The Breakers are set for a long-awaited homecoming with seven consecutive games to be hosted in New Zealand to round out their Australian NBL season.
Scheduling for the final six weeks of the 2020-21 season has been released, with the Breakers first set to grace New Zealand hardwood floors on May 20 against the Sydney Kings.
It will mark the first time the lone Kiwi franchise in the transtasman competition has played in New Zealand since February 2020.
Breakers owner Matt Walsh says all staff and players couldn't be more excited to be returning home.
"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," he said.
"We are very grateful that we get to finish our season playing seven home games."
It has been 426 days since the franchise last played a home game, a pre-Covid matchup with the South East Melbourne Phoenix in Christchurch on February 14 last year. You have to go back to January 31 2020 for the last time the Breakers played in Auckland.
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.
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," he says.
"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 guard Corey Webster has missed both his children's birthdays and his son's first day at school while being in Australia.
"It's tough being away, they're growing up so quick, they're at an age where they grow and change every week," Webster says.
The 32-year-old expects the narrow losses the team continues to suffer to turn into wins when the Breakers are playing on home soil.
"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," Webster says.
The Breakers play 10 more games in Australia, beginning with a clash with the Brisbane Bullets in Tasmania tomorrow, prior to 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," Abercrombie says.
"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."