Basketball: Breakers in rude health for playoffs

By Kris Shannon

Vukona has shaken off the initially serious-looking ankle injury he suffered last week. Photo / Getty Images
Vukona has shaken off the initially serious-looking ankle injury he suffered last week. Photo / Getty Images

The Breakers are hoping their injuries are behind them and they will, for once, be at full fitness at the business end of the Australian NBL season.

Both Mika Vukona and Will Hudson are in line to make meaningful contributions in the playoffs, beginning at Vector Arena on March 28, with the two-time defending champions hoping they're not forced to do things the hard way for the third year running.

Two years ago it was Vukona whose involvement was cast into doubt by a knee injury. Last year, first Cedric Jackson and then Tom Abercrombie suffered setbacks in the semifinal series to throw the Breakers' best-laid plans into disrepair.

But Vukona has shaken off the initially serious-looking ankle injury he suffered last week and is in line to play a full role in the Breakers' final regular season game in Perth, while Hudson is also looking likely to return from a long lay-off.

Breakers' physiotherapist Anousith Bouaaphone confirmed Vukona played a full part in practice today and should be at 100 per cent for Friday night's intriguing top-of-the-table clash with the Wildcats.

Bouaaphone said Vukona getting through the first training of the week was a positive sign and, given he should continue to improve in subsequent sessions, there will be no temptation to hold back the power forward for the playoffs.

Hudson, meanwhile, is slightly further behind as he attempts to overcome the small tear in his left knee which has seen him on the sidelines for the last month.

"Will's going a little bit slower than we anticipated but, at the same time, he is making progress," Bouaaphone said. "He's one of those guys who we know we can get back, but we just have to be quite careful with him at this stage.

"We want the guy back, but we also want him to be making a positive contribution in the playoffs."

In his spare time away from the treatment room, Bouaaphone must be keeping his fingers crossed in a bid to avoid history repeating as the Breakers hunt a three-peat. The physio has been one of the busiest men in the organisation in the last two finals campaigns, something he attributed to the gruelling nature of the competition.

"It's kind of scripted like that every year, isn't it? Come playoff time you get something like that," he said. "I guess that's what it comes down to with the league, it's sort of a battle of attrition sometimes. It's a matter of what team holds out the longest and what team can hold their players the longest.

"And I guess that's the emphasis that we put in each year - how do we maintain our players so that, come these crucial moments, we are the last ones standing?"

They have managed to achieve that aim the last two campaigns, most memorably in 2011 when a hobbled Vukona inspired the Breakers the victory in a must-win semifinal game in Perth. Bouaaphone said, like many at the NSEC last Thursday night, his mind was cast back to that moment when Vukona went down.

"It definitely did go through my mind, because he was holding his knee and he wasn't able to put weight on it - and I feared the worst. But luckily it was just a minor injury in the end."

- APNZ

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