Newcastle Entertainment Centre management has assured netball fans the upcoming test between Australia and England will go ahead despite Saturday’s National Basketball League trial being cancelled because the venue’s temporary court was unplayable.
The guarantee comes after management issued an apology and offered refunds to those who attended the Sydney Kings and Illawarra Hawks trial, which was called off shortly after the scheduled 5pm tip-off time because the court’s surface was too slippery.
Former NBA star and Sydney Kings player Andrew Bogut announced the cancellation to about 3000 fans, some of whom had travelled from as far as the Mid North Coast and Wollongong.
Entertainment centre general manager Chris Blanch told the Newcastle Herald on Sunday he had launched a “full investigation” into the incident and was seeking advice from the court’s manufacturer.
However, he said the centre was planning to use the same court for the sold-out netball match on September 19.
“We’ll be getting all the experts that we can in to look at the court,” he said.
“We do have access to other courts if this one isn’t satisfactory, but we believe it will be. We’ve used this court numerous times for netball in the past.
“Rest assured, we will definitely be hosting the netball [next week].”
Basketball fans were left asking how the surface issue was not detected in the lead-up to Saturday’s match.
Miranda Bourke travelled from Taree with her husband to attend the trial with their son and friends.
She had no issue with the cancellation if there were safety concerns, but said it was an embarrassment that the event had to be cancelled.
“I know quite a few families from this area [Taree] had gone down with their young kids and a couple were staying overnight. There’s going to be a lot of disappointed children and a lot of parents out of pocket,” she said.
“There was a fair bit of booing and some people were yelling out: ‘get a new entertainment centre, Newcastle!’. It was just overall shock really.”
Unfortunate that the Sydney Kings v Illawarra Hawks game had to be cancelled do to condensation and floor issues but great that the teams stayed back to sign fans memorabilia! I got my shirt signed and a photo with Andrew Bogut! @andrewbogut@SydneyKings_pic.twitter.com/LD7BVxjXlh— Mary Batkovic (@sunnymbeveryday) September 8, 2018
Sydney Kings general manager of basketball Jeff Van Groningen said the club “shares the disappointment” of fans and hoped a 90-minute autograph session helped the situation.
Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes called for a new 10,000 seat stadium.
“We’ve been working hard to position Newcastle as one of the hottest sporting destinations in the country, so we need to work with the NSW government to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
“This incident strongly highlights the need for the NSW government to move ahead with the delivery of the Hunter Sports and Entertainment Precinct.”
Netball Australia officials have spoken to centre management and have been reassured that next week’s test will proceed and the playing arena will be of first-class standard.