|Founded||1982 as the Westate Wildcats|
|Location||Perth, Western Australia|
|Team colours||Red and Black
|General manager||Nick Marvin|
|Head coach||Trevor Gleeson|
|Team captain||Damian Martin|
|Championships||6 (1990, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2010, 2014)|
The Perth Wildcats are an Australian men's professional basketball team competing in the National Basketball League (NBL). The Wildcats are the only team in the league representing the state of Western Australia and are based in the state capital, Perth. The team plays its home games at Perth Arena, known colloquially as "The Jungle". They are the highest-drawing and most successful club in the league, having achieved six championships (ahead of the four championships won by the Adelaide 36ers and Melbourne United).
Since 1987, the Perth Wildcats have appeared in all 28 NBL finals, including playing in the 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1999–2000, 2002–03, 2009–10, 2011–12, 2012–13 and 2013–14 Grand Finals, an accomplishment matched by no other professional sports club in Australia. The Wildcats won the NBL championship in 1990, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2010 and 2014.
- 1 History
- 1.1 1982 to 1986: The Beginning
- 1.2 1987 to 1989: The Run and Stun Era
- 1.3 1990: First Championship
- 1.4 1991: Back-to-Back
- 1.5 1992: Quest for a Three-peat
- 1.6 1993 to 1994: Playoff plateau
- 1.7 1995: Third Championship
- 1.8 1996 to 1999: Injury Plagued Seasons
- 1.9 The 2000s: Dormant years
- 1.10 2009 to 2013: Rob Beveridge and Kevin Lisch Era
- 1.11 2013–14 season: 'Ennis the Menace' and a Sixth Championship
- 1.12 2014–15 season
- 2 Retired Jerseys
- 3 Home Arenas
- 4 Honour Roll
- 5 Season-by-Season
- 6 Current roster
- 7 30th Anniversary All-Star Team
- 8 References
- 9 External links
1982 to 1986: The Beginning
In 1979, the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia was formed. It took another three years of lobbying by the Perth basketball community, led by personalities like Gordon Ellis, before a team in Western Australian became a reality. Formed in 1982 as the Westate Wildcats, the Wildcats became the first, and so far only, Western Australian club to compete in the NBL. The club was initially captained by Mike Ellis and comprised members of the Western Australian state team and several import players such as Tim Evans, Billy Keys and Dan Hickert. Henry Daigle became the inaugural coach of the Wildcats. The Wildcats played at Perry Lakes Indoor Stadium and struggled to make an impact on the league as they finished the season 10th with a 10-16 win/loss record.
Gordon Ellis took over as coach in 1983 and looked to turn the fortunes of the struggling club around by recruiting forward Curtis Perry, a veteran with 480 games of the National Basketball Association (NBA) experience. Perry had played with the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns. While Perry arrived with a solid reputation, he was well passed his prime by the time he suited up for the Wildcats. In 22 games, Perry managed only 7.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game and had limited impact in a league which was younger and faster. The Wildcats finished the season in 12th place with a 6-16 win/loss record, well out of the playoff race.
In 1984, the club changed their name to the Perth Wildcats. Lynn Massey became the third head coach at the club, replacing Gordon Ellis. It proved to be an unfruitful season as the Wildcats finished in 16th spot as the managed only three wins for the season – an all-time club low.
Jay Brehmer was appointed as the coach in 1985. Brehmer recruited strongly and signed two high impact imports in centre Dan Clausen from the University of North Dakota and forward Roland Brooks from the University of Minnesota. Clausen went on to average an incredible 25.7 points and 15.7 rebounds per game, while Brooks complemented Clausen with 23.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. On 16 August 1985, Brooks lit up the Adelaide 36ers for 51 points, an all-time Wildcats record at the time. With Clausen and Brooks dominating the NBL, the Wildcats narrowly missed out on a playoff berth in 1985 with a 13-13 win/loss record as they finished in 8th place.
The Wildcats suffered a major setback in 1986 with the loss of high scoring forward Roland Brooks to a season-ending injury. Without their star import, the Wildcats struggled to be competitive as they finished the season in 12th place with an 8-18 win/loss record.
1987 to 1989: The Run and Stun Era
Bob Williams became owner of the Wildcats in 1986 and made a number of changes to make the club more successful both on and off the court. In 1987, the Wildcats moved from Perry Lakes to the 5,000 seat Superdrome (now known as HBF Stadium). Williams also hired Cal Bruton as the player/coach. Bruton arrived with a reputation for success and recommended to Williams that Tiny Pinder from North Carolina State University and James Crawford from the University of the Cumberlands be recruited to fill the import positions. Pinder and Crawford previously played with Bruton at the Geelong Supercats. Veteran forward Steve Davis was recruited to add experience to the frontcourt. With Mike Ellis, Alan Black, Trevor Torrance, Eric Watterson and Craig Fitzsimmons returning, the Wildcats had assembled a formidable team in the offseason.
Crawford put in a dominate display averaging 34.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 26 regular season games. So proficient was Crawford in scoring that he lit up the Melbourne Tigers on 9 June 1987 for an all-time club record of 57 points. The record still stands to this day. Pinder complimented Crawford with 23.8 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. Bruton was also instrumental in promoting the Wildcats brand to the Perth community with his 'run and stun' style of basketball which was both exciting and fun. Fans flocked to the Superdrome in record numbers to witness Bruton perform his crazy passes which often led to crowd pleasing dunks from Crawford or Pinder.
On the back of a highly successful season, the Wildcats not only made their first playoff appearance in 1987, but attained a grand final berth. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they lost the grand final series 2-0 to the Brisbane Bullets. The Wildcats lost by one point (80-79) in a tight opening game played in Perth. Pinder missed a lay-up from point blank range in the dying seconds. This left the team deflated and rueing missed opportunities as the Bullets took Game 2 comfortably in Brisbane, 105-87. Despite the loss, the 1987 season marked the beginning of 28 straight years of playoff appearances that still runs to this day. In addition, James Crawford became the first Wildcats player to be named in the All-NBL first team after a stellar season.
