Grant Chapman: NZ Breakers' all-time greatest Aussie line-up

OPINION: While the Australian NBL has seemingly dodged the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, its effects may yet linger into the next season.

Commercial uncertainty and slashed salaries may yet see some of the league's top talent looking further afield for more lucrative earning opportunities.

With that context, now would be a poignant moment in history to reflect on the best to wear the NZ Breakers uniform since they debuted in the competition 17 years ago.

Ironically, not that many Aussies have made the trip across the Tasman to pull on the Breakers singlet.

Most of their top homegrown talent tend to stick with the clubs that developed them, or head for offshore leagues in Europe or the NBA to seek their fortunes.

But those that venture navigate the crossing tend to be pretty damn good...

Point Guard - CJ Bruton

179 games (2008-14), 2049 points (11.4 av), 464 assists, 396 rebounds, 167 steals

The son of legendary ANBL import Cal Bruton had already built his own reputation, before crossing the ditch to end his career with the Breakers.

US-born Bruton had won three championships with Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets, and followed Bullets teammate Dillon Boucher to Auckland, where he picked up three more, as a kingpin of the Breakers golden dynasty.

He won All-NBL honours in 2009 and took out Finals MVP in 2012, notching up his 500th league appearance in 2013 and eventually calling it quits on March 21, 2014, at the age of 38.

His No.23 singlet is one of three retired by the club, along with Boucher and foundation guard Paul Henare, and he followed former Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis back to Brisbane, where he is currently assistant coach.

Shooting Guard - Daryl Corletto

92 games (2011-14), 837 points (9.1 av)

Aussie clubs had a knack for producing homegrown shooters, who could rise up off the bench and drive a dagger in your heart from long range.

Corletto arrived at the Breakers with a chip on his shoulder, just as the club lost its own rising star, Corey Webster, to season-long suspension.

After helping Melbourne Tigers to two titles, the sniper was shown the door, when coach Trevor Gleeson needed to make room for NBA star Patty Mills, a snub that had Corletto absolutely spewing.

Daryl Corletto in action for the Breakers
Daryl Corletto in action for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

He responded by playing the perfect role in a star-studded line-up that captured its second and third consecutive titles while he was aboard.

During his three seasons in Auckland, Corletto connected on 41 percent from beyond the arc, but saw his usage fall away, as Webster returned and reclaimed his spot in the rotation.

Small Forward - Oscar Forman

125 games (2006-10), 1265 points (10.1 av), 593 rebounds

Arrived from Adelaide with a championship under his belt, Forman helped his new club to the playoffs for the first time in 2008 and led the league in three-point shooting in 2008/09, connecting on 40 percent from long range across his stay in Auckland.

Oscar Forman in action for the Breakers
Oscar Forman in action for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

With the emergence of Tom Abercrombie, Forman's usage also fell away in his final season, but he was able to rekindle his career with the Wollongong/Illawarra Hawks, earning Most Improved honours, when he returned across the ditch and haunting the Breakers in subsequent meetings.

Power Forward - Tony Ronaldson

94 games, (2007-10), 1037 points

'The Bear' was another ANBL legend to commit to the Breakers, helping them to their first winning season and playoff appearance, as they geared up for the title era.

Ronaldson was probably past his prime by the time he arrived in Auckland, but still a massive presence in the block, with a nice touch from afar.

Tony Ronaldson in action for the Breakers
Tony Ronaldson in action for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

After his final season with the Breakers, he retired at the age of 37. His 665 games stands as the NBL record for appearances - that last season was the only time in his career he failed to make the playoffs.

Centre - Ben Pepper

96 games (2004-07), 1451 points (15.1 av), 935 rebounds, 105 blocks, 42 double doubles

Drafted, but unsigned by the Boston Celtics in 1997, Pepper came to Auckland, via the Newcastle Falcons, where he had won Most Improved and Sixth Man honours the same year, North Melbourne Giants, Victoria Titans and Wollongong Hawks.

Ben Pepper in action for the Breakers
Ben Pepper in action for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

Though he looked ungainly at times, the seven-footer was one of the club's most consistent performers through its formative years and still leads the Breakers in 'double doubles'.

Was named Breakers MVP in 2005/06.

Sixth Man - Jarrad Weeks

53 games (2018-present), 430 points (8.1 av)

'Agent 97' has carved himself a nice support role off the bench over the past two seasons and is due to return for the 2020/21 season.

Averaged 10 points a game during his first stint, slipped down the pecking order with the arrival of American wiz kid RJ Hampton last summer, but still had plenty of chances to impress.

Jarrad Weeks dunks for the Breakers
Jarrad Weeks dunks for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

Weeks rarely disappoints, with his high-energy style contributing big shots, bit plays and breathtaking dunks.


Shawn Redhage

OK, not strictly an Aussie during his brief stay on this side of the Tasman, but Florida-born Redhage went on to become a feature of Perth's championship dynasty over the past decade, earning Australian residency along the way.

Shawn Redhage in action for the Breakers
Shawn Redhage in action for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

He played just 13 games for the Breakers, averaging 12 points a game, but lost the competition for power forward minutes to Tall Blacks captain Pero Cameron and was eventually cut.

Has since won fourth ANBL titles, plus another in Puerto Rico, while earning two All-NBL selections and representing the Boomers at the 2008 Olympics.

John Rillie

Rillie's stay in Auckland was just as brief as Redhage's and his stint there, at age 38, marked the end of a fine career that had seen him win a title with Adelaide in 1998, and a scoring title and All-NBL selection with West Sydney in 2003.

He had proved a headache for the Breakers previously and seemed a great fit as a short-term replacement for an injured Kirk Penney. Although his opportunities were limited, he still shot 42 percent from the arc.

Grant Chapman is Newshub online sports editor.