The West

Wildcats to face full-strength NZ
Shawn Redhage. Picture: Sharon Smith.

The Perth Wildcats will face a full-strength New Zealand team in tomorrow's NBL season opener in Auckland after two key Breakers players were given the all-clear to play.

Forward Dillon Boucher and American centre Will Hudson both returned to full training duties today after suffering from bouts of illness that restricted their preparation earlier in the week.

They will line up alongside athletic swingman Tom Abercrombie, who is yet to reach 100 per cent fitness but has enough confidence in his sore ankle to play.

Abercrombie had surgery to remove a bone chip from his ankle after carrying the injury into last season's grand final series between the two sides, which the Breakers won 2-1.

New Zealand coach Andrej Lemanis told media in Auckland he was happy with the progress of Boucher and former Gold Coast big man Hudson.

"They were much better today. They looked a little worn yesterday but today both have been good," Lemanis said.

The Wildcats have promoted promising Perry Lakes youngster Ben Purser to replace injured co-captain Brad Robbins in their line up for the first of four regular-season games against the Breakers.

Robbins, the second longest serving Wildcat behind fellow co-captain Shawn Redhage, is still recovering from off-season surgery to repair tendon damage in his wrist.

The hard-nosed guard is targeting a return against Melbourne on October 21 and will sit on the bench for tomorrow's game.

The Wildcats won eight of their nine pre-season games, including five of six against NBL opposition, and coach Rob Beveridge said his team was in "tremendous shape" despite the loss of Robbins.

"I feel so good about the group - the look in their eyes, how focused they are and how hard they're training," Beveridge said.

Tomorrow's second game features New South Wales rivals Wollongong and Sydney do battle at the WIN Entertainment Centre.

TEAMS - NEW ZEALAND: Daryl Corletto, Cedric Jackson, Will Hudson, Corey Webster, Tom Abercombie, Mika Vukona, CJ Bruton, Dillon Boucher, Leon Henry, Alex Pledger. PERTH: Greg Hire, Everard Bartlett, Matt Knight, Ben Purser, Cameron Tovey, Kevin Lisch, Jesse Wagstaff, Jeremiah Trueman, Shawn Redhage, Damian Martin.

The West Australian

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