The SKYCITY Breakers have moved quickly to make changes to their roster after a start to the season that has seen them win one and lose three games, announcing today the return of club favourite and two time championship winner Gary Wilkinson.
The move has come at a cost though, with American import Darnell Lazare being released from his contract and Tall Black Jeremiah Trueman being placed on a waiver to enable the club to stay under the required points cap with their 10 fulltime rostered players.
SKYCITY Breakers general manager Richard Clarke says it is not a decision taken lightly in view of the two players who are affected by the return of Wilkinson.
“Having to work within the points system does create some very hard calls, such as this one on Jeremiah. Nothing has changed in terms of his role, the minutes required or the contribution, but as we only have 3 points left available with Gary coming in, it means Jeremiah's position is also impacted. This is a really tough outcome for Jeremiah and a very hard call for the club, which is the reality of having to work under both a salary cap and points cap system.
“Our off season recruitment was based on how the game was played last season, we - along with all clubs, have then had to make adjustments for a different set of refereeing interpretations. The guys have been making good adjustments, but it is quite a different game to previous seasons and the coaches felt they needed a different mix of skills in the group to really compete under the new interpretations.”
SKYCITY Breakers head coach Dean Vickerman reflected on the toughest decision he has had to make in his coaching career and like Clarke, his first thoughts are for the players affected by the decision.
“We have had to make calls that impact two players; both are of unbelievably strong character and fit the values of this club. This is not a reflection of their character or work ethic, it is a performance based decision and in Jeremiah’s case, the points cap. These are two people who are valued by their team mates and everyone at the club.
“Darnell has been nothing but professional in all of our dealings with him from the moment we contacted him to come to the club and has continued in that vein through the past few difficult days. He understands the business and what we are about in trying to win a championship and has reacted with great professionalism to this news.
“JT is extremely disappointed that he has been put on a waiver in these circumstances but is understanding of our situation as well. He too has reacted like the class person he is. Jeremiah’s ongoing role with the team is still being discussed but it is our hope that he stays a part of our group this season and is available should the need arise.”
Vickerman went on to say that bringing a player such as Wilkinson back into the fold may not have made the calls any easier, but has at least made them more understandable for all involved.
“Returning a club legend who has won two championships here, you know exactly what you are going to get, it lessens the risk and certainly there is a comfort level with our core group of players who have been here for a while now as to what he will bring to the table.
“What has been missing in this team so far this year is the vocal extrovert, we are quite a quiet group and when we said ‘what can we change a little bit’, it was that factor perhaps more than the skill set, the guy with the infectious energy, that is certainly what Gary will bring.
“We recruited Darnell without then knowing of the changes to the rule interpretations. Darnell is a physical presence and plays the game similar to Mika in regards to his physicality on the defensive end and he had his foul troubles in the pre-season. Now the league wants games to be high scoring and we believe Gary will fit the new interpretations a little better than Darnell so that was an adjustment we had to be prepared to make to our roster.”
Wilkinson will arrive into New Zealand tomorrow and will take some part in practice with the team, subject to how he has travelled. Wilkinson will be available for the SKYCITY Breakers home game against the Adelaide 36ers. His contract with the club is for the remainder of the 2013/14 season.