Upon the release of the NBL free agent list yesterday, the SKYCITY Breakers have confirmed an exciting group of players already contracted to return next season, and that they are in continued negotiations with Rob Loe about a return to the club, but have decided not to take up an option for a further year with Corey Webster.
That strong core of players returning next season includes Alex Pledger, Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie and Kirk Penney, a group that boasts great experience and championship winning pedigree, but also features the young and exciting Finn Delany and Shea Ili, players who can form the backbone of the team for years to come.
Other players such as Jordan Ngatai (on a one year deal last season) and Ethan Rusbatch (not eligible for a 2017/18 development player contract due to age) have been challenged to play well for their NBL clubs to make sure they are in the mix when it comes to adding to the roster for next season.
Loe though is the priority for the club, the North Shore native returned to New Zealand from Europe in 2016 on a one year contract and while no deal has yet been struck, the club is in discussions to re-sign the 6’11” centre for the 2017/18 NBL season.
“Rob is a player that we would very much like to have with us for next season and beyond,” said SKYCITY Breakers General Manager Dillon Boucher.
“We have a great group of players returning next season and right now the only player we are in discussions with to join them is Rob. His ability to stretch the floor and be an outside threat as well as giving us that size inside gives us great versatility, he is a local player and lives and breathes Breakers values and we would love to have him back with us next season for sure.”
One who won’t be returning is Webster, with the club and player agreeing not to take up the final year option on his contract, allowing Webster to pursue other opportunities, something Boucher says might be the best thing for Webster at this time in his career.
“We think it is the right time for Corey to take on a new challenge and to assess what he wants to get out of the game. He has had a challenging six months and has in that time struggled with his physical fitness and the distraction of off-court issues. Corey agreed that it might be the right time for him to pursue those new challenges elsewhere and see where he can go in the game.
“As a club, we feel we have supported Corey, it is over to him now as to what the next steps are and where he goes in the game. There were times this season when he did not live up to our expectations as a Breaker and perhaps make the most of the opportunities that he has been presented with, but he goes with our best wishes and our hopes that he can enjoy a successful second half to his career, we all know he has the natural ability to be whatever he wants to be in the game.”
As is always the case with the Breakers, decisions around imports will be left until later in the off-season, once all the local players are a known quantity.
“Paul and the coaching team will have a better understanding of what they need out of an import – or imports, once they know what we have from a local perspective. Right now our focus is agreeing a deal with Rob, Paul will then take time to see plenty of the New Zealand NBL and sign a further two or three players before we make any decisions on imports and the types of players that we need and the budget available.”
Development players will also be confirmed after the New Zealand NBL, with the club looking to again provide three players with the opportunity to train and live as Breakers and take a step along the player development pathway that has proven so successful in producing well rounded young men, many of whom have gone on to secure fulltime roster contracts. Of last season’s D-Unit, Derone Raukawa will be looking to impress with a strong season for Southland in the NBL, while Sam Waardenburg has taken up a scholarship at the University of Miami.
Boucher says the club will stay true to its values and within its budgets when it comes to assembling a roster for next season, but is excited about what lies ahead.
“One of our great strengths has been our long-term planning and minimizing disruption to the roster, with many players committing themselves long term to the club and vice versa. That does not happen by accident, we recruit very carefully to our on and off-court needs so we can live up to our reputation and values in the community, while also challenging for the championship.
“The six players we have contracted for next season should give cause for excitement amongst our fans and stakeholders and I have no doubt that excitement will grow further with more announcements in the coming weeks and months.”