NZ Breakers absentee owner Matt Walsh vows club not for sale amid NBL resurgence – Stuff

Absentee New Zealand Breakers owner Matt Walsh has confirmed the high-flying Kiwi Australian NBL club is not up for sale, and that he hopes to return soon to take a more hands-on role over the business end of the season.
Walsh’s Breakers have made a rip-roaring start to the 2022-23 season, overcoming a series of gruelling travel and schedule challenges to win eight of their first 11 games and emerge hot on the heels of defending champions the Sydney Kings (8-2) at the pointy end of the standings.
But it has been notable that majority owner Walsh, who heads a US-based consortium that bought the club from the Blackwells in 2018, has been absent through this campaign, remaining stateside for his club’s first normal home-based season since 2019-20.
Walsh, in a zoom call with New Zealand media on Thursday, emphatically rejected rumours that he has put the club up for sale, and that he would not be returning to the country.
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“Absolutely not,” Walsh told Stuff when asked if the club was on the market. “We’re committed. I don’t know how our ownership group could show further commitment than what we’ve done the last two and a-half years, continuing to support the club during Covid, with zero home-game revenue.
“The team is not on the market, and has never been on the market. This is something we love, and barring someone coming in with a massive cheque that would be too good to say no to, we’re as committed as ever.”
Walsh, now based in Austin, Texas, said he had done it tough watching the strong start to the season from afar and confirmed plans to return to Auckland soon.
“I’m dealing with some personal stuff back home, some family issues with my parents, and that’s just the nature of getting older,” he said. “I’m absolutely gutted I haven’t been there for this awesome start. My plan is to come over in December-January, depending on some things back here in the States.
“We’ve had stuff going on here we’ve had to handle and it’s very much a fluid situation,” he added. “Some of my partners are going to visit as well … but I’m also very superstitious and in two or three weeks if we’re 11-3 or 12-3, I’m not getting on a plane any time soon.”
The Breakers owner also explained what he saw as the key factor behind the club’s resurgence in ‘22-23, following tough hauls in ‘20-21 (8-28) and ‘21-22 (5-23)..
“We’re the only professional sports organisation in the world that was out of our market for two years. I think that’s hardened us, and made us tough. The fact now we’re dealing with some crazy travel and we’re able to overcome those obstacles … our staff and players are resilient.
“[Coach] Mody [Maor] has elevated the club and done everything we could have asked for. I think I drive him nuts with my texts and calls, but he’s been amazing.”
In terms of crowds at Spark Arena that have yet to return to pre-Covid numbers, Walsh added: “We have the best sports entertainment in Auckland. I’m hoping we can get back to those levels, because our players deserve it. What the Tom Abercrombies have gone through, the Mody Maors, living on the road, our GM Simon Edwards, our commercial staff scratching for two years without game-day revenue, and our sponsors sticking by us … I feel like our players should be reaping the rewards of going through that for two years.
“I want to see Spark sold out so when Abercrombie gets a dunk in the fourth quarter against Sydney and we come back from 20 down he can feel that energy. He deserves it. What our guys went through was very real, and I’m pleading with Kiwis, get out and support our guys.”
Walsh also confirmed recent social media activity from him around Indian cricket had a purpose to it.
“I do have my hand in a number of sports ventures around the world and I’m always looking for the next opportunity. You never know if you’re going to read something here about a further investment by my group.”
In terms of the tough schedule through the first part of the NBL season (continuing this weekend with a Cairns away-Brisbane home Friday-Sunday double), Walsh toed a conciliatory line, conceding it was always going to be a challenging load for a Kiwi team in an Australian league.
“ think the NBL is doing their best. I wish we could get direct flights, I wish we didn’t arrive after midnight for home games. We’re going to continue to push for the best outcomes we can, and when we think they can do better, we’re going to tell them; and when we need to do better, they’re going to tell us.”
On that front the Breakers had a win on Thursday when the NBL confirmed earlier flights out of Cairns on Saturday that would get them back in Auckland by 7.30pm – nearly six hours earlier than previously scheduled. They meet the Taipans in Cairns on Friday (9.30pm tip NZT) and host Brisbane at Spark on Sunday (4pm).
© 2022 Stuff Limited

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