The following year of 1988 was not as successful on or off the court. The Wildcats finished in 6th place with a 13-11 win/loss record and were eliminated 2-1 in the semi-finals series by the North Melbourne Giants.
Cal Bruton stepped down as coach in 1989 to concentrate solely on playing. Alan Black, who retired as a player at the end of 1988, stepped into the role. The club was forced to deal with the shocking death of player Scott Fenton and his fiancée in a car accident during the 1989 season. In his memory, Scott Fenton’s jersey (number 14) became the first to be retired by the club. The Wildcats finished the 1989 season in third place with a 16-8 win/loss record. They went on to lose 2-1 in the semi-finals to eventual champions the North Melbourne Giants. In Game 3, the Wildcats lost 165-110, a record margin of 55 points. It was a significant number as Cal Bruton, who wore number 55, played his final game for the Wildcats in Game 3.
1990: First Championship
A new decade saw the Wildcats move once again, now to the 8,200 seat Perth Entertainment Centre. The venue move was one of many changes in 1990. Kerry Stokes became co-owner of the Wildcats with Bob Williams, and Cal Bruton became the General Manager of the club after retiring as a player. Eager for the club to win its first NBL championship, Bruton embarked on an active recruiting campaign during the offseason. He signed star point guard Ricky Grace from the University of Oklahoma and 213 cm centre Jeff Allen from St. John's University following a successful recruiting trip to the United States. Grace was a proven winner, having led Oklahoma to the championship game of the 1988 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and was instrumental in leading the Wildcats to the playoffs in each of his 15 years with the club. Sharp shooter David 'Radar' Close was the final recruit signed from the Australian Institute of Sport.
The 1990 season also began with turmoil as coach Alan Black was controversially fired after only two games, and was replaced by Cal Bruton. Despite the shaky start to the season, the Wildcats recovered to finish in 5th place with a 17-9 win/loss record. In the elimination finals, the Wildcats faced the Melbourne Tigers minus Andrew Gaze who was suffering from a blot clot in his arm. The Wildcats subsequently swept the Tigers 2-0 despite the gallant efforts of Tigers' forward Dave Colbert who averaged a sensational 47.0 points per game.
In the semi-finals, the Wildcats faced the North Melbourne Giants for the third consecutive year. Eager to avenge the defeats of 1988 and 1989, the Wildcats got off to a strong start as they defeated the Giants 121-111 in Perth. The Wildcats backcourt dominated the Giants in the opening game. Ricky Grace poured in 39 points while shooting 58% from the field. He was well supported by Mike Ellis with 26 points at 56% from the field and 12 assists. Cheered on by a hostile crowd, the Giants dominated the Wildcats in Game 2 taking a 131-110 win in Melbourne. In an epic decider, the Wildcats clinched the win 112-110 in overtime. Trevor Torrance made an unexpected baseline jumper to put the Wildcats in the lead which they hung onto in the dying seconds. The Wildcats showed true grit overcoming the loss of Grace, who fouled out prior to overtime, and a superb game from Giants forward Scott Fisher who poured in 32 points and grabbed 29 rebounds.
The 1990 NBL Grand Final saw the Wildcats take on the Brisbane Bullets in a repeat of the 1987 final. But unlike 1987, the Wildcats won Game 1 in Perth 112-106 on the back of a stellar effort from Ricky Grace. He led the team with 32 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Brisbane tied the series at 1-1 after winning Game 2 in convincing fashion at home, 106-90. In the deciding game, Cal Bruton outfoxed Bullets coach Brian Kerle by constantly rotating his players. The fresher and more energised Wildcats blew the game wide open in the third quarter and were up by 20 points before the final term. They cruised to an easy 109-86 victory to claim their first ever NBL championship. Ricky Grace was once again superb in Game 3 with 25 points, 7 assist, 7 rebounds and 3 steals, a performance worthy of finals MVP honours.
In controversial circumstances, Cal Bruton was not retained as coach despite leading the Wildcats to a championship in 1990. He was replaced by American Murray Arnold, a former assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls. In pursuit of back-to-back NBL championships, the Wildcats strengthened their roster considerably in the off-season with the addition of forwards Andrew Vlahov and Pete Hansen. Vlahov, a local Perth boy, was heavily recruited by rival NBL clubs upon returning to Australia from a successful stint at Stanford University. Hansen was a standout import playing locally in the State Basketball League (SBL) and replaced Jeff Allen who departed in the offseason.
In contrast to Bruton's run and stun offense, Arnold focused solely on defense, containing teams to less than 100 points and using up every second of the 24 second shot clock. This style of basketball was highly technical and not appreciated by Perth fans who were used to a more up tempo game. Despite the criticisms, the Arnold coached Wildcats were a highly successful team and they finish in first place after amassing an incredible 22 wins and 4 losses on the season. It was the first time the Wildcats had ever finished on top of the league ladder. Ricky Grace and Vlahov were subsequently named in the All-NBL first team. In addition, Vlahov was named Rookie of the Year while Arnold was named Coach of the Year.
In the semi-finals, the Wildcats faced arch rivals the Adelaide 36ers. Grace went head to head with Butch Hayes in a clash of the league's two best point guards. Grace took the honours by leading the Wildcats to a 2-0 series sweep. In a tight 102-99 opening game victory, Grace led the Wildcats with a dominate 24 points and 8 assists performance, and backed this up with a 27 points and 9 assists effort in Game 2 while leading the Wildcats to another narrow 105-104 victory.
