ANBL: NZ Breakers captain Tom Abercrombie falls victim to family reunion after five-month absence

Tom Abercrombie's long-awaited homecoming has been marred by the usual hazards of fatherhood.

But after more than five months in Australia, even that is comforting for the NZ Breakers captain, as he re-introduces himself to his family.

The Auckland-based ANBL team have finally returned home from the longest road trip of their 18-year history, forced on them by COVID-19, and border restrictions between New Zealand and Australia.

"It was a pretty emotional reunion," Abercrombie has told The AM Show. "Not seeing the kids for five months, at that age, they change a lot.

"Especially my young one, he's 18 months now and it was like meeting a new person again. It was pretty cool and very emotional.

"The kids are happy to have me back and have welcomed me straight into the fold with some stomach bugs over the last couple of days."

In February, the Abercrombies attracted unwanted public scrutiny, when wife Monique-Rachel and their three children - two of whom are autistic - were allowed to self-isolate at home rather than a quarantine facility, after returning from Australia.

Tom Abercrombie admits to The AM Show that was tough period to be away from his family, as they faced accusations of favouritism in the media.

"Someone who's used to dealing with high-pressure situations, as it happened, you put on a brave face. I feel like once we got our side of the story out there, it was OK and after that, it all settled down.

Tom Abercrombie limps off the court after injuring an ankle
Tom Abercrombie limps off the court after injuring a hamstring. Photo credit: Photosport

"But when I reflected on it, I realised the emotional toll it took, and the reality of me being stuck over there and my family having to go through that by themselves... it took a massive toll personally. 

"Everyone was going through their own things, everyone came from their own personal situations and backgrounds. Some guys were leaving kids at home - our import Colton Iverson left a three-month-old in American when he joined us, and still  hasn't been able to see his wife and child.

"Everyone was dealing with their own stuff and in some ways, that brought us together, but that doesn't necessarily mean you will develop strong resilience and backbone. Even though I think we did in a lot of ways, it didn't translate into the wins we hoped it would, but I'm proud of everyone and how we got through it."

Despite earning the respect of opponents and fans for the challenges faced over recent months, the Breakers bring a nine-win, 20-loss record back across the Tasman and are well out of the playoff picture, with seven homes games left.

To make the top four, they must win all their remaining fixtures - starting with Sydney Kings at Waitakere's Trusts Arena on Thursday - and hope other results go their way, but probably too many to retain a realistic chance.

Reconnecting with a fanbase that hasn't seen them in action for more than 500 days will bring its own reward for a team that desperately missed that home support in Australia.

The Breakers were originally meant to base themselves in Melbourne, but found themselves roaming the Aussie wilderness, as state after state closed their borders against the coronavirus threat.

Eventually they settled in Tasmania, but struggled to win over the local fans.

"They were supposed to be our home games, but the first game against Perth, the crowd was confused and booing us," chuckles Abercrombie. "Once they figured that out after a couple of games, they actually got behind us and we had a pretty good time there.

"We played some good basketball. We were there or thereabouts in most of our games, but we lacked that little extra punch to get us over the line and sometimes playing at home can give you that boost you need. 

"We tried to make no excuses for ourselves and embrace our reality over there, and just make the most of it."

Abercrombie is expected to sit out his team's remaining games with a hamstring injured suffered against Perth Wildcats two weeks ago.