The Breakers are set to play seven home games in New Zealand following the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble.
It is an incredible 426 days and counting since the Breakers last played a home NBL game, but the wait is almost over for New Zealand basketball fans.
The NBL has released the remainder of the 2021 draw, and the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble means that the Breakers can return home to play seven games in New Zealand starting next month.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have our guys come home,” says Breakers owner Matt Walsh.
“Our priority has been to get our players and staff home to their families as soon as possible.
"We wouldn’t have gotten through this very challenging season without the support of our families and friends and our amazing Breaker Nation.
"We are very grateful that we get to finish our season playing seven home games in front of the best fans in the world.”
The last time the team played at home was before against the SEM Phoenix in Christchurch on February 14 last year, before New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown.
You have to go back to January 31, 2020 – a full 440 days ago - for the last time the Breakers played an NBL game at Spark Arena in Auckland.
Both those games were wins and part of a pulsating 11-3 run in the second half of last season, illustrating just how significant home advantage is in the NBL.
The Breakers have been based in Australia since before Christmas, and captain Tom Abercrombie has welcomed news the team is heading home.
“The prospect of going back to New Zealand, getting some home games is obviously very exciting,” he says from the team’s latest Australian base in Launceston, Tasmania.
Abercrombie, who has appeared 350 times for the Breakers and been part of all four championship-winning teams, knows better than anyone the importance of home-court advantage in the NBL.
“There’s a lot of things that come with home-court advantage, part of that is the boost your fans can give you.
"Sometimes after a couple of losses on the road, you really look forward to that reset of coming home, playing in front of your fans, and resetting, reigniting your momentum.
"For us being able to come home and hopefully reset and reignite ourselves and go on a bit of a run is exciting.”
Abercrombie has not seen his wife or three kids since mid-January, while star shooting guard Corey Webster has missed both his children’s birthdays and his son’s first day at school while being on this never-ending Australian road trip.
“It’s tough being away, they’re growing up so quick, they’re at an age where they grow and change every week,” he says.
Webster, a three-time NBL champion, says the narrow losses the team continues to suffer, like those against the top of the table Perth and second-placed Melbourne this week, turn into wins when the Breakers have home advantage.
“Home crowd atmosphere is a huge thing in sports; you feed off your crowd’s energy, you’re playing in front of your friends, your family, and your loyal fans, and that all adds to the atmosphere and the way you feel.“
The Breakers play ten more times in Australia, beginning with a game against the Bullets in Launceston tomorrow, before coming home.
It is expected the team will fly back to New Zealand next month where they will play seven consecutive games without having to fly back to Australia to play a regular-season game again.
“It’s a little cruel the bubble is going to be open, but we can’t go back straight away, but we’ve learned very quickly this season to deal with whatever comes our way and not make excuses,” says Abercrombie.
“Again it’s one of those things, (but) when I’m on that plane and I’m heading home, that’s when I will really get excited and start imagining the hugs with the kids."