In the 1991 NBL Grand Final, the Wildcats faced a young but talented Eastside Spectres team. Grace continued his form as he led the Wildcats to a 109-83 victory in Game 1 in Melbourne. Grace recorded 21 points and 7 assists as the inexperienced Spectres' backcourt had no answers for Grace as he set his teammates up for open looks. Due to the magnitude of the win, the Wildcats returned home with fans expecting an easy series sweep. However, forward Bruce Bolden powered the Spectres to a shock 86-81 victory in Game 2. Bolden finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds while holding James Crawford scoreless. Led by its powerful frontcourt, the Wildcats dominated Game 3 with a 90-80 win in front of a capacity home crowd. After an embarrassing display in Game 2, Crawford bounced back in Game 3, recording 19 points and 14 rebounds, going toe to toe with Bolden. He was well supported by Tiny Pinder who scored 19 points while Pete Hansen added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Bolden scored 29 points and collected 15 rebounds but received little help from his teammates. Pete Hansen was named the MVP of the series for his consistency over the three games as the Wildcats became just the third team in NBL history to win back-to-back championships.
1992: Quest for a Three-peat
The Wildcats entered the 1992 season looking to become the first NBL club to secure a hat-trick of championships. Former Geelong Supercats swingman Vince Hinchen replaced the sharp shooting David Close as the only major change to the team that won the 1991 championship. Close signed with the Hobart Tassie Devils in the offseason to re-join coach Cal Bruton. The season was disrupted by persistent injuries to several key players. The Wildcats were also thrown into turmoil when they lost Tiny Pinder for the season following his arrest and subsequent conviction. Pinder had been a vital cog to the Wildcats success since his arrival in 1987. His abrupt departure left the frontcourt lacking depth. As a result of the turbulent season, the Wildcats finished in 6th place with a 12-12 win/loss record.
The Wildcats once again faced the Melbourne Tigers in the elimination finals with Andrew Gaze fully fit. The Wildcats started their title defence well as they took the first game in Perth, 111-103. Game 2 in Melbourne was a spiteful affair with Pete Hansen going down with a shoulder injury early in the game. In response, the Wildcats fought bravely in the hostile environment but to no avail; they lost 95-94 after Vince Hinchen's desperation shot missed the mark in the dying seconds. The Wildcats were demoralised following the loss and never recovered as the Tigers took Game 3 with a comfortable 116-100 win.
Mike Ellis decided to retire following the season after a 302 NBL game career, all of them as captain of the Wildcats. He averaged 12.6 points and 5.3 assist per game over his career. His jersey (#6) was later retired by the club. The Wildcats management, players and fans grew frustrated at Murray Arnold's "go slow" offense in 1992. Accordingly, the club decided to part ways with the him. Vince Hinchen also left the club in the offseason to return to the Geelong Supercats.
1993 to 1994: Playoff plateau
The search for a coach ended when Dr Adrian Hurley put pen to paper. Dr Hurley brought significant experience to club having been coach of the Australian Boomers and having established the basketball program at the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS). The appointment of Dr Hurley did raise a few eyebrows around the league, however, as few thought he could succeed at the professional level. Dr Hurley preached basketball fundamentals but his style of offense was more up tempo which pleased the Perth fans. Looking to bolster the frontcourt with more muscle and height, the Wildcats actively recruited centre Mark Bradtke before signing two-time (1989 and 1992) league MVP Scott Fisher. As an import, Fisher's singing meant that 1991 Finals MVP and club favourite Pete Hansen was cut by the Wildcats. Loyal Perth fans were initially angered by the move, remembering Fisher as a foe playing for the North Melbourne Giants, but Fisher eventually won them over with his tireless effort on the boards and numerous last minute game winning shots during the season. Martin Cattalini, a rising star in the SBL, took Hansen's spot. With the retirement of Mike Ellis, Andrew Vlahov was named the captain of the club in 1993.
The season was a highly successful one for the Wildcats. Led by Dr Hurley and the four senior players – Fisher, Vlahov, Grace and Crawford – the Wildcats clinched first place with a 21-5 win/loss record. They lost the opening game in both the elimination finals against the North Melbourne Giants and the semi-finals against the Brisbane Bullets. On both occasions, they were able to rebound from adversity to claim a 2-1 series win.
The 1993 NBL Grand Final saw the Wildcats take on the Melbourne Tigers, a team looking for their first championship. The Wildcats lost the opening game in Melbourne, 117-113. It was a spiteful match with many dubious calls going against the Wildcats. Inspired by Grace's 23 points, 13 assists and 8 rebounds, the Wildcats roared back to life with a masterful 112-105 victory in Game 2 in Perth. Game 3 was marred by more controversy when Ricky Grace fouled out mid-way through the fourth quarter following a series of dubious calls against him. The Tigers subsequently won the game 104-102, claiming their maiden NBL championship. Andrew Vlahov (31 points, 15 rebounds) had a chance to tie the game in the dying seconds but his shot narrowly rimmed out. Despite being on the losing team, Ricky Grace was named as the MVP of the series. Utility forward Steve Davis retired following the defeat.
The 1994 season was lackluster, with 16 wins and 10 losses in the regular season, they were swept 2-0 in the quarter-finals by the South-East Melbourne Magic. Cal Bruton's son, C. J., suited up for the Wildcats, allowing James Crawford the unique opportunity of playing alongside both father and son. C. J. departed in the offseason and never returned to play for the club. Rookie point guard Aaron Trahair was also unveiled during 1994 and displayed the potential to become a future star. Wildcats stalwart Eric Watterson retired at the end of the season and Trevor Torrance departed to continue his career with the Gold Coast Rollers.
1995: Third Championship
Following a disappointing 1994 season, the Wildcats looked to recruit a pure sharp shooter to stretch opposing defenses and free up more room in the low post for the likes of Scott Fisher, James Crawford and Andrew Vlahov to operate in. Anthony Stewart was signed from the Hobart Tassie Devils to fill this role. Joining Stewart in the backcourt was Ricky Grace and Aaron Trahair. Martin Cattalini rounded out the eight man rotation used by coach Dr Hurley.
