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April 13, 2011 | by  | in Online Only |
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7th Inning Stretch – The NZ Breakers Bandwagon

I’ve used this past week to jump firmly aboard the NZ Breakers bandwagon.

All season they’ve been the best in the competition. Now, in the post-season, they’re one home win away from a grand final. I’m writing this before their last best-of-three semi-final against Perth in Auckland. Even if they are eliminated, and even if this bandwagon comes off really disappointing, the bigger issue is still there.

I’m talking, of course, about the performance of New Zealander teams in their respective Trans-Tasman (ish) leagues; the NRL, NBL, and A-League.

For nearly two decades New Zealand fans have watched their professional teams in an Australian league, and for nearly two decades they have gone relatively unrewarded. The Warriors came closest, the Breakers and Phoenix have given themselves a small chance, but at the end of the day – no trophies.

The Warriors have been a mid-table side in the NRL. With the exception of their 2002 season (when they finished top of the table and were beaten in the final), they have gone about their work relatively unnoticed. Recently, they have been going through a rebuilding phase, during which they have been desperately underwhelming. While the under-20 Junior Warriors won last years’ grand final, the rugby league trophy drought (at least at a senior level) looks set to continue for a few seasons yet.

Football is even more depressing. The Kingz and Knights were a very well documented embarrassment, and before the Phoenix came along, New Zealand football fans were used to failure. In 2010, the Phoenix came within a win of the final, but still look four or five seasons (and a win away from home) away from genuinely challenging for the trophy.

And in the Breakers’ eight year existence they are yet to win the title, but this year are hot favourites, would have home advantage in the final, after winning the minor premiership by a country mile. They’ve beaten anyone they’ve come up against this year, losing only a few games all season and looking genuinely competent right from game one.

It is the expectation of New Zealand sports fans that the Breakers will finally break our duck in Australia.
But why has it taken so long? Sure, some of the Australian clubs are better established, but does that really take fifteen years to rectify? The travel’s not ideal, either, but in a professional environment must be dealt with. Not to mention that other teams from Perth or north Queensland have the same problem. In truth it’s almost inexplicable that New Zealand sides have not been able to break away and win in an Australian environment.

The Breakers are the first side to seem unaffected by this. They’ve looked professional, and they’ve looked relatively untroubled away from home. They’ve even won a few across the ditch. In many ways they’re probably better organised and better equipped off the court to win the league.

However, all seasons come with their speed bumps. I can only hope – from a Breakers’ perspective – that their minor late-season slump was their speed bump, and there’s no ‘C-word’ reminiscent of South African cricket sides, New Zealanders at Rugby World Cups, or English football in store for us.

Given the rivalry between New Zealand and Australia, I understand that everybody here is willing the Breakers to win the competition. Everybody is now aboard the Breakers bandwagon. Whatever happens over the next fortnight, this season for the Breakers has been one of the most important in New Zealand professional sport. It may be underplayed in the media but a win in the Australian NBL would be not just a huge breakthrough for the Breakers, but also for New Zealand sport.

So all the best to them. New Zealand will be watching.

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  1. Alex says:

    jOE. Great colum. Be salient editor. Editor in the making.

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