Basketball: Allen to bow out from Nuggets

Hayden Allen.
Hayden Allen.
It takes a lot of courage to admit you are not contributing as much as you would like or giving it everything for your team.

But that is how Otago Nuggets guard Hayden Allen has been feeling this season and it is a big part of the reason he is retiring after 15 years at the top level.

The 33-year-old made his debut for the Nuggets in 1998 and was part of the Tall Blacks squad last year. But increasing demands on his time have made it hard for Allen, who works for the Breakers, to play basketball the way he always has - wholeheartedly.

It just never sat right with him that he was flying in from Auckland a day before the game and taking the spot of someone who had been training all week. But also, he was finding it difficult juggling his family life and work commitments with his basketball career.

''First and foremost, my family is really important to me and I don't really enjoy going away every weekend,'' he said.

''But also, I don't think it is good for the team ethos for someone to do what I do.

''I appreciate what the Nuggets were able to set me up with and being able to come home and play. But when it comes down to it, I don't think it is right for me to be able to do this.

''I don't really get in any training and a lot of trust and respect from your team-mates is learnt at training. That is when you go to war and go through the hard years and the games are the icing on the cake.

''I guess I've put in my yards over the years but I don't feel I've been helping out the team as much as I could this year. If I'm going to do it, I want to do it wholeheartedly.''

Allen and his wife, Natalie, have two children - Reggie, who is 2 next month, and 7-week old Mack. The guilt of disappearing in the weekend to play basketball ''while Nat looks after the rugrats'' was too much.

''I'm definitely done. At the moment, I feel like I'm doing a few things half-heartedly with basketball, family and work and I'd much rather focus on a couple.''

Allen has played more than 250 games in the league and said the highlight was the friendships he had made during that time.

''I will miss the camaraderie which goes with it. Once you've been around the league for a while, you have mates in all the teams. I'll miss that part of it but I won't miss training or taking time away from the family.''

On the court, though, Allen, who won a title with Waikato in 2002, said last year's championship run with the Auckland Pirates was extra special because of what he had gone through to get back on court that year. He was involved in a serious accident in August 2011 and required 160 stitches in his year.

He also had ''a couple of sanctioned games'' for the Tall Blacks.

''That was something I'd always aspired to do. Obviously with dad [Glen Allen] making it, it was always in the back of my mind that I'd love to follow in his footsteps. No-one can take that away from you.''

And his many duels with friends Phill Jones (Nelson Giants) and Casey Frank (Wellington Saints) stick out in the memory bank as well.

If everything goes to plan for the Nuggets this weekend, Allen could get the final bragging rights.

The Nuggets play the Nelson Giants in the late semifinal on Saturday night and the Saints are favoured to reach Sunday's final.

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