The Wildcats were highly successful in 1995, winning the preseason K-mart Classic tournament. This success translated into the regular season as the Wildcats complied a league best record of 19 wins and 7 losses. The quarter-final match up against the Melbourne Tigers provided the Wildcats with an opportunity to avenge the defeats of 1992 and 1993. After losing the opening game 103-91, the Wildcats rebounded strongly as they took the next two 108-99 and 96-92. The Wildcats then stormed past arch rivals the Adelaide 36ers in the semi-finals in two straight games, winning 95-78 and 85-76.
The 1995 NBL Grand Final saw the Wildcats matched up with the North Melbourne Giants, a talented team featuring NBA championship player Chris Jent, formerly of the Houston Rockets. The Giants stunned the Wildcats in the opening game in front of a capacity crowd at the Perth Entertainment Centre, winning 104-97. With their backs against the wall, the Wildcats travelled to Melbourne hoping to even up the series. Trailing 53-45 at half-time, the Wildcats ramped up its defensive effort to take the win 97-88. Captain Andrew Vlahov later revealed the team was motivated by the fact that the Giants organization had already made celebratory preparations in anticipation they would win Game 2. The Wildcats continued their strong defensive effort in Game 3 holding the Giants to 15 points in the first quarter while scoring 30 themselves. Paced by James Crawford's magnificent 32 points (shooting at 83%), 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, the Wildcats blitz the Giants who were never in the game, running out eventual winners 108-88. Andrew Vlahov was named the MVP of the series for his consistency over the three games.
The Wildcats' third championship also allowed the club to travel to the McDonald's Championship in London to play against the best clubs in the world. The Wildcats lost against the Houston Rockets of the NBA 116-72 in their first game of the tournament, but defeated Real Madrid 93-86 in their second game. Upon returning from London, Martin Cattalini departed Perth and signed with the Adelaide 36ers, seeking a bigger role and more playing time.
1996 to 1999: Injury Plagued Seasons
The 1996 Wildcats were one of the strongest and deepest teams on paper in the history of the franchise. The team featured Todd Lichti, an NBA veteran of 237 games with the Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. Lichti joined the Wildcats late in the season due to his friendship with Andrew Vlahov as they were teammates at Stanford University. Scott Fisher became an Australian citizen which allowed club favourite Pete Hansen to return to the team as an import. Giant 213 cm centre Gavin Vanderputten was signed from Pepperdine University. Joining him was local SBL standout Phil Doherty. The core players – Grace, Vlahov, Crawford, Fisher, Stewart and Trahair – were all retained. Despite the collection of talent, the Wildcats never really gelled as a team and finished in third place with a 19-10 win/loss record. They ended up losing 2-1 in a close quarter-finals encounter against the Adelaide 36ers. Fisher blew out his knee in Game 1 and was ruled out for the remainder of the series. While the Wildcats fought back bravely to win Game 2, without Fisher, the Wildcats were overrun in Game 3 by the more talented 36ers outfit. In a disappointing end to the season, rising star Aaron Trahair left the club in the offseason.
The 1997 season became the testimonial season for James Crawford who was expected to retire following the season. The Wildcats hosted an exhibition match against Crawford’s all-star team, which featured many NBL stars both current and retired. Although 1997 had been touted as Crawford’s retirement year, he continued to play until injury forced him out during the 1998–99 season. 1997 was another injury plagued year for the Wildcats. Scott Fisher missed the entire season after requiring knee reconstructive surgery to repair his knee. He later returned for the final two playoff games. Forward George Banks from UTEP was signed as an import and then released after seven games for failing to perform to expectations. Former Newcastle Falcons centre David Van Dyke was subsequently signed to replace Banks. Van Dyke blocked 12 shots in a game during 1997, an all-time franchise record. The Wildcats finished 4th with 17 wins and 11 losses. The Wildcats beat the Brisbane Bullets 2-0 in the quarter-finals. With Crawford injured, the Wildcats could not overcome the South East Melbourne Magic and were eliminated 2-0 in the semi-finals. The Wildcats declined to offer Dr Adrian Hurley a contract extension following the semi-final defeat.
1998 produced a surprise with Alan Black returning to the club as head coach. Thomas Hill, a swingman from Duke University, was signed but released after just nine games as centre Dwayne Michaels was signed as a replacement. The Wildcats finished in third place with 17 wins and 13 losses. After beating the Illawara Hawks 2-0 in the quarter-finals, the Wildcats were eliminated 2-0 by the Adelaide 36ers in the semi-finals..
The 1998–99 season transitioned the move of the NBL season from winter to summer. Injuries and retirements affected the on-court success of the Wildcats. Club legend James Crawford retired six games into the season after sustaining an injury. Crawford played 371 games for the Wildcats, averaging 20.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. His jersey (#7) was later retired by the club. Todd Lichti also ended his association with the club following injury. The Wildcats signed swingman Clint McDaniel from the University of Arkansas as an import. He had played with the Sacramento Kings in the NBA before playing one season with the South East Melbourne Magic. Just 14 games into McDaniel's Wildcats career, he suffered a season-ending injury. Centre Dwayne Michaels was again signed as an injury replacement.
Despite the disappointment, the 1998–99 season also saw the emergence of new talent. Franchise centre Paul Rogers was signed upon returning from a successful stint at Gonzaga University. Future stars James Harvey and Stephen Black, Alan Black's son, joined the team as rookies. Ravaged by injuries, the Wildcats finished in 6th place with 13 wins and 13 losses. Able to field just eight healthy players, the Wildcats were eliminated 2-0 in the elimination finals by the Adelaide 36ers.
The 2000s: Dormant years
Andrew Vlahov and Luc Longley purchased the Wildcats from businessman Kerry Stokes for the 1999–2000 season. The season itself was very successful for the Wildcats as they claimed their fourth championship against the Victoria Titans, becoming the first team in NBL history to do so. To top off the stellar season, Paul Rogers became the first Wildcat to win the Most Valuable Player award.
