Breakers still one of the best clubs in Australasia - Henare

By Kris Shannon

Mika Vukona looks to pass during game three of the ANBL finals. Photo / Getty
Mika Vukona looks to pass during game three of the ANBL finals. Photo / Getty

They're entering a period of uncertainty but the new man in charge of the Breakers is confident they can remain "one of the greatest clubs in Australasian sport".

That tag is a fair reflection of all the Kiwi club have achieved in the last six seasons, even if their shot at a fifth Australian NBL crown came up horribly short in Perth last night.

The Breakers were thoroughly outplayed by the arch-rival Wildcats, turning in an insipid offensive display to lose the deciding game of their grand final series by 23 points.

It was their first defeat from five trips to the competition showpiece but, given all they had been through this season, assistant coach Paul Henare was as proud of his players as after any victory.

A six-game losing streak, whispers of off-court unrest and a fourth-place finish that produced an unenviable playoff schedule were all overcome as the Breakers pulled themselves within one game of another title.

Listen: Andrew Mulligan on game three of the ANBL finals

And although that dream soon became the stuff of nightmares, Henare was more than happy with the state of the club he would inherit from departing coach Dean Vickerman.

"This group has been absolutely tremendous all year," Henare said, "in terms of dealing with different scenarios and situations and words and rumours and all kinds of shit that was thrown at us.

"For us to stick together as a group through everything, I'm just extremely proud of everything this team has achieved this year. Although we fell short at the final hurdle, it was always going to be a tough ask."

That ask was made considerably tougher when Cedric Jackson and Corey Webster both picked the wrong time to lose their shooting stroke. The backcourt duo combined to shoot three-of-18 from the field but, as Henare pointed out, the efforts of the pair were pivotal in the Breakers even reaching the post-season.

"Obviously it wasn't ideal to have an off night, but without those guys we wouldn't have been here in the first place," Henare said. "At different stages, both of those guys stepped up and we wouldn't be here without them.

Listen: Tom Abercrombie

"We stepped up and played our arses off in a tough grand final series. We gave ourselves a chance to win it all and we fell short. That's something the club hasn't tasted before but the bubble was bound to burst one day. That doesn't make it any easier but I couldn't be more proud of the guys and what they achieved this year."

Looking ahead to next year, Henare currently has only three players under contract: Webster, Tom Abercrombie and Mika Vukona. That trio forms a quality base and Henare is certain he will be able to build around them another title contender.

"This is one of the greatest clubs in Australasian sport, not just basketball," Henare said.

"No matter what happens, no matter who coaches this team, they're off to a good start in terms of being part of a great organisation and having great resources at your disposal.

"Over the next few weeks, those talks and negotiations will play out. But as we all know in pro sport, it's near impossible to keep a group together. We'll reflect a little bit and there will be some disappointed guys, so we'll worry about moving forward in due course."

- NZ Herald

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