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"The Greatest Side That Never Was"

05 Mar
4 mins read

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Written By Dan Woods for

Mody Maor believes most of the Breakers' NBL24 roster will be heading to pastures new next season.

Monday’s Play-In Game was always going to end in heartbreak for either Illawarra or New Zealand, and it was the Hawks who held their nerve to cling onto a three-point home win, and the Breakers who have bowed out of NBL24 wondering what might have been.

New Zealand’s season-long injury crisis took one final term against Illawarra, when the walking wounded and battle-hardened Will McDowell-White suffered an apparent ankle sprain in the second quarter and had to be helped from the court.

The linchpin guard returned in the second half but couldn’t go on, and a New Zealand side that was already missing Anthony Lamb and playing an injured Zylan Cheatham just couldn’t get over one more hurdle.

“In the middle of the season we had this slogan, we’re either the best team that never was or the best team that ever was, and if we’d have made the semi-finals that means we’d have been the best team that ever was, because of all the things we overcame in order to get there,” head coach Mody Maor reflected post-game.

“In all honesty, and I told this to the guys at the end of the game, sometimes the ball doesn’t break your way, and results don’t fall the way you want them to fall ... it’s not always the end result that you need to judge yourself by.

“I think this roster was incredible and we never had a chance to see it in full. This team played its full roster for eight minutes in this whole season and had a combined 82 games missed from our top eight players – that’s more than two-and-a-half players per game.”

Maor seems resigned to the fact history is set to repeat itself this off-season. Following the club’s Championship Series heartbreak in NBL23, the roster had to repurpose following the loss of import trio Jarrell Brantley, Barry Brown Jr and Dererk Pardon.

“For now, I’ll just be sad I have to say goodbye to most of these guys and enjoy my last day or two or three with them, and after that I’ll get to work,” Maor said.

“If I was lucky I’d get to keep all of them, but in reality most of our guys played really, really well and will go on to make a lot of money somewhere else.

“I’ll be happy for them and I’ll enjoy coaching new guys next year.”

With that defeat the storied career of Tom Abercrombie has come to a close. The long-time Breakers captain ended the game with six points in just over 18 minutes off the bench, and hit one final trademark wing three to give his side the lead, with just over seven minutes remaining.

The NBL stalwart says he feels like he got his retirement “out of the way a couple of weeks ago”, but Maor paid one final tribute to his captain.

“Every time people summarise Tom’s career I feel like it comes short. You either talk about who he is as a person as a leader, or you talk about who he is as a basketball player, and both are incredible,’ he said.

“I’ve been so lucky to have him as a partner for these first steps for me as a head coach, I couldn’t have done any of this without him, I’m grateful for everything he is to me, I’m grateful for everything he is to the club, and what he leaves us with is an immense responsibility to have the club keep growing and developing in a way that makes him proud.”

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed. There’s going to be time later to be proud of our process and how we went about our business and how our guys competed in battle. This group deserved to fight another day and I’m heartbroken we weren’t able to deliver this for him and for everyone.”


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