Metro NZ

SMOKE, NOISE & BASKETBALL

Spark Arena, 9.30am. I was told not to be late for my third attempt at writing a story about the New Zealand Breakers and their tumultuous season in the Australian National Basketball League. I soon find out why. The place is a hive of activity already. In the backstage area, people are hard at work preparing the thousands of noisemakers that will be left on every seat in the steeply banked arena. Despite the team currently having a 2-8 record, they are expecting almost all of those seats to be filled.

But, if you know anything about the Breakers, you’ll know the win-loss record isn’t what’s been making the headlines. That’s why it’s the third time I’m trying to write this story, because the events of the past few months rendered the first two versions obsolete within days of being written.

August seems like a lifetime ago. Then, I walked into the Breakers’ office on the North Shore, feeling like I was armed with a bit of controversy to throw at Matt Walsh, the team’s CEO and co-owner, who took over last year. But Walsh turned out to be friendly and charming, and when I almost apologetically brought up the fact that the team still have a relationship with the controversial media outlet Barstool Sports, the 36-year-old Pennsylvanian laughed off the criticism of Barstool’s sexist and homophobic content as all a bit of fun and a misunderstanding. I didn’t agree, but I left without anything juicy to report.

But the season was looming and the potential positives seemed to outweigh the present negatives. The Breakers had pulled off

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