Bruton 'the difference' for Breakers in title win

00:48, Apr 27 2012
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson passes under pressure from Townsville Crocs centre Luke Schenscher.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher on the fast break chased by Townsville Crocs guard Michael Cedar.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher battles with Townsville Crocs forward Peter Crawford.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie charges into Townsville Crocs forward Todd Blanchfield.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers guard Cedric Jackson scoots around Townsville Crocs point guard Eddie Gill.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
High-fives for the Breakers in the NZ Breakers.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Dillon Boucher scoots around Townsville Crocs forward Jacob Holmes.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers forward Thomas Abercrombie keeps the ball in play.
Breakers v Townsville Crocodiles
Breakers head coach Andrej Lemanis talks to his players.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Mika Vukona of the Breakers drives past Todd Blanchfield of the Crocodiles during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Michael Cedar of the Crocodiles attempts a jump shot over Cedric Jackson of the Breakers during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers makes a lay-up during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Dillon Boucher of the Breakers drives past Jacob Holmes of the Crocodiles during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Russell Hinder of the Crocodiles looks dejected in game two of the NBL Finals series against the New Zealand Breakers.
Breakers v Crocodiles
Eddie Gill of the Crocodiles passes the ball past Tom Abercrombie of the Breakers during game two.
Breakers v Crocodiles
The Breakers celebrate after winning game two of the NBL Finals series against the Townsville Crocodiles.
Tom Abercrombie
The moment before Tom Abercrombie was taken out by Townsville's Peter Crawford on a breakaway dunk.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie is treated on the floor while team-mates go after the referee.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie lies on the court in agony after severely straining ligaments in his left ankle.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton raises his arms after a crucial fourth quarter three-pointer in the game three win.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson hits the hardwood to grab possession for the Breakers.
Breakers bench boys
MAKE OR BREAK: The Breakers are getting ready for a do-or-die match against Perth tonight.
Breakers gallery
Breakers centre Gary Wilkinson drives into Perth Wildcats centre Luke Nevill in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Alex Pledger of the Breakers battles with two Perth Wildcats players for the ball in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Leon Henry of the Breakers lays the ball up over Luke Nevill of the Perth Wildcats in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Breakers gallery
Breakers guard CJ Bruton on the ball.
Breakers Gallery
Dillon Boucher celebrates the Breakers win over Perth Wildcats in game one of the ANBL finals series.
Gary Wilkinson
Gary Wilkinson gets the Breakers fired-up pre-game.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson gets amongst the front-row fans after making a basket and being fouled.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie gingerly runs onto the court during player intros.
Leon Henry
Small forward Leon Henry defends Perth's Cameron Tovey.
Mika Vukona
Mika Vukona looks to score down low under pressure from Luke Nevill.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and Wildcats players get involved in an altercation.
NZ Breakers
Breakers playing discuss tactics during a break in play of game two of the ANBL finals series in Perth.
NZ Breakers
Breakers big man during game two of the ANBL finals series in Perth.
NZ Breakers
Breakers and Wildcats players get involved in an altercation.
NZ Breakers
Kevin Lisch of the Wildcats and Cedric Jackson of the Breakers contest for a loose ball during game two.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry and Dillon Boucher of the Breakers look on from the bench during game two.
NZ Breakers
Shawn Redhage of the Wildcats celebrates with supporters at the end of the game during game two.
NZ Breakers
Leon Henry of the Breakers lays-up against Matt Knight of the Wildcats during game two.
Breakers
The crowd cheers as the Breakers take to the court during the third and deciding game of the ANBL finals series against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers
Breakers' forward Mika Vukona avoids the attention of Perth Wildcats' forward Shawn Redhage.
Breakers
Breakers' guard CJ Bruton goes past Perth Wildcats' point guard Brad Robbins.
Breakers gallery
Breakers' guard Cedric Jackson takes the ball to the hoop in game three of ANBL finals series against the Perth Wildcats.
Breakers gallery
Breakers' Alex Pledger climbs high for a dunk.
Breakers gallery
The New Zealand Breakers and the Perth Wildcats get involved in an altercation in game three of the ANBL finals series in Auckland.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
New Zealand Breakers' coach Andrej Lemanis with the ANBL championship trophy.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
The New Zealand Breakers' celebrate their victory in the ANBL finals series.
Andrej Lemanis gallery
New Zealand Breakers' Dillon Boucher participates in the championship-winning tradition of cutting down the nets.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton of the Breakers ducks through the arms of Matt Knight and Brad Robbins of the Perth Wildcats.
CJ Bruton
CJ Bruton gets the crowd going after hitting a three pointer in the grand finals decider.
Carter, Kaino
Dan Carter and Jerome Kaino show their support for the NZ Breakers.
Dillon Boucher
Dillon Boucher jumps for joy as the Breakers win their second straight Australian NBL title.
Cedric Jackson
Cedric Jackson delivers the ball to centre Gary Wilkinson as Perth's Shawn Redhage attempts a block.
Alex Pledger
Alex Pledger shows off his championship ring.
Rio Bruton
Rio Bruton shows his dad is number one after CJ collected the grand finals MVP award.
Tom Abercrombie
Tom Abercrombie holds the championship trophy aloft.

