The SKYCITY Breakers season has ended, and it has ended much sooner than they had hoped, with players, coaches and management united in their disappointment at bowing out one win short of the playoffs, but at the same time speaking of their pride in the way they came through a challenging and hugely competitive season.
The club did what they could do to affect the equation in the final round with an impressive win over Melbourne at the North Shore Events Centre on Friday night, but Melbourne could not defeat Perth in the final regular season game of the competition, leaving the Breakers in fifth place.
Head Coach Paul Henare spoke of his disappointment, but also his immense pride in what the team and club has achieved this year, often against the odds.
"I spoke with the coaches last night after the game and one thing we are happy about is the way we finished the season, the game at the Events Centre against Melbourne, the way we played, the crowd and the atmosphere and the way we got guys to step up when we needed them, was really special.
"To be in with a chance to make the playoffs with everything we have been through speaks volumes for the character of the group and for where the club is at. While it is extremely disappointing not to be playing in the post-season, the signs for the future are good."
Henare says the time for looking back is in the next few weeks and has no doubt there will be learnings through that process, but he already has an eye on that bright future.
"There is always something to learn from in these situations and we will all be the better for it. Finn and Shea were great stories before the season even started, with the pathway they have taken. For them to have the impact they have had on our organization and on that last game of the season is a good sign for the future. We are lucky we have them on long term contracts."
General Manager Dillon Boucher was proud of how the club has come through the season.
"My first thoughts are I am extremely proud of the way the group went about their business, we were faced with a lot of adversity this year and I thought Pauli and his team did a great job. Proud is the word that comes to mind when I think about how this group carried themselves throughout the whole season, no matter what was thrown at them.
"When we debrief and look back at the season there might be a lot of things we will do differently, but also a lot of learnings on when faced with adversity just how you should deal with it, and I thought we dealt with every situation as it came and did a good job of it. I am happy with every decision we made, I felt that each time when we were thrown something we dealt with it in the best way that we could, not only Pauli and myself, I thought everyone at the club responded well to it."
Boucher says that while some conversations have already started about next year, there is much planning to do for what promises to be an exciting and talented roster.
"Pauli and myself started discussing next season a few weeks back, when we started talking about recruitment and retention of players. When we look at who we will have next year there is a lot of potential again, but there is a lot of water to go under the bridge and first we must debrief this season and look at areas where we can and need to improve."
While disappointed at the end to this season, shooting guard Kirk Penney is hugely excited about the future, he spoke from Melbourne where he is attending the NBL Awards Dinner tonight with Henare, Boucher, Kevin Dillard, Paul Carter and Rob Loe.
"I am one to quickly identify a silver lining and I was thinking - after not making the playoffs, what a great game for Finn and Shea to go into the off season with, they both stepped up and had huge performances, we won the game and you just want their confidence to blossom from there and go into the offseason and continue to work and improve. They have proven they can play a high level, the test now is to get more games under their belts, come into next season and believe they should have a good role on the team."
The SKYCITY Breakers will celebrate their season with the Annual Awards Dinner at SKYCITY on Thursday night, with gongs handed out for Defensive Player of the Year, Fans Player of the Year, and overall club MVP. The night will also feature the Paul Henare Cup (young player) and announcement of the Brian Pankhurst Cup winner, awarded to the club person most living up to the clubs values throughout the season.