The end of the 2001–02 season saw the Wildcats leave the Perth Entertainment Centre for a return to their old home the Superdrome (now HBF Stadium). Till then, Perth had avoided the league's fall in attendance, thanks to the team's performances and the popular central CBD location of the arena, but the Perth Entertainment Centre was no longer viable for its owner Kerry Stokes as basketball was not the primary tenant, and he was forced to close the venue and relocate the team back to their former and unpopular suburban-based arena.
Ricky Grace became captain of the club in 2002–03 when Andrew Vlahov retired from the league. The season saw the Wildcats head to their seventh grand final, where unfortunately for the Wildcats, they were defeated by the Sydney Kings for their first championship. More controversy followed as coach Alan Black was fired for the second time by the club.
Mike Ellis became coach for the following season, but his tenure was short, being replaced the following season by former player Scott Fisher. The 2004–05 season saw the end of an era as captain Ricky Grace played his last game of his career with the club. Grace was the only remaining member of all the Wildcats' championships and had been an integral part of the club for 15 years. In order to celebrate his career with the Wildcats, a legends match was held featuring many retired Wildcats stars (including Bruton, Crawford, Ellis, Vlahov and Fisher), current and retired NBL stars (including Leroy Loggins, Andrew Gaze, Mark Davis and Phil Smyth).
With Grace retired, veteran player Tony Ronaldson became captain of the Wildcats in 2005–06, but was relieved of his captaincy after only one season. Future Wildcats captain and multiple club MVP award winner Shawn Redhage joined the Wildcats in 2005 after having an unsuccessful stint with the New Zealand Breakers in 2004.
The Wildcats were instrumental in the NBL's push towards promoting the league in the lucrative Asian market during this period. Not only were Wildcats' games televised to millions of potential viewers in Southeast Asia, the Wildcats hosted several regular season games in Singapore in an event known as the "Singapore Spectacular". The Singapore experiment culminated in the entry of the first Asian team into the NBL, the Singapore Slingers, for the 2006–07 season. The "Singapore Spectacular" has not been held since.
In February 2006, West Australian Jack Bendat became the Chairman and majority shareholder of the club. Although no longer the majority shareholder, Andrew Vlahov remained in control of the club as the Managing Director.
In August 2006, Paul Rogers became the fifth player to captain the Wildcats. Rogers replaced Tony Ronaldson as captain for 2006–07, despite Ronaldson continuing to play for the club. The Wildcats celebrated their 25th anniversary during the 2006–07 season and recorded their highest number of wins in a single season (23 wins), although historically they have recorded better win-loss ratios. The 2007 season came to an end when the Wildcats were defeated by the Cairns Taipans 82-78 in the quarter-finals.
The Wildcats continued to appear in the playoffs throughout the late 2000s, but failed to progress beyond the semi-finals. Following the 2007–08 season, head coach Scott Fisher departed the Wildcats in March 2008 to return to the United States for personal reasons. He was eventually replaced by his assistant Connor Henry, whose tenure at the Wildcats lasted only one season.
2009 to 2013: Rob Beveridge and Kevin Lisch Era
2009–10 season: Fifth Championship
Prior to the 2009–10 season, Henry was replaced by former Sydney Spirit head coach Rob Beveridge. Beveridge was instrumental in recruiting a wave of new talent for the Wildcats, including Australian Boomer Damian Martin and former Chicago Bulls centre Luke Schenscher. Former Cairns Taipans and 1995 Wildcats championship squad member, Martin Cattalini, also signed with the Wildcats in what would be his final NBL season. Redhage became the next Wildcats captain, taking over from the injury plagued Paul Rogers.
The Wildcats finished the 2009–10 regular season in first place on the ladder. During the finals, the Wildcats managed a clean-sweep in two matches against the Gold Coast Blaze, lead by former Wildcat James Harvey, to progress to the grand final series against the Wollongong Hawks. The series went to three matches where the Wildcats stormed home in Game 3 on the back of Kevin Lisch's Grand Final MVP performance. The win gave the Wildcats their fifth, record-breaking NBL championship.
The retirements of Cattalini and Rogers followed the championship win, while Brad Robbins was elevated to co-captain with Redhage. The Wildcats title defence in 2010–11 suffered numerous setbacks as the season progressed, including prolonged injuries to key players Matthew Knight and Jesse Wagstaff, and a season-ending injury to co-captain Shawn Redhage (who had not missed a match since joining the Wildcats). American Import Andre Brown and Sudanese-Australian Ater Majok were signed to help the Wildcats with their loss of their big men.
Despite injury setbacks throughout the year, the Wildcats finished the 2010–11 regular season with a 16-12 win/loss record and a fourth place finish, extending their active playoff streak to 25 consecutive years. Drawn to play minor premiers the New Zealand Breakers in the first round of the playoffs, the Wildcats recorded an upset victory in Game 1 in Auckland, winning 101-78. Game 2 in Perth was a tight affair that saw the Breakers level the series 1-1 with a 93-89 win before the Wildcats were knocked out of the championship race with an 83-99 loss in Game 3.
Shawn Redhage made a welcome return to the line-up after recovering from a potentially career ending hip injury. 7'2" centre Luke Nevill was signed to bolster the Wildcats frontcourt and add much needed height. Kevin Lisch had a breakout season during 2011–12 as he earned NBL MVP award. Lisch played all 28 regular season games as he averaged 17.6 points, 2.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game while shooting at 45.3% from the field.
The Wildcats finished second in 2011–12 behind the New Zealand Breakers with a 19-9 win/loss record. The Wildcats qualified for their ninth NBL Grand Final by defeating the Gold Coast Blaze 2-1 in a physical series.
