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GM's Message - Finals

The Perth Wildcats stormed to their 7th NBL Championship on Sunday in front of nearly 14,000 adoring fans at a packed Perth Arena. Yet another trademark defensive performance saw the Wildcats finally overcame the New Zealand Breakers in the three game Grand Final Series, having previously lost the title to the Breakers in both 2012 and 2013. Despite being the reigning champions, many were shocked by New Zealand making the Grand Final Series after narrowly scraping into the playoffs ahead of the Adelaide 36ers, finishing in 4th place at the end of the regular season. To their credit, they rallied at the right time of the season, and played superbly to sweep Melbourne United in the semi-finals, and then to force it to a deciding third game against the Wildcats. Never before have the Breakers been defeated in a Grand Final Series, and we will all look on with interest to see how they bounce back over the off-season. In the meantime, I offer my utmost congratulations to the Perth Wildcats – our 2015/16 NBL Champions. They are testimony to the importance of consistency in our competition – not just throughout the course of a single season, but from year to year and, remarkably, from decade to decade. The disciplined, tight-knit culture at the Wildcats has seen the club become one of the greatest sporting franchises of all time – with an unparalleled 30 consecutive finals appearances, and a record 7th NBL title. It is no wonder that opposition teams to this day continue to dread the long trip West, to enter the “Jungle”. As the season draws to a close, it provides an opportunity to look back on the fantastic strides the NBL has made since its relaunch in 2015. We were fortunate enough to welcome into the League some of the best imports we have had for years. Jerome Randle, Casey Prather, Hakim Warrick, Stephen Holt, Jordair Jett and Charles Jackson have all been outstanding additions to the competition. Then we had the short-term injection of NBA veteran Al Harrington into the Sydney Kings side. Harrington’s arrival created enormous excitement and illustrated just how competitive our league is. We also had the Cinderella story of the Illawarra Hawks, who under coach Rob Beveridge dragged themselves from finishing bottom of the ladder in 2014/15 to become semi-finalists and sentimental favourites in 2015/16 – and it’s not hard to see why when they brought home from the Spanish national league Kevin Lisch (who went on to win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and NBL All First Team), Kirk Penney (NBL All Second Team) and AJ Ogilvy (NBL All First Team). Add Chris Goulding to the list of players who returned to the NBL from Spain and you can understand why the Spanish could be a little unimpressed with us right now. Another notable performance this year came from the Townsville Crocodiles, taking fans and opposition teams by surprise with their youthful exuberance and fighting spirit. They were rewarded with Crocs coach Shawn Dennis named Coach of the Year, and players Clint Steindl and Nick Kay named Most Improved Player and Rookie of the Year, respectively. Although the 2015/16 season has only just concluded, I could not be more excited about the off-season that lies ahead, and of course the return of the Brisbane Bullets in 2016/17. You will continue to hear from me from time to time during the off-season with some exciting announcements from near and afar – I am looking forward to sharing them with you.
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