The New Zealand Breakers have had to release star off-season re-signing Tai Webster from his contract with the club because of his Covid-19 vaccination stance.
The club confirmed on Monday that Webster would no longer be part of their squad for the upcoming Australian NBL season, with a release granted by “mutual consent”.
The Breakers’ hand was effectively forced, with Australian state regulations requiring players to be vaccinated to participate in the upcoming league which is understood to be close to pushing its start date back from mid-November to mid-December. The new NBL season is scheduled to start on November 18, as it stands.
The North Shore-based club aconfirmed Webster had indicated he was not intending to be vaccinated.
The Victorian State Government on Sunday unveiled its ‘roadmap out of Covid lockdown’ where activities and freedoms will only be available to fully vaccinated people.
Premier Daniel Andrews has ruled out interstate travel occurring at 70 percent vaccination which modelling suggests they will reach on October 26. It is not until vaccination levels reach 80 percent that interstate travel will be considered and it still will be subject to other state’s rules.
Breakers owner Matt Walsh said he respected Webster’s decision to remain unvaccinated.
“Tai was amazing for us last year and we wish him the absolute best. I fully support each player’s freedom of choice in regards to the vaccine.
“The club will keep the door open for Tai, but unfortunately we are living in extraordinary times and without being vaccinated he will not have freedom of travel which would allow him to play for us this season.”
The Breakers have confirmed they will again be based in Australia for the first part of the season, but hope to return to New Zealand as soon as travel regulations allow.
The development is a major blow for the Breakers, with the 26-year-old Tall Blacks star considered one of their most important pieces on a roster primed to return to the playoffs.
Webster and fellow Kiwi Yanni Wetzell had been lauded by the club as their two marquee additions over the off-season, with Walsh labelling them the top two New Zealand free-agents in the world.
Webster played his first season as a fully contracted player with the club in the Covid-impacted 2021 season after making a heralded return from Europe.
Already this year the club has parted ways with his older brother, Corey, who has been released to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Leave A Comment