MORE than 10 years since he terrorised and tormented Newcastle’s National Basketball League opponents, former Falcons enforcer Grant ‘‘Freddy’’ Kruger is coming back to town.
Speaking to the Newcastle Herald yesterday from Mackay, where he is in the process of packing up and renting out his house, Kruger is looking forward to spending more time with his girlfriend, Nicole, and his daughter, Courtney, and will arrive on Christmas Eve.
A 201cm forward with a hunger for hard-nosed defence and dirty work, Kruger was 17 when he joined the Falcons in 1989 under the coaching of soon-to-be Basketball Australia Hall of Fame inductee Ken Cole.
Kruger, now 41, went on to play more than 360 games in a 15-year NBL career that included stints in Newcastle, Wollongong, Cairns and Townsville. He was a member of Wollongong’s 2001 NBL championship-winning team, and wound up his campaign in Townsville in 2004.
Since then, he continued playing and coaching in North Queensland and coached Mackay Meteors to back-to-back Queensland Basketball League titles in the past two seasons.
Proving old habits die hard, and that he is yet to convince referees he is just a gentle giant, Kruger picked up three fouls in just 75 seconds of court time in Mackay’s 72-58 win over Rockhampton in the QBL grand final at Rockhampton on September 1.
But he was happy to be playing at all, having almost had his foot amputated in 2010 after a cut on his leg became infected.
‘‘I was mowing the lawn and a stone hit me in my shin and I got a staph infection from that.
‘‘It was wet season and there’s a bug in the ground, and it must have been on the stone.’’
‘‘My ankle blew up and I was in hospital for 2 weeks.
They were a bit worried about me and I nearly lost my foot there at one stage.’’
Kruger was Mackay’s assistant coach during his time out, then was appointed head coach last year. His QBL championship-winning teams included Hawks NBL players Rhys Martin and Tim Coenraad, and former Hunter Pirates wild card Michael Kingma.
‘‘It’s a similar feel to Newcastle when I first went there – a great family atmosphere and strong basketball culture, and that’s made it one of the strongest programs in Queensland,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve got good sponsors and support so we were able to put a good side together, and that definitely made my job a lot easier.
‘‘It’s good to still be able to have a run around and I wouldn’t mind doing that when I come down there. I’d be more than happy to have a talk to someone, but I didn’t want to come in treading on anyone’s toes.’’
Kruger appears to be a tailor-made replacement for David Richards as coach of the Hunters State League team.
‘‘We’d love to have a chat with Grant when he comes down, just at an informal level at first while he’s settling in,’’ Newcastle Basketball general manager Ivan Spyrdz said.
‘‘Once he’s done that and we know what his thoughts are, hopefully we could then sit down with him in early January to discuss things more formally and see what transpires from there.’’