Haining's Two Hundred
Blackburn Vikings Centre Neal Haining plays his 200th Game this weekend. We caught up with Neal before the milestone this weekend.
Blackburn Vikings: Thanks for joining us. Congratulations on reaching 200 games, how does this milestone stack up?
Neal Haining: Only 200? My body feels like I’ve played 2000! I guess that means that I’m bloody lucky to have come this far. I’ve had several surgeries, bounced around a couple of teams, but have always had support of team mates and coaches. I’m extremely proud to have come this far. I love basketball, so to have been allowed to play at this level for this long is an honour, for sure.
BV: So what have been some of your other highlights in your career?
NH: I wish I could say winning a championship. I’ve come close, so hopefully there is still time! 2011 will be the season that stays with me (although 2016 the feeling was similar). Sherbrooke State Champ men. No imports, no NBL players, just a system, a belief, an excellent coach and a bunch of mates, WAGS and all. We are all still very close today. We finished third, getting pipped by a very good Waverly in the semis. But we did things we weren’t supposed to do that year against teams that had $$$ by the truckload on the floor, while we paying off our uniforms. It is the classic “Remember 2011?…if only”.
BV: You started in the Big V in 2006, what differences do you notice between then and 2017?
NH: I feel like the uniforms are being made smaller every year…what’s with that? The rings are also definitely higher. I do seem to be able to create more space around me though.
BV: Who is the toughest player you have had to match up on in your career?
NH: There’s two.
Ivan Platenik – You would run with him, push him, block him, box him out, back him down, drive on him and score. Then you finish the game thinking you had his number and the box score still had him with 12 more points and 8 more boards. He is tireless.
Adam Moore – There was no pushing him, blocking him, boxing him out, or backing him down. The strongest man alive with a skill set of someone half his size. I don’t break the law, as there is a chance that he’ll be the one arresting me!
BV: You nearly didn’t play this season, what made you come back to the sport?
NH: I wish I could say it was because I missed it already (I did) and that I needed the competitive edge (I do) or that the Mrs said it was okay (it was), but in reality, I was getting fat and I don’t like exercise or watching what I eat. So I hang out with a bunch of top blokes instead and that somehow keeps me from expanding (too much)
BV: What made you come to Blackburn?
NH: I had a couple of mates playing here already and unfortunately the SCM Sherbrooke side folded (how fortunate for me it really was). Blackburn was also close to home so a geographical choice. But I guess more accurately…Bryan Moore chose Warrandyte…
BV: What do you enjoy most about the club?
NH: The boys. Competitors bordering on insanity who happen to enjoy car park beers and school boy humour. Ball, beers and banter.
BV: How do you see the sides chances this season?
NH: It is ours to lose.
BV: If you could offer any advice for young players what would it be?
NH: Stop running, I can’t keep up and you’re making me look bad!
But also, make your team mates your real mates. Training then becomes hang out time, which is fun, and the bi-product is winning games.
BV: Is there anyone you want to thank or give a shout out to?
NH: Warren Estcort. He got me started at Sherbrooke, believed in my style of game and role for the team. He made me appreciate basketball on a whole different level and he still mentors me today whether I’m playing or coaching. I wouldn’t have made it to 20 games let alone 200 if it weren’t for him.
Also to Paul for allowing me to love playing again after what could have been an unmemorable finish before deciding to come to Blackburn. And for sharing my humour, you sick, sick man.
And Bryan Moore…he knows why.
And my wife. Never underestimate the gift of permission.
BV: Thanks Neal. It’s certainly been an entertaining chat. Good luck in your 200th game!
Neal will play in his 200th game this Saturday at 8.00pm at Knox Basketball Stadium, Park Crescent, Boronia against Melbourne University. Tickets are available at the door and are just $6 for adults and $3 for kids. All Vikings juniors in their uniform are admitted free.