New Zealand star says Hin­der the key for Townsville

Townsville Bulletin - - Bizfi Nd -

LUKE Schen­scher and Mick Cedar may be con­sid­ered match­win­ners, but Mika Vukona reck­ons Rus­sell Hin­der is the Crocs’ oxy­gen.

Tonight at The Swamp, the NBLlead­ing Break­ers will be aim­ing to leave them gasp­ing for air.

Both teams head into the game des­per­ate for a win al­beit for slightly dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

Townsville need to ar­rest a twogame los­ing streak that threat­ens to de­rail their top-two hopes, while the Break­ers are look­ing to get back on the roll that has seen them clinch the mi­nor pre­mier­ship with four games re­main­ing. It makes for a guar­an­teed e mo t i o n - c h a r g e d n i g h t , wh i c h Vukona be­lieves makes Croc­o­diles cap­tain Hin­der as dan­ger­ous as ever.

‘‘ Hin­der is the emo­tional ticket of the teams,’’ the 28-year-old Fiji prod­uct said. ‘‘ He will get the team go­ing when they need it most, he pulls them in around him.’’

Hin­der av­er­ages 8.5 points, six re­bounds and a nudge un­der two as­sists per night – stats Vukona said were noth­ing to be sneezed at.

But af­ter eight years of bang­ing bod­ies with him in the paint, Vukona said Hin­der’s big­gest as­set was his lead­er­ship. ‘‘ The way he com­mu­ni­cates on court re­ally gets through. In ev­ery sit­u­a­tion he has his part to play, he comes up with the right things at the right time,’’ Vukona said. ‘‘ He’s some­one they know they can turn to.’’

Vukona con­tin­ued his thoughts on what the Break­ers would need to do to win tonight’s one-ver­sus-three show­down.

‘‘ We have to get on top of Hin­der, Mick Cedar and Will ( Blalock), be­cause these are guys who the team feeds off,’’ Vukona said.

But while the Break­ers have their sights set on shut­ting down Hin­der, the Croc­o­diles will be equally fo­cused on red-hot Vukona.

The ath­letic 198cm, 93kg for­ward has found a rich vein of form, av­er­ag­ing a dou­ble-dou­ble of 11 points and 11 re­bounds in his past three out­ings.

He also had 10 points and eight re­bounds when New Zealand beat Townsville in a one-point thriller last week. A cham­pi­onship win­ner with the South Dragons in 2008, Vukona said it was no co­in­ci­dence he was start­ing to hit his peak.

‘‘ I love play­ing at this time of year,’’ he said.

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