AFL still in limbo as NBL grand finals off

Steve Larkin
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NBL FINALS KINGS WILDCATS

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the remainder of the NBL grand final series to be cancelled

As basketball calls a halt to its grand final series, the AFL will decide on Wednesday whether to heed the urgings of players to start their season.

AFL hierarchy will take more advice from government and health officials before announcing if the season, and the AFLW season, will proceed against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

AFL Players Association chief Paul Marsh says both men and women footballers want to play.

"Right now, our players are committed to playing," Marsh told reporters on Tuesday.

"Whether or not that is able to happen, we will (not) know probably right up until the death-knell.

"Players do have have concerns as the ones putting themselves and their families at risk."

The men's season, which the AFL says will be reduced by six games to 17 matches, is scheduled to start on Thursday night.

One barrier has been overcome with Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury cleared of coronavirus.

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan had said if one player tested positive to the virus the league would have no choice but to shut down for at least 14 days.

"We will continue to be guided by government and health officers as well as working with all our stakeholders. We will make a further announcement tomorrow," the league said.

The statement came as the NBL scrapped the rest of the title playoffs, with Perth Wildcats leading Sydney Kings 2-1 in the best-of-five series.

"We will now consider a decision on the outcome of the championship over the next 48 hours," NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman said.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia (CA) urged all lower-tier competitions around the country to stop because of the coronavirus pandemic.

CA chief executive Kevin Roberts made the appeal while awarding this season's Sheffield Shield to ladder-leaders NSW after giving up on any prospect of playing a final as scheduled from March 27.

In other developments, Football Federation Australia's plan to condense the rest of the A-League season overcame a snag surrounding Wellington Phoenix's travel requirements.

The Phoenix have been guaranteed they can train together after flying to Australia on Wednesday and spending a government-mandated 14-day period in isolation, before playing out the rest of the season based in Sydney.

FFA, which planned to cram the remaining six A-League rounds into a three or four-week period before finals, separately suspended all lower-level competitions in the country until at least April 14.

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia, which has suspended all competition, put a hold on its negotiations for a fresh broadcasting agreement.

And boxing promoters postponed the super welterweight fight between Jeff Horn and Tim Tszyu - 24 hours after saying the April 22 fight would go ahead.

"It's a landscape that changes probably hourly ... we just don't know where things are going," co-promoter Matt Rose told AAP.

World Surf League officials called off scheduled events in Australia at Bells Beach and Margaret River slated for April and May after last week cancelling the season-opening event at the Gold Coast.

Other sporting events cancelled on Tuesday include next month's Stawell Gift athletics carnival and gymnastic's national championships in May.

Australian authorities will ban the public from the national sports institute in Canberra from Wednesday as part of efforts to reduce the risk of athletes contracting the coronavirus in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

Overseas, the staging of the Tokyo Olympics was further clouded by a grim assessment from the head of France's Olympic Committee, Denis Masseglia.

He said unless the coronavirus pandemic was waning by the end of May, the Tokyo Games couldn't start as scheduled on July 24.

The International Olympic Committee was due to hold a conference call with all national Olympic Committees on Wednesday.