The West

Beating NZ vital for Cats, Glory
Beating NZ vital for Cats, Glory

It's one of the longest road trips in world sport and this week two WA teams will make the journey to Auckland for games that could go a long way towards deciding their fate this season.

The Wildcats will have the NBL minor premiership and home-court advantage for the play-offs in mind when they tackle the New Zealand Breakers in a top-of-the- table clash at Vector Arena on Friday.

Perth Glory's battle with last-placed Wellington Phoenix at Eden Park is just as important, with both teams fighting to keep their A-League finals hopes alive.

Glory turned their season around in January last year with wins away to Wellington and Melbourne Heart kick-starting a run that culminated in the club's first grand final appearance since the National Soccer League decider in 2004.

Striker Shane Smeltz was confident the same fixtures at a similar time this season would provide a platform for Glory to move back into the top six, with only five points separating fifth from last on the congested ladder.

"There's still a huge amount of points to play for and if you can get a little run together you're going to fly up the table," Smeltz said.

"The timing of it could be perfect and that's what we're aiming for."

An extra stand has been erected at Vector Arena to cope with demand for tickets to the Breakers-Wildcats blockbuster.

More than 9000 patriotic Kiwis are expected to fill the venue, which was the scene for games one and three of last year's epic grand final series between the two sides.

Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge said his side would be up for the fight against the Breakers despite losing swingman Cam Tovey to a hip injury that will keep him out of action for at least a fortnight.

"They're playing with so much confidence at the moment and obviously we are as well, so I think we're both going to test each other to see where we're at," Beveridge said. "It will be a good reality check for both teams."

The Wildcats will have a heavy focus on recovery after Friday's game, with their next test coming just two days later against fourth-placed Wollongong at Perth Arena.

The West Australian

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