Marlborough Express

Sth Canterbury players, coach dominate Heartland XV squad


we have fielded is credit to the competitiv­e nature of the Heartland Championsh­ip. We’re pleased to have selected a well-balanced team, with a strong skill-set that is bolstered by some great experience.’’

Walsh expects the New Zealand Police to be a competitiv­e matchup for the New Zealand Heartland XV.

‘‘We’re expecting a tough, close competitio­n from the New Zealand Police and I’m looking forward to seeing players take the opportunit­y to pull on the New Zealand Heartland XV jersey and proudly represent it, ‘‘ Walsh said.

‘‘This is the pinnacle for a number of these players from the Heartland provincial teams and for them to be able to don the black jersey is something very special and will be treasured for the rest of their lives.’’

This will be Walsh’s second campaign as head coach, alongside assistant coach Jason Hamlin. Walsh said it is a special time for the management as well as the players’ to be recognised.

‘‘It is an absolute privilege to be involved with the New Zealand Heartland XV team and represent the silver fern. Each member of the side has earned their spot and will be an honour for them to stepout onto the field to represent their Heartland Union, wha¯ nau, and friends.’’

Star Breakers import Barry Brown Jr credits a ‘‘road dog mentality’’ with the early transforma­tion of the Kiwi club from pretenders to contenders in the Australian NBL.

After just four rounds, the Breakers have made arguably the most emphatic statement of the young season, winning four of their first six games (to sit second overall, one win back of the Sydney Kings), and going 3-1 on the road through a brutal early schedule to emerge as a genuine playoff contender.

There is a lot of the proverbial water to flow under the bridge yet, but the signs are positive that in their first ‘‘normal’’ season since 2019-20, Mody Maor’s men have the skill, tenacity and wherewitha­l to make their first post-season appearance since 2017-18. They are already just one victory from matching their entire win total from last campaign.

That could come this weekend as round five marks the conclusion of a challengin­g period of six games in 15 days, including a trio of trips across the ditch, with a visit to the dangerous Adelaide 36ers tonight, followed by a Sunday home clash against the Tasmania Jackjumper­s at Spark.

‘‘It’s tough,’’ Brown told Stuff of a stretch that’s seen them yo-yo back and forth across the Tasman whilst also dealing with significan­t injury and illness. ‘‘But we have this road dog mentality – we get on the road where it’s a dog-eat-dog world, there are no excuses, you can’t feel sorry for yourself, and we understand that.

‘‘We’re going into road games with that type of mentality. We know it’s going to be a hostile crowd, a great team, whatever . . . but if we go in with that road dog mentality we always have a chance, for sure.’’

The Breakers’ most recent road win, 68-64 at the Cairns Taipans last Sunday, was certainly one of their more remarkable – coming as Brown returned from a three-game absence with hamstring tightness.

The Breakers remain a work in progress scoring the ball, as their Cairns travails demonstrat­ed, but, with the exception of the Phoenix misfire, they have been able to hang their hat on a collective defence that is the best in the league. More of that will be mandatory, says Brown.

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