The 2011–12 NBL Grand Final saw the Perth Wildcats take on the New Zealand Breakers. With Damian Martin hampered by an ankle injury, the Breakers' guards dominated the series. Game 1 in Auckland went to the Breakers as they claimed a 104-98 overtime win. Game 2 in Perth was a classic contest with the Wildcats bouncing back with an 87-86 win. Shawn Redhage blocked C. J. Bruton in the dying seconds to give the Wildcats the win. Despite the momentum that Redhage's block gave the Wildcats, the Breakers won Game 3 to clinch the series with a 79-73 win.
With the departure of Luke Nevill during the 2012 offseason, little used big man Jeremiah Trueman stepped into the back-up centre role. In addition, Everard Bartlett, a short-term injury replacement player in 2011–12, signed a two-year deal. Injury and retirements threatened to destabilise the season. After Matthew Knight was injured early in the season, Michael Dunigan, a centre from the University of Oregon, was signed as an injury replacement for Knight. In his short four-game stint, Dunigan excited fans with an array of blocks and crowd pleasing dunks. Co-captain Brad Robbins abruptly retired just eight games into the season sighting he had lost motivation and passion for the game. Rhys Carter was signed late in the season as Robbins' replacement on the squad while Cameron Tovey announced his decision to retire at the conclusion of the season.
Despite the turmoil, the Wildcats finished second in 2012–13, again behind the New Zealand Breakers with a 22-6 win/loss record. The Wildcats defeated the Wollongong Hawks 2-0 in the semi-finals to claim their spot in yet another NBL Grand Final.
The 2012–13 NBL Grand Final saw the Wildcats take on the New Zealand Breakers for the third consecutive year in the playoffs and the second consecutive year in the grand final. The Wildcats were dealt a major blow when Damian Martin was ruled out of the Grand Final with an Achilles injury. Brad Robbins was subsequently rushed back into the team to take Martin's place. Without their floor general and defensive specialist, the Wildcats struggled on both offense and defense as the Breakers swept the Wildcats 2-0 taking Game 1 in Auckland 79-67 and Game 2 in Perth 70-66.
2013–14 season: 'Ennis the Menace' and a Sixth Championship
In the 2013 offseason, the Wildcats were rocked by the departure of coach Rob Beveridge and Kevin Lisch, two key pieces of the Wildcats' success over the previous four years.
With the departure of shooting guard Lisch, head coach Beveridge and small forward Cameron Tovey, three key positions were to be filled for 2013–14. The first position was filled on 20 June 2013 with the hiring of long-time NBL coach Trevor Gleeson. Gleeson joined the club with the club's core group of players – Shawn Redhage, Matthew Knight, Greg Hire, Jesse Wagstaff and new captain Damian Martin – still in tact.
The squad started taking shape when James Ennis, an athletic small forward from Long Beach State University, signed a one-year deal with the club on 10 August. Ennis had recently been selected by the Atlanta Hawks (later traded to the Miami Heat) with the 50th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, but instead of playing in the NBA Development League where he would make considerably less money, he decided to play overseas for a season. The final piece of the puzzle came in the signing of former Vanderbilt University shooting guard Jermaine Beal, who signed with the club as the second import on 2 September. In addition, the Wildcats rounded out their roster with the signings of centre Tom Jervis, guard Erik Burdon and swingman Mathiang Muo. However, Muo suffered a tear to his left Achilles tendon on just the second day of training camp and was subsequently ruled out for the entire 2013–14 season. Dual American-Australian citizen Drake U'u later signed as an injury replacement for Muo.
The new look Wildcats dominated the NBL with an 8-0 start to the season culminating in a 21-7 win/loss record to finish the season first on the ladder. Ennis was an instant star in the league as he won the October Player of the Month award after averaging a league-leading 24.0 points per game and was also in the league's top ten for rebounds with 6.8 per game. His high-flying dunks and athleticism rocked the league as he proved to be a top MVP candidate alongside Wollongong Hawks guard Rotnei Clarke and Melbourne Tigers guard Chris Goulding. He finished the season third in points per game with 21.2 and subsequently finish third in the MVP voting as well behind Clarke and Goulding, with Clarke taking out the award. He was, however, named in the All-NBL first team.
The Wildcats cruised to their 11th grand final appearance with a 2-0 series win over the Wollongong Hawks in the semi-finals. The Wildcats won Game 1 in Perth 91-79 and took Game 2 in Wollongong 80-61. The 2013–14 NBL Grand Final saw the Perth Wildcats take on the Adelaide 36ers for the first time ever in a Grand Final series. The Wildcats earned a crucial Game 1 victory with a 92-85 win. Rejuvenated by their home fans, the 36ers won Game 2 in Adelaide 89-84 to tie the series 1-1. Returning to Perth for Game 3 in front of 13,498 fans at Perth Arena, the game was won and done very early on with the Wildcats running out winners 93-59 to take the series 2-1 and claiming their sixth NBL championship. Jermaine Beal was subsequently named the series MVP.
James Ennis departed in the offseason to pursue his NBA dream as he signed with the Miami Heat. To replace him, the Wildcats recruited another young, NBA-potential forward in UConn graduate DeAndre Daniels. Just like Ennis, Daniels was selected in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft but at a higher pick, going pick 37th to the Toronto Raptors. While not as athletic as Ennis, Daniels is leaner, taller and more defensive minded. With eight out of the remaining nine 2014 championship players retained in the offseason, little-used guard Erik Burdon was not re-signed as injured swingman Mathiang Muo was set to return for the Wildcats in 2014–15. However, he was later replaced in the line-up by dual American-Guamanian citizen Earnest Ross from the University of Missouri. While born to American parents and predominately growing up in the United States, Ross qualifies as a local player in the NBL as he was born in Guam and is considered a returning college player under the FIBA Oceania Pacific Island rule.
