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Brisbane Bullets v Perth Wildcats Game Preview

When: 7.30pm (AEST), Thursday 6 October Where: Brisbane Entertainment Centre Broadcast: NBL TV, Fox Sports Bullets have that new, old feeling New Brisbane forward Anthony Petrie didn’t have to think long when asked what the 2010, 2012 and 2014 NBL playoffs had in common for him and his team. “That we lost to Perth,” he said. “That’s my roadblock. People think of black and yellow roadblocks when there’s roadworks going on, the roadblock in my career’s been red and black!” Yet while some of the key pieces have changed for the Wildcats – imports Jameel McKay and Jaron Johnson bringing extreme athleticism alongside the returning Casey Prather and mainstays like Damian Martin and Jesse Wagstaff – Petrie is certain the challenge of beating them doesn’t. “No matter who they bring into the group, it just remains the same. They’ve kept that core group together so whoever comes in just plays Perth basketball,” he said. A new start In contrast, it’s a brand new start for Petrie and the Bullets under master coach Andrej Lemanis, one he’s very much enjoying. “Going to a new club you usually know what they're about, how they play, what sort of stuff they have in place, but we’ve all come into this new together, from front office to players, we’re starting bare bones,” he said. “It’s really exciting being part of the rebirth of the Bullets, and everyone’s had a great attitude towards it, we’re all aware of the privileged position we’re in.” Veteran team While the club feels new to ‘Peach’, the team doesn’t, the veteran describing the likes of Adam Gibson, Daniel Kickert, Tom Jervis and Jermaine Beal as “a pretty heady group of players who don’t get fussed by too much”. “It’s a whole new group but it feels like we’ve been together longer. I think that was Andrej’s plan, to pick guys who could get on the same page quickly,” he said. “There’s been a real dedication to learning from the whole group. Andrej, Mick (Downer) and CJ (Bruton) are huge on video and there’s been a big emphasis on going through that individually and as a group, so that helps the process as well.” That is what gives Petrie confidence the Bullets can make an emphatic statement on opening night this Thursday in Brisbane. “What a great way to start, playing at home against the defending champions,” he said. “You’ve got to have poise and calm under their pressure and think your way through it, and on the flipside you’ve got to rebound at an elite level against Perth, because they’ve won so many games just off that.” Damo excited about up-tempo ‘Cats Perth Wildcat, Damian Martin led the Rio Olympics in steals per minute, so his thoughts on the Perth Wildcats’ new athletic, full-court defensive line-up are not surprising. “Whether it’s getting a rebound and looking to break out or picking up full court with our athletic wings in particular, I’m really enjoying the style of play,” he said. It would have been easy for the Wildcats to try and replicate last season’s championship formula, but with Nate Jawai headed home to Cairns they took a different approach. “We’ve recruited really well in terms of the style of play we want. Trev and the coaches went back to the drawing board and said, ‘Who do we want to be?’” Martin said. “To have Casey Prather on one wing, who I think’s taken his game to a new level, Jaron Johnson who’s a super athlete on the other wing, and just as important is Jameel (McKay), who’s a 6’10 guy who can get up-and-down the court.” While the Wildcats will be defending more aggressively than last season, Martin insists they are “not trying to reinvent the wheel”. “We’ve got a system we believe works, but you’ve got to always tinker with it,” he said. “We may not be as strong or as big, but we are more athletic and we’re going to try and use that to our advantage, and that’s going to be at both ends of the court, not just at the exciting end with some alley-oops.”   Familiar faces Perth’s season tips off on the road this Thursday against the Bullets, and the familiar faces of Andrej Lemanis, Jermaine Beal, Adam Gibson and Tom Jervis in Brisbane maroon tell Martin the task won’t be easy. “I’m excited Brisbane is back in the league, but having said that they’ve recruited a team that’s capable of winning it in year one,” he said. “Having played for Andrej with the Boomers team in Rio, I can’t see him changing his style of play a lot with the Bullets, and they’ve got the personnel who can really carry out what he’s after.” There have been questions about Brisbane’s backcourt depth, but Martin knows any team with Gibson and Beal leading the charge will be hard to disrupt defensively, especially in Lemanis’ system. “Someone like Gibbo who’s played for Andrej for a number of years with the Australian team will have picked it up straight away, and a guy who can create really well from within an offensive structure is obviously Jermaine Beal,” he said. “He’s very much capable of taking games over … we’ve got to get into him and make sure he doesn’t drop one or two quick threes, because that can easily turn into five or six.”
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