Covid chaos throws grand final curveball

Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman conceded it made “no sense” for his all-conquering team to start its grand final series with no crowds in Sydney and has instead put a positive spin on their starting handicap.

The recent Covid chaos in Victoria has forced United to be on the road for nearly a month and, despite finishing top of the NBL table, will have to start the five-match grand final series against the Wildcats in Perth.

Games one and two will be played on the Wildcats’ home court before three games for United at a yet-to-be-determined location.

Border restrictions made it impossible for United to head back to Melbourne after clinching a grand final berth in Sydney on Monday night after three matches played in front of crowds limited to family and friends.

So the championship favourites will head west without a night’s sleep in their own beds since last month, but Vickerman said it was just another challenge for his team to overcome.

Vickerman said knowing they would most likely return home for the final three games was something keeping his men going.

“There weren’t too many options that worked. We could try to play a grand final Game 1 in Sydney without fans; it just didn’t seem to have much sense to it,” Vickerman said.

“To go over (to Perth) where we won two in the regular season, we feel good about going over and playing on that court.

“To get two games there and then have a defined moment we are going home, we haven’t had that. We’ve been away for 24 days, eight games, four states, this has been the longest NBL road trip ever right now.

Jock Landale believes the scheduling may play into United’s hands. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“It’s been crazy but we’ve been good on the road. We’ve won six out of eight games, we feel like we’ve found a pretty good rhythm and we don’t really care where we play, we just want to go play and compete.”

Star big man Jock Landale echoed his coach’s sentiment, believing the early road fixtures could play into the hands of United as the series rolls on.

“The positive comes that we knock out those first two road games in one hit, there’s less travel, it’s easier on our bodies,” Landale said.

“Whether we win zero, one or two games in Perth, we finish it back home with our loved ones, that’s important for our mentals.

“I think a lot of guys, I know I am, I miss my family, I miss my girlfriend, I want to go back and see them. I think there’s an advantage of having those last three games in Melbourne.”

Vickerman is hopeful of playing the final three games in front of home fans.

“Our indication right now is that we have two there and we’re coming back to Melbourne,” he said.

“I’m sure there’s options of regional or city, but right now we believe we’re coming back to John Cain Arena to play. Hopefully, it sorts itself out and we have an amazing crowd for the grand final.”

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