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Back to back focus

Motivation isn’t hard to find for the Perth Wildcats entering the 2016/17 NBL season with assistant coach Matt Nielsen acknowledging that winning back-to-back championships for the first time in 25 years is enough to get the juices flowing. The Wildcats have now won seven NBL championships but not since the triumphs of 1990 and 91 have the league's most successful club managed back-to-back titles. Nielsen has no doubt that is motivation enough to avoid any sort of complacency for the upcoming season. Damian Martin, Shawn Redhage and Jesse Wagstaff have been there for the championships of 2010, 2014 and 2016 while Matt Knight and Greg Hire were part of the last two but they have yet to be able to win successive titles. With those five returning along with the re-signing of reigning club MVP Casey Prather, return of Jarrod Kenny and arrivals of Jaron Johnson, Angus Brandt, Dexter Kernich-Drew and a new import big man, Nielsen sees no reason the Wildcats can't succeed. Nielsen knows all about back-to-back championships having achieved that with the Sydney Kings in 2003 and 04, and has no question that the players at the Wildcats want to do just that to add to their legacy. "These guys are seasoned professionals and the thing dangling in front of them this year is to do something they haven't done with a back-to-back title," Nielsen said. "These guys have been around long enough to have experienced the highs and lows so each individual has to find that hunger, but we do as a team as well. That's what we are going to spend a bit of time to build on and that's really the focus right now. "It's a hard working group so it's not hard to get them to dig in and work hard. The success of that comes with that kind of attitude and they've seen that. The legacy thing is a real thing and the carrot of aiming at a back-to-back is something that hasn’t been done before with this group." With Jermaine Beal, Tom Jervis and Nate Jawai moving on from last year's championship winning team replaced by Brandt, Johnson, Kernich-Drew and the soon-to-be announced import big, Nielsen is happy with the squad the Wildcats have put together. "I think we've made the changes that were put in front of us and we were really happy to get Casey back. That's good for stability and he took some really big steps during the season last year so it's great to have him back," he said. "A couple of the additions will be exciting. I think our next signing will be sorted in the next couple of days, it's pretty close. Again that's putting the icing on the cake and finishing off the whole roster will be great." The Wildcats began official pre-season training on Monday despite coach Trevor Gleeson and captain Damian Martin being in Rio with the Boomers, and the imports yet to arrive but Nielsen is glad to get the work underway. "The plan is for them all to get here in the next two or three weeks as we start to hit the straps of pre-season training," he said. "We are starting off getting a good base with the fitness stuff and the next month is about bringing the new guys in, and these getting their fitness base down pat along with putting in the offences and defences. "Then in the second month of pre-season there's a lot of games and travelling so it's about balancing that out and locking into this first month to get things up and about." With the Rio Olympics getting underway this week, it's a new experience for Nielsen not to be with the Boomers having played at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games but he's looking forward to being able to sit back and enjoy them. "I've loved every part of my campaigns but to be honest I'm excited about being able to sit back and enjoy it, and be in a bit more relaxed head space than the other times I've been around it," Nielsen said. "It's actually exciting and I can't wait to watch the boys run around but it's really the whole Olympics experience I'm looking forward to sitting back and enjoying."
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