The Wildcats look to make history and equal the Boston Bruins world record of 29 consecutive playoff appearances by qualifying for this season's playoffs. Trevor Gleeson is also aiming to become the first Wildcats coach to win more than one championship for the club. Cal Burton (1990), Murray Arnold (1991), Dr Adrian Hurley (1995), Alan Black (1999–2000) and Rob Beveridge (2009–10) all won just one championship with the club.
Following the Wildcats' season opening loss to the New Zealand Breakers, back-up forward Greg Hire was ruled out for six weeks with a calf injury. In response, recently cut Mathiang Muo was given a life-line by the club as he was signed as an injury-replacement, going on to make his long-awaited NBL debut on 17 October 2014 in the Wildcats' 69-59 win over the Wollongong Hawks.
- #6 Mike Ellis
- #7 James Crawford
- #14 Scott Fenton (deceased)
- #15 Ricky Grace
- #21 Andrew Vlahov
- #30 Scott Fisher
Source: Perth Wildcats Achievements
For their first five seasons, the Wildcats played at the then home of Western Australian basketball, the Perry Lakes Indoor Stadium. From 1987 to 1990, the team played out of the 4,500 seat Perth Superdrome (now known as HBF Stadium). In 1990, with NBL attendances on the rise, the Wildcats moved into the 8,200 seat Perth Entertainment Centre where they regularly played in front of sold out crowds. The team had their greatest success at the PEC, winning their first four NBL championships while playing there.
When the Entertainment Centre closed in 2002, the Wildcats were forced to move back to Challenge Stadium where they would remain until 2012, though they did play one game against the Melbourne Tigers at the Burswood Dome in 2004 which drew a then WA record basketball attendance of 8,501.
Following the opening of the A$548.7 million, 14,846 seat Perth Arena in November 2012, the Wildcats again left Challenge Stadium and moved into the more modern and larger arena, a move that has proved fruitful for the club as their average attendances have been over 10,000, the largest in the NBL. The record attendance for basketball in Western Australia was set during the 2012–13 NBL Grand Final series when 13,527 attended Game 2 between the Wildcats and the New Zealand Breakers. This also broke the record attendance for an NBL game played outside of Sydney (Sydney Super Dome) or Melbourne (Rod Laver Arena). The previous record was 13,221 at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre for Game 2 of the 1990 Grand Final between the Wildcats and the Brisbane Bullets.
The 14,846 seat Perth Arena is the largest and newest venue currently in use in the NBL. The next largest being the Sydney Entertainment Centre which can seat 10,517 for Sydney Kings home games.
The Perth Wildcats home venue list is as follows:
- Perry Lakes Indoor Stadium – 1982–1986
- Perth Superdrome (Now HBF Stadium) – 1987–1990
- Perth Entertainment Centre – 1990–2002
- Challenge Stadium (Now HBF Stadium) – 2002–2012
- Burswood Dome – 2004 (one game)
- Perth Arena – 2012–present
|NBL Championships:||6 (1990, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2010, 2014)|
|NBL Finals Appearances:||28 (1987–present)|
|NBL Grand Final appearances:||11 (1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 2000, 2003, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014)|
|NBL Most Valuable Players:||Paul Rogers (2000), Kevin Lisch (2012)|
|NBL Grand Final MVPs:||Ricky Grace (1990), Pete Hanson (1991), Ricky Grace (1993), Andrew Vlahov (1995), Marcus Timmons (2000), Kevin Lisch (2010), Jermaine Beal (2014)|
|All-NBL First Team:||James Crawford (1987), Ricky Grace (1991, 2001–03), Andrew Vlahov (1992, 1995), Paul Rogers (2000, 2002), Shawn Redhage (2008, 2010), Damian Martin (2011), Kevin Lisch (2012, 2013), Matthew Knight (2013), James Ennis (2014)|
|NBL Coach of the Year:||Murray Arnold (1991)|
|NBL Rookie of the Year:||Andrew Vlahov (1991), Jesse Wagstaff (2010), Tom Jervis (2014)|
|NBL Most Improved Player:||James Harvey (2001), Matt Burston (2003), Peter Crawford (2005)|
|NBL Best Defensive Player:||Damian Martin (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)|
|NBL Best Sixth Man:||Stephen Black (2003), Jesse Wagstaff (2012)|
Source: Perth Wildcats Achievements (note: where seasons span two years the ending year of season is shown)
|1982||10th (10-16)||-||Henry Daigle||Mike Ellis||Tim Evans|
|1983||12th (6-16)||-||Gordon Ellis||Mike Ellis||Mike Ellis|
|1984||16th (3-20)||-||Lynn Massey||Mike Ellis||Mike Ellis|
|1985||8th (13-13)||-||Jay Brehmer||Mike Ellis||Dan Clausen|
|1986||12th (8-18)||-||Jay Brehmer||Mike Ellis||Mike Ellis|
|1987||4th (19-7)||Grand-Finalists||Cal Bruton||Mike Ellis||James Crawford|
|1988||6th (13-11)||Semi-Finalists||Cal Bruton||Mike Ellis||James Crawford|
|1989||3rd (16-8)||Semi-Finalists||Alan Black||Mike Ellis||Tiny Pinder|
|1990||5th (17-9)||CHAMPIONS||Alan Black
|Mike Ellis||James Crawford|
|1991||1st (22-4)||CHAMPIONS||Murray Arnold||Mike Ellis||Ricky Grace|
|1992||6th (12-12)||Quarter-Finalists||Murray Arnold||Mike Ellis||James Crawford|
|1993||1st (21-5)||Grand-Finalists||Adrian Hurley||Andrew Vlahov||Scott Fisher|
|1994||6th (16-10)||Quarter-Finalists||Adrian Hurley||Andrew Vlahov||Scott Fisher|
|1995||1st (19-7)||CHAMPIONS||Adrian Hurley||Andrew Vlahov||Andrew Vlahov|
