They’ve gone from wooden spooners to grand finalists in the space of just one season, but that’s not the only thing making the Breakers famous.
The pizzazz of the home games is drawing big crowds, from the hardcore fans to those simply looking for a taste of American-style showtime.
“The word I’d use is slick,” says RNZ presenter Nathan Rarere, who was there for the Breakers’ first games at the North Shore Events Centre in 2003, where it turned into a sweatbox during play and the roof leaked when it rained.
“There were so few people at the pre-season game, the ball made an echo when it bounced.”
Rarere’s seen owners and players come and go; as well as the controversies. The team’s gone from zero to hero, and back again, many times over.
The Breakers survived the physical and financial disruption of the pandemic, which forced them to be based in Australia for two seasons. They returned to home ground last year.
And while other sports commentators and punters have tut-tutted over the razzmatazz of the games, Rarere has revelled in it.
Despite their hokey beginnings, Rarere says the first coach, Jeff Green, set the tone for the team.
“He could see that New Zealand needed showtime. ‘We’re called the Breakers, it rhymes with The Lakers.’ He was box office, but it just wasn’t very successful.”
What also impressed Rarere, when the team was struggling to get to the top of the league, was when the then-owners – Liz and Paul Blackwell – called for season ticket holders’ opinions on how to improve the team.
Top of the fans’ wish list was player CJ Bruton, but no one expected him to sign with the Breakers. He did and other overseas stars followed.
But Rarere says the beauty of the Breakers is that the team has been solidly built around top New Zealand players, such as Kirk Penny, Paul Henare and Mika Vukona.
He realised the team had made a breakthrough with young Kiwi followers when he was picking his daughter up from school one day and noticed more Breakers singlets than Chicago Bulls’.
Rarere explains how the current owners, headed by former American professional basketballer Matt Walsh, have turned the Breakers franchise, the game, the entertainment and the marketing into a slick operation.
“He’s clever with the way he’s done things. It’s two or three steps down the thought chain than most of our New Zealand sports run at.”
The Detail also meets coach Mody Maor and finds out more about how a meeting with a rugby legend has inspired his own leadership style.
Get on board with the Breakers’ grand final hype and listen to the full podcast episode.
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