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The mantra leading to Wildcats' success

02 Feb
4 mins read

Written By

Dan Woods - NBL.com.au

John Rillie’s approach to the final three rounds of the NBL24 season is simple, and it’s the mantra he’s preached to his Wildcats all season long - one day at a time.

It seems an age ago that the Wildcats were languishing in the lower reaches of the NBL ladder with a 2-5 record and the Red Army was calling for Rillie’s head. Now the Wildcats sit comfortably in second, and are still in with a mathematical chance of finishing the regular season on top of the ladder, ahead of Melbourne United.

Such has the turnaround been, in fact, that Rillie’s name has been floated as a potential Coach of the Year candidate.

Despite the incredible turnaround over the course of the campaign, Rillie believes there’s still more to come from his group.

“It’s as simple as [one day at a time],” Rillie told SEN WA. That’s all I preach, whether it’s Monday or ten minutes before the game, because that’s all you can worry about.

“Like you guys saw on Thursday night (against Illawarra), that was not a good performance so how can we not allow that to happen again.

“We still have good growth as a team, individuals still have growth, so to be successful you just need to keep chipping away.

“For me and my coaching experience, where I get nervous is if I don’t see growth or potential in the team to keep improving. I see that, we as a staff see that, so how do we get that out of them? We can’t get that out of them every day, so what are the moments we’re striving to get better in?

“What I would say with most of our group is there is a level of comfortability with how guys are perceived, and we’re utilising the strengths as opposed to worrying about the weaknesses of each other.”

While the Wildcats are fighting to stay in the hunt for top spot, their opponents this weekend – the Breakers – are fighting to remain in contention for an appearance in the Finals as a whole.

New Zealand enters Round 18 in eighth position on the ladder, the destiny of last season’s runner-up is in its own hands in the final three rounds of this season, due to the Breakers having played fewer games than anyone in the competition, bar Illawarra.

“They’re fighting for their Playoff lives and we have plenty to play for ourselves. We’ll see a fired up New Zealand,” Rillie said.

“They’re free-flowing in their scoring ability, so we really need to curb Lamb and Jackson-Cartwright, and my biggest thing with our team at the moment is our rebounding, we have to give that better attention. If we take care of that we’ll be in good shape.”

Sunday’s clash will have more meaning than a standard Sunday hoops game for the rusted-on members of the Red Army. The aftermath of the game will feature a jersey retirement ceremony for Wildcats legend and six-time NBL champion Damian Martin.

Martin captained the Wildcats to five of the six titles he won as a player and was also named as the Larry Sengstock Medal winner in 2017.

The NBL’s Best Defensive Player award was also named after him, due to the record-breaking six times he won it during his playing career.

Rillie – who played against Martin for three seasons of his career – says it’s important for a club of Perth’s stature to have the ability to recognise an individual in this fashion.

“It's important for a player to have a coach with a true vision, and Rob Beveridge had a true vision for that guy,” Rillie said of Martin.

“Now what I like about Sunday afternoon is when you can celebrate individual brilliance within the success of a franchise, and we saw that last year with (Shawn) Redhage.

“Any time you can show the individual brilliance within the success of an organisation that’s a great formula.”

The Wildcats take on the Breakers on Sunday afternoon at 1pm.

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