way around commencing the season.

"Without a crowd we wouldn't have been able to operate," Smith said.

"It's been a tough few weeks."

The cancellation of the season also brings an abrupt halt to women's coach Matt Paps' first stint at the helm, after taking over the reins from last year's coach Lauren Jackson.

The women's team just missed out on a spot in finals last season.

It also would have marked men's Bandits' coach Brad Chalmers ninth year in the top job, after stepping in at the end of the 2011 season.

Smith said the focus will now be towards putting together a strong 2021 campaign for the Bandits when the NBL1 returns.

"There's light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

This story Bandits hope to return stronger after missing first season in club's history first appeared on The Border Mail.