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Perth Wildcats: 30 and counting

It is official: the Perth Wildcats will be participating in their 30th consecutive NBL post-season. Think about that: THIRTY years in a row. 1987 to 2016 … and counting! It’s a remarkable statistic, a level of sustained excellence unmatched anywhere else in Australian professional sport, and very rarely overseas. Of course, that period has seen many different players, coaches and administrators pass through the club, carrying on the winning tradition. Cal Bruton’s ‘Run and Stun’ teams of the late 80s started it all while the remarkable career of Ricky Grace – a period of 15 years that included four titles – helped keep the flame alive season after season. In 1995 Perth flew the flag at the McDonald’s Championship in London, Paul Rogers was MVP of everything in 2000 before nine ring-less seasons brought the club to the Rob Beveridge/Kevin Lisch era; a period of success that brought one Championship and two Grand Final losses. Now, under the leadership of defensive-minded coach Trevor Gleeson and five-time Defensive Player of the Year Damian Martin, the Wildcats are continuing the tradition. Veteran forward Greg Hire, who began with the ‘Cats as a development player five years ago, is proud – and a little relieved – to have achieved the #30Straight milestone. “As team members we've always joked that you wouldn't want to be the first team to break that streak,” Hire said. “But to accomplish a significant achievement like this is something we will reflect on with great fondness once we retire.”
A significant achievement indeed; the streak betters anything ever previously accomplished in Australian or American professional sports. Maccabi Tel Aviv are the only top-level basketball club worldwide who can lay claim to a longer run, with the upcoming Israeli League playoffs marking their 35th consecutive trip to the post-season. Seven-time MVP Andrew Gaze, who battled the Wildcats across a career spanning 22 NBL seasons, believes the streak is a remarkable achievement. “To sustain that level of excellence for such a long period of time is something that is extraordinary,” Gaze told The West Australian last month. “There are a lot of variables you can attribute it to, but at the end of the day it’s a significant record and one that I think most other teams are very envious of.” Gaze added that those who’ve worked behind the scenes at the Wildcats over the years deserve recognition along with the players. “It never gets any easier, so it’s a phenomenal thing and I think there is a correlation between the success they’ve had on the court and what they do off it.” Wildcats CEO and Managing Director Nick Marvin told nbl.com.au that Perth’s sustained excellence has resulted from high professional standards that exist within the club. “It is about not accepting mediocrity and a strong focus on accountability for everyone in the organisation,” Marvin said. That’s a philosophy that sounds great in theory, but has become daily practise within the Wildcats. “It's obviously a testament to the organisation and a reflection from top to bottom on the commitment and work ethic that everyone has,” Hire said. “To maintain a level of consistency throughout all the years is a rare feat and to cement your name in already rich history is something I'm definitely proud of.” Interestingly, Marvin told nbl.com.au that Wildcats owner Jack Bendat, who became the club’s majority shareholder in February 2006, has never once spoken to him about the streak. The highly-successful businessman and noted philanthropist is all about looking forward. “Jack’s never talked to me about the streak or the past, his focus is always about the present and the future,” Marvin said. “That’s something we’ve all inherited, that it doesn’t really matter what happened yesterday. For us it’s about what are we going to do today to get better and improve the organisation?” Of course, they are questions head coach Trevor Gleeson is likely posing to his team today after yet another slow start last night against Sydney. It was a good win – one that solidified their place in the Finals – but the Wildcats’ recent topsy-turvy form has some within the organisation a little concerned. After all, the Perth Wildcats do not accept mediocrity. They hold everyone accountable. And that, folks, is how you notch up #30Straight.
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