One of the NBL's fiercest rivalries could be bound for Canberra if chief executive Jeremy Loeliger has his way in a sign of the league's commitment to the capital.
Venue officials are bracing for a potential sell-out when the Illawarra Hawks host the Brisbane Bullets at the AIS Arena on Sunday.
Close to 3000 tickets have been sold and Illawarra Hawks general manager Mat Campbell is expecting a strong walk-up as fans vote with their feet in search of more basketball content.
NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger is determined to tap into the market and says strong support could lay the platform for more games and an annual blockbuster between the Hawks and Sydney Kings.
"At this stage I would love it to be consistently the Illawarra Hawks, and maybe we can start to look at building a schedule to make a consistent rivalry match there," Loeliger said.
"It would be great to have an Illawarra versus Sydney game in Canberra on an annual basis, something the locals could really buy into.
"You could also attract a local crowd down from Sydney and make it a real destination play both for Illawarra and Kings die hards fans as well as bringing really high quality basketball to Canberra locals.
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"This year it is just the one but certainly, we would love to see more NBL basketball in Canberra in future years."
The Hawks are pushing to establish a long-term presence in the capital but negotiations with the ACT government have drawn out.
Campbell admits a lack of a lengthy agreement has made it difficult for the Hawks to secure members and sponsors in the region.
But the Illawarra great is determined to build a nest in the capital in search of "the next Patty Mills".
"It would be good for us to get an established long-term agreement in play where we can really start to get our teeth into helping to develop that next generation out of the ACT," Campbell said.
"Hopefully we can get someone coming through the ranks into the Hawks, that's the ultimate goal from a basketball point of view.
"That's the ultimate goal from my end, to try to find the next Patty Mills who is dribbling around the back courts of Belconnen and wants to be a professional player.
"We put all that effort in last year to try to establish and bring high level basketball into the ACT. By doing it last year, we took a game away from our members and took a lot of heat for doing it.
"We really saw the value in trying to establish of trying to establish a potential long-term partnership with the ACT, particularly Basketball ACT and the government.
"We still see that as a big strategic part of the way we're moving forward."
NBL ROUND FIVE
Sunday: Illawarra Hawks v Brisbane Bullets at AIS Arena, 5pm. Tickets from Ticketek.
WNBL ROUND FOUR
Saturday: Canberra Capitals v Sydney Flames at AIS Arena, 5pm. Tickets from Ticketek.