As peers on the Auckland sport scene, as two teams flying the sole Kiwi flag in a transtasman competition, the Breakers and the Warriors can easily be contrasted.

The former are frequently regarded as the model of success, the franchise to which every other professional entity in New Zealand can look for ideas and inspiration.

The latter are often a rabble.

But with both teams taking their tentative first steps under the auspices of new owners, those unkind comparisons may be about to change.


There has yet to be a fundamental reversal in fortunes. The Breakers are only in the planning stages for their next title tilt in the Australian NBL; the Warriors are just a third of the way through one encouraging NRL campaign.

But there have been signs, from both the North Shore and Mt Smart, that the two clubs are trending in differing directions.

On Wednesday, for example, a couple of indelible figures in the respective franchises' histories gave their insights on new ownership.

Paul Henare, who played and coached for 13 seasons at the Breakers before in March severing ties with the club, said: "They've got their ideas and direction about which way they want to go. Through discussions, going through a process of where the club was going, I just decided it wasn't for me."

Shaun Johnson, approaching his 150th game with the Warriors, took a different tack: "It's nice to know that we've got people that are willing to put their hand up that are locally-based and that shows me that there's a genuine care for the club."

Granted, the pair was speaking from a different perspective. Only Johnson will be receiving cheques cut by the new owners. But it does seem the stability the Breakers have always boasted may be moving across town.

Kirk Penney's team mates perform a haka in his honour at his final game. Photo / Photosport
Kirk Penney's team mates perform a haka in his honour at his final game. Photo / Photosport

It was always inevitable for change to come once long-time owners and North Shore locals Paul and Liz Blackwell sold the four-time champions to an eclectic ownership group fronted by former American basketballer Matt Walsh.

And it wasn't merely to be change for change's sake. While results were steady, attendances had stagnated and the club's commercial output never threatened to match the team's achievements on the court.


But the scale of the transformation already has been surprising. In addition to Henare's departure, gone are 20 years' experience in a Breakers singlet - in the form of captain Mika Vukona, the retiring Kirk Penney and the other Rob Loe - with the likelihood of losing another nine seasons when Alex Pledger signs elsewhere.

While Dillon Boucher remains as general manager and the team retain a young Kiwi core, the Breakers already look some way removed from the franchise that for so long represented the standard-bearer of Kiwi involvement across the ditch.

The new owners' link to controversial website Barstool Sports was hardly a harbinger for the continuation of the club's much-trumpeted family values, while publicity stunts like campaigning to sign LeBron James were amusing to a point but essentially pointless.

'Amusing but pointless' could have been the Warriors' motto for the many of the first 23 years of their history. For every memory like the 2002 grand final run, for every player like Manu Vatuvei, there were double the number of headlines asking, 'Is this the Warriors' new low?'.

But an arresting start to the current campaign has fans dreaming, with promising performances matched by favourable results. And that positivity seems to extend off the field where, atypically enough for this oft-stumbling club, every recent off-field move appears a winner.

From appointing chief executive Cameron George, to keeping the faith in embattled coach Stephen Kearney, to recruiting Brian Smith as footballer manager, to luring fitness guru Alex Corvo - the Warriors' current triumphant run began well before a ball was kicked this year.

All four men have clearly-defined and complementary roles, working in unison to tick boxes often associated with the Breakers.

The Warriors, like their cross-code counterparts once did, signed just the right players from home and abroad. And in those signings an emphasis was placed on the players being good people, an echo of the Breakers' famous 'no dickheads' policy.

Now, under the new ownership group of Carlaw Heritage Trust and Autex Industries, such beneficial moves should be buttressed from those at the top.

Stability and sustainability were the themes emanating from the owners' introduction earlier in the week. And the links to Auckland Rugby League offer the opposite of the Breakers' offshore paymasters.

Providing egos can be eschewed, providing the key quartet spurring the current revival can be left relatively unimpeded, there's every hope the Warriors can become consistent challengers.

That mantle has been long held by the Breakers. But the last couple of months might just have signalled a shift in the Auckland sporting paradigm.

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