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April 30, 2012 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Nothin’ But Net – Breakers Break Glass

A grand final, a third finals appearance and now a title on paper looks like a good return for New Zealand in the past six months. No doubt the Warriors, Phoenix, and now Breakers are starting to seriously establish themselves in Australian leagues, but there’s still a tiny representation of Kiwi talent in these competitions. And we know we can do better.

Another triumph for the Breakers last Tuesday night saw them not only become the first side to win back-to-back titles in Australia’s basketball competition but also suggests that out of nowhere, basketball has become our most telling and incisive venture into Australian sport in the past fifteen years.

Few would have predicted at the beginning that it would be basketball, not league
or football, which has made the first major inroads into calming our niggling inferiority complex against our rivals across the ditch. They’re a perfect example of how to run a franchise, have two titles and two minor premierships, while the best the others have to offer are two grand finals for the Warriors and a sustained level of mediocrity at Phoenix HQ of which fans like myself are dangerously accepting.

Even more impressive is that the ANBL is the only one of the three competitions which doesn’t buy into the questionable strategy of allowing half of its participants to compete in its finals’ series each year. And so, just like it would had the Phoenix or the Warriors conquered Australia, why hasn’t the question been raised as to whether New Zealand can sustain a second franchise in the ANBL. A follow-up question: what’s stopping that franchise basing itself in Wellington?

You have to argue that in league and in soccer, expansion around the country is unprofitable, but should a second Kiwi basketball team come about, follow the same model as the Breakers and generate a passionate, bandwagon-jumping fan base, there is little to suggest that we couldn’t keep a challenger to the Breakers afloat.

Not to mention that unlike football or rugby, basketball protects its fans from the weather, another team in the country creates an exciting new derby match and— most importantly—leaves the door open for Frankie Stevens to MC in professional sport—a prospect I think we all agree is in the best interests of New Zealand sport in a big, big way.

The point is that basketball should now consider itself largely profitable in New Zealand and could be a giant leap forward for the sport in this country. The fact that our media still refers to the NRL, A-League and ANBL as ‘Australian’ competitions is telling. In a combined thirty seasons in these leagues, the current teams have only four finals, and two titles to our names.

The success of the Breakers might be the catalyst for New Zealand sport not to view itself as a participant, but as a dominant force. But for now, at least, let’s celebrate a Breakers’ double which has well and truly injected a great deal of impetus into the sport in New Zealand.


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