New Zealand sport has a new Steve Price. His name is CJ Bruton and he's now as honorary a Kiwi as you get.

Bruton, like Price in his time at the Warriors, is a veteran Australian professional who plies his trade for a New Zealand team in an Aussie sporting league. And like Price he has become a folk hero at his club where he's rightly lauded for his ability to come up big at the business end of the season.

Price's reputation was earned for the consistency of his performance, the hardness of his graft and for the unabashed manner in which he set the standards at the footy club.

Bruton is a different sort of athlete - more pick-axe than sledgehammer - but no less effective and no less important for his team.

Bruton is the 36-year-old combo guard for the New Zealand Breakers and he's fresh off helping them to their second straight Australian NBL title, crowned in magnificent fashion on Tuesday night at Vector Arena.

Like Price, Bruton is a classy operator who has crossed the Tasman and given his heart and soul to his new club at a stage in his career when he could be forgiven for slowing up a little, and perhaps dialling back on his magic.

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Instead, Bruton has just played possibly the most impressive grand finals series of his career en route to his fifth NBL crown.

Halfway through this year when he was struggling with sore knees and a wayward shot, some even started to question whether we might be witnessing his last lap of the track. The end of a special career.

Now, here he is, newly crowned MVP of the finals, where he was, in the words of Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge, the "difference" between two fine sides..

"I reckon he's playing you guys," Beveridge told the media after Tuesday night's decider. "Five championships he's won, the guy is going to be a hall of famer. Andrej and his medical staff did a great job this year of getting him through the season. He's a big-time player and he steps up and has a tremendous series."

Consider Bruton's playoff campaign. In the semifinal series against the Crocs he got off to a slow start with just seven points in a game one defeat. Then he had 18 points in the must-win visit to The Swamp and 20 in the closeout clash back at Vector.

He was even better against the Wildcats, going for 20 points in the opener, another 20 in Perth and then a sweet 16 in the decider on Tuesday.

But the numbers tell only part of the story. His ability to sense the moment and step up and hit the dagger three-ball was as uncanny as it as consistent. Whenever the game was on the line, Bruton wanted the ball in his hands. And inevitably he had the answer.

"My first memory is always going to be CJ through that series," said Breakers assistant coach Dean Vickerman after an epic grand final. "For a guy who does what he does through the regular season, once it comes winning time and championship time he just took it to a totally different level."

"He picks his moment better than anyone," adds Breakers swingman Tom Abercrombie. "He's just such a fantastic team-mate. It's been an absolute privilege to get to play with him and learn from him day-in, day-out, seeing the way he goes about things and his attitude to the game."

Or, in the words of head coach Andrej Lemanis who had no hesitation in re-signing him for another two years: "How much CJ gives the group can't be measured only by what he does on court. He does so much around the group in building team culture, team environment, and team confidence.

"He finds his way to help everybody, and he sacrifices for the good of the group, sacrifices his own game and is happy to let his team-mates shine. He understands what makes teams work."

Some other things you should know about Bruton: he is as proud as anyone about what has been achieved by the Breakers over the last couple of years; he considers himself an Australian (he was actually born in the US) but a proud Kiwi at heart now; he is the most popular of players with sponsors, kids, mums, dads and the media; the court announcer needs only utter the first initial of his name for the entire crowd at home games to take up the chant.

But the two most important things you should know about Bruton are he's a winner and he's a grinner. He makes good things happen on the court, and he has fun doing it.

He is a special individual who is a huge part of a special club.

As Lemanis mentioned the other night: "I'm happy to have him here as long as I'm coach." 

As New Zealand embraces these Breakers and their all-conquering feats, we should take a moment to treasure the little Aussie with the killer jump shot. He's one of us now. And we should honour him as such.

Fairfax Media