Basketball: NZ Breakers owner Matt Walsh long-distance spectator as team finally find feet in ANBL – Newshub

Breakers owner Matt Walsh with singer Benee at the All-Star Celeb Slam. Credits: Image – Photosport, video – Newshub
NZ Breakers boss Matt Walsh admits he’s a reluctant long-distance spectator, as he watches his team finally contend for the Aussie NBL title from afar.
Walsh, 39, has been a constant courtside presence, since he headed a consortium to buy the Auckland-based club in 2018. Over those first four seasons, the Breakers have failed to reach the competition playoffs and had to endure two years of COVID-19 exile across the Tasman.  
Back to a near-normal home-and-away schedule, under new head coach Mody Maor, the four-time champions are once again back near the top of the table, lying second to titleholders Sydney Kings – much to the frustration of their absent owner.
"Unfortunately, I’m dealing with some personal stuff back home… some family issues with my parents," said Walsh. "That’s just the nature of getting a little bit older.
"I’m absolutely gutted that I haven’t been there for this awesome start, but mostly, I’m just excited for the team and the organisation. Everyone knows how passionate I am and I miss being on the sideline, I miss being at practice and I miss being in the office everyday with our staff.
"My plan is come over in December/January, depending on some things back here in the States, but I miss it everyday. New Zealand is our home."
Walsh claims the Breakers were the only pro sports team operating outside their market for two full years during COVID – perhaps overlooking the crosstown NZ Warriors and their NRL ordeal – and insists the seeds of success were sown before the pandemic, when an 11-3 closing run saw them miss the 2020 semi-finals on a points percentage countback.
"We’ve been successful the last season or so, minus the fact we’ve been on the road," he said. "I think that’s hardened us and made us tough, I think our staff and players have grown from that.
"We’ve taken some lessons and now, when we’re faced with some crazy travel, we’re able to overcome those obstacles. More than anything, our staff and our players are resilient.
"We’ve got quality players. We took the feedback from fans, who wanted more Kiwis – we went out and got Tom Vodanovich, a champion from last year, and we got Izayah Le’afa out from his contract with the Phoenix and brought him home.
"We’ve done a great job building a good roster and being home means something. I just think we’re a tough team and I think that’s shown."
During Walsh’s absence, the team have had to contend with rumours that he and his business partners were actively looking to sell their interest in the club, after two disastrous seasons without home-game revenue.
Walsh vehemently denies that, but hopes the fans that packed out Spark Arena before COVID will return to support a now-winning team.
"we wanted to give our team, after two really tough years, the best chance to succeed in the NBL season and I think we’ve done that," he said. "It was never on the table.
"Barring someone coming in and saying, ‘Hey Matt, we’ll offer you X-amount of dollars’… I do have partners and if it’s such a good deal, I have a responsibility to bring it to my partners, but the team’s not on the market and has never been on the market. 
"We have the best sports entertainment in Auckland – I’ve been to all the events. We’re not the All Blacks, we’re not the most winning team in the world, but we provide the best sports entertainment in Auckland and I’m hoping we can get back to those pre-COVID levels.
"I think the players deserve it."
The Breakers hit the road to face Cairns Taipans on Friday, before returning home to host Brisbane Bullets at Spark Arena on Sunday.

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