Sporting Achievement of the Year 2011 Finalist: The Breakers

By Steve Deane

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The Breakers celebrate their win over the Cairns Taipans in the grand final series decider in Auckland. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The Breakers celebrate their win over the Cairns Taipans in the grand final series decider in Auckland. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Despite a dominant 22-6 regular season campaign, the Breakers always maintained claiming a historic first Australian club sports title for New Zealand was never going to be easy.

They certainly gave life to that prediction, flirting with disaster before finally getting the job done on April 29.

Ring that date - it marks the first time in 36 collective seasons of league, soccer, water polo and basketball that a New Zealand side managed to claim some Aussie silverware.

A meltdown against Perth at home on the North Shore in an opening finals match, in which talismanic forward Mika Vukona hobbled out with a knee injury, put the Breakers' title hopes on the brink of extinction.

Only a miraculous reversal in Perth - a city in which they had been hammered by 40 points in the regular season - could save them. With Vukona defying medical advice to play and star shooter Kirk Penney pouring in 38 points, a miracle is exactly what the Breakers produced in game two, upsetting the Wildcats 93-89 to force a game three back in Auckland.

There was no second slip-up at home and the Breakers then comfortably accounted for Cairns in the opening match of the grand final series to place one hand on the NBL trophy.

Twice in game two in Cairns they came within seconds of finishing the job thanks to Kevin Braswell's heroics, only for Ron Dorsey to force the game into overtime and then double overtime with outrageous bombs on the buzzer as the Taipans completed their own miraculous comeback.

The decisive contest - the 34th of the season for the Breakers - turned out to be a routine affair, with the Breakers easing to a 71-53 victory over the spent Taipans.

For the Breakers it was the culmination of eight seasons of toil, the first four of which were dire struggles. The worm turned with Penney's arrival in 2007. Before that, the Breakers won just 41 of 130 games; in four seasons with the star marksman in the lineup, their regular season record was 71-45.

However, a back injury meant Penney's impact on the finals was limited. Emerging star Tom Abercrombie was named finals MVP, while Vukona had been at least as influential and Braswell also delivered when it mattered most.

For Paul Henare, the only Breaker to have played every season since the club's inception, the victory was a perfect retirement present.

- NZ Herald

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