AFTER what has officially been the longest off-season in memory, fans of the Ballarat Miners and the Ballarat Rush will finally get a chance to see their teams in action when they take to the court Friday afternoon in the only officially sanctioned practice matches before the season gets underway next weekend.
It's a case of heading into the unknown for both Ballarat sides, firstly up against a Mount Gambier side which is returning to NBL1 this season, but also just how well the import-free squads will gel together.
Miners head coach Brendan Joyce said he would use this week to try out a few things and would give a run to some youth league players throughout the night.
"Right now, it's all about being as adaptable as you can be, you'd normally have a few more games to get a bit of a look at things," he said.
"We're not at the full team as year, we're hopeful to be able to announce some more from the team that will play on Friday night."
Rush head coach Eric Hayes said his side was thrilled to be able to get back on court.
"A lot of teams are in the same position as us, perhaps those Melbourne-based team who have direct access to WNBL players might be a little bit ahead," he said.
"But we've got some terrific players who have played at that level. We're looking forward to going out and competing, we'll play well together and what see happens.
"We'll chop and change a bit for sure, It's an opportunity for everyone to play equal time. This a good opportunity to try some different things."
Rush player Alicia Froling said she was excited to finally be able to play at the Ballarat Sports and Events Centre in front of a crowd.
"There's no doubt we have the potential, but we're not totally there yet. After having last year off, it's great to be back playing. It'll be awesome to play in that stadium," she said.
The Miners and the Rush will host a family day prior to the Friday night's hit-outs.
Froling said she was excited to be among the fans.
"It'll be good to be able to interact with people again," she said. "I haven't met a lot of the fans, so it will be good to get our faces out there, show people who we are."
The family day runs from 4pm to 6pm, with the Rush on court against Mount Gambier from 6pm followed by the Miners at 8pm.
The Ballarat Miners and Ballarat Rush tip off their season on April 17 away to Albury-Wodonga. The first home matches will be against Bendigo Braves on May 1.
Albury-Wodonga (A), NW Tasmania (A), Bendigo (H), Frankston (H), Ringwood (A), Mount Gambier (A), Bendigo (A), Nunawading (H), Kilsyth (H), Bye, Sandringham (H), Waverley (A), Geelong (H), Diamond Valley (A), Knox (H), Melbourne Tigers (A), Albury-Wodonga (H), Eltham (H), Dandenong (H), Geelong (A), NW Tasmania (H), Eltham (A).
Albury-Wodonga (A), Hobart (A), Launceston (A), Bendigo (H), Frankston (H), Ringwood (A), Mount Gambier (A), Bendigo (A), Nunawading (H), Kilsyth (H), Bye, Sandringham (H), Waverley (A), Geelong (H), Diamond Valley (A), Knox (H), Melbourne Tigers (A), Albury-Wodonga (H), Eltham (H), Dandenong (H), Geelong (A), Launceston (H), Eltham (A).