|1996||3rd (16-10)||Quarter-Finalists||Adrian Hurley||Andrew Vlahov||Andrew Vlahov|
|1997||4th (17-13)||Semi-Finalists||Adrian Hurley||Andrew Vlahov||Ricky Grace|
|1998||3rd (17-13)||Semi-Finalists||Alan Black||Andrew Vlahov||Ricky Grace|
|1998–99||6th (13-13)||Elimination-Finalists||Alan Black||Andrew Vlahov||Ricky Grace|
|1999–2000||3rd (22-6)||CHAMPIONS||Alan Black||Andrew Vlahov||Paul Rogers|
|2000–01||3rd (21-7)||Elimination-Finalists||Alan Black||Andrew Vlahov||Ricky Grace|
|2001–02||2nd (17-13)||Elimination-Finalists||Alan Black||Andrew Vlahov||Ricky Grace|
|2002–03||2nd (22-8)||Grand-Finalists||Alan Black||Ricky Grace||Rob Feaster|
|2003–04||7th (15-18)||Quarter-Finalists||Mike Ellis||Ricky Grace||Rashad Tucker|
|2004–05||7th (15-17)||Quarter-Finalists||Scott Fisher||Ricky Grace||Rosell Ellis|
|2005–06||7th (16-16)||Semi-Finalists||Scott Fisher||Tony Ronaldson||Shawn Redhage|
|2006–07||3rd (23-10)||Quarter-Finalists||Scott Fisher||Paul Rogers||Shawn Redhage|
|2007–08||4th (18-12)||Semi-Finalists||Scott Fisher||Paul Rogers||Shawn Redhage|
|2008–09||4th (17-13)||Elimination-Finalists||Conner Henry||Paul Rogers||Shawn Redhage|
|2009–10||1st (17-11)||CHAMPIONS||Rob Beveridge||Shawn Redhage||Shawn Redhage|
|2010–11||4th (16-12)||Semi-Finalists||Rob Beveridge||Shawn Redhage
|2011–12||2nd (19-9)||Grand-Finalists||Rob Beveridge||Shawn Redhage
|2012–13||2nd (22-6)||Grand-Finalists||Rob Beveridge||Shawn Redhage
|2013–14||1st (21-7)||CHAMPIONS||Trevor Gleeson||Damian Martin||James Ennis|
|2014–15||TBD||TBD||Trevor Gleeson||Damian Martin||TBD|
Source: Perth Wildcats Year by Year
The Perth Wildcats' run of 28 straight playoff appearances is unmatched in major Australian professional sports and betters all the major American sports as well aside from two National Hockey League teams.
The Wildcats' performance of making 28 straight NBL playoff appearances began back in 1987. The Wildcats entered the NBL five years prior in 1982 and did not qualify for the post-season in the first five years, but come 1987, one of the best streaks in world professional sport began.
The first three years of playoff action included a losing grand final series in 1987, but then the team featuring Ricky Grace, James Crawford and Mike Ellis, plus other legends of Australian basketball and coached by Alan Black/Cal Bruton, won the title in 1990 and repeated in 1991 coached by former NBA assistant Murray Arnold.
It took three more years for the club's third NBL title and that included losing the 1993 grand final series to the Melbourne Tigers. That next championship came in 1995 with Dr Adrian Hurley coach, and Andrew Vlahov captain and Most Valuable Player.
Four more years elapsed before the next championship came in the 1999–2000 season. Black had returned as coach and with Paul Rogers dominating as centre, and veterans Vlahov, Grace and Scott Fisher still around, the Wildcats won their fourth title.
In the years in between, the Wildcats still made the playoffs each season and even lost the grand final series to the Sydney Kings in 2003, but then in 2009–10, the Wildcats became the undisputed greatest NBL franchise with a fifth championship. In 2013–14, the Wildcats again qualified for the playoffs for an amazing 28th straight appearance, that is unprecedented in all of Australian sport, and almost unmatched in major world professional sporting leagues.
The most consecutive finals reached in VFL/AFL football is 13 by Hawthorn Hawks between 1982 and 1994 while the NRL's St. George Illawarra Dragons came close with 23 between 1951 and 1973. Super Rugby franchise the Crusaders from Canterbury, New Zealand, have made the semi-finals every year since 2002.
In American sport, the Philadelphia 76ers (as the Syracuse Nationals) made the NBA playoffs 22 straight seasons between 1949–50 and 1970–71 in what is the best run in the strongest basketball league in the world. In Major League Baseball, the best streak was by the Atlanta Braves who managed it 15 straight seasons between 1991 and 2005.
The only major professional league in the United States that has a better streak than the Perth Wildcats' 28 is in the NHL, with the Boston Bruins (1967–68 to 1995–96) making it 29 consecutive times. The Chicago Blackhawks also had a run of 28 straight appearances.
Note: Flags indicate national team eligibility at FIBA sanctioned events. Players may hold other non-FIBA nationality not displayed.
|Perth Wildcats roster|
|C||Matthew Knight||Tom Jervis||Louis Timms|
|PF||Shawn Redhage||Jesse Wagstaff||Nic Cody|
|SF||DeAndre Daniels||Mathiang Muo||Rhys Vague||Greg Hire|
|SG||Jermaine Beal||Earnest Ross||Sunday Dech|
|PG||Damian Martin||Drake U'u||Anthony Fisher|
30th Anniversary All-Star Team
On 4 February 2013, the Perth Wildcats announced their best team from the first three decades of the club at their 30th Anniversary Breakfast. The team was picked by 1995 championship coach Dr Adrian Hurley, The West Australian's online sports editor Ross Lewis, and long-time basketball broadcaster John Gardiner.
|C||James Crawford||Paul Rogers|
|PF||Scott Fisher||Kendal Pinder|
|SF||Andrew Vlahov||Shawn Redhage|
|SG||Kevin Lisch||James Harvey|
|PG||Ricky Grace||Mike Ellis|
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