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Redhage celebrates 350

When Shawn Redhage began his Perth Wildcats career the Melbourne Tigers were champions, the NBL was vastly different to today and his club operated out of a rundown facility and struggling to fill a small stadium. Fast forward from his arrival in Perth for the 2005/06 season to now being about to surpass Andrew Vlahov to play 350 games to be third on the list of all-time matches with the Wildcats. Redhage has seen enormous growth in the NBL. Redhage earned every bit of his nickname as the 'Scoring Machine' in his early years in Perth after an unsuccessful beginning to his NBL career with the New Zealand Breakers. He had four outstanding individual seasons before captaining Perth to a championship in 2010. His career appeared over with a horror hip and pelvis injury a year later, but he was ready to go for the start of the 2011/12 season and has continued to be a strong contributor since. That has brought him two more championships and his No. 42 singlet is guaranteed of being raised to the rafters upon his retirement. But the 35-year-old Beijing Olympian is not done yet and on Friday night at Perth Arena he reaches 350 Wildcats games, just shy of James Crawford (371) and Ricky Grace (482). "I guess at this stage of your career you probably relish these milestones that little bit more especially when you look at the other guys who have played 350 games," Redhage said. "It's a pretty distinguished list and those are guys that I looked up to when I first got here. Especially Andrew Vlahov who was the one responsible for bringing me here. He is the epitome of what it means to be a Wildcat and it's something you don’t take lightly. It's a great honour." His work ethic has always set Redhage apart as a professional athlete and has allowed him to put together the legendary career he has. And he has no doubt it's why he continues to get through season after season despite the years ticking on. "Preparation has been really key for myself and I kind of realised that if I wanted to play in this league with the talent there was, you had to be prepared and ready to go each time you stepped on to the court," he said. "I have prided myself on being consistent with that preparation so that has held me in pretty good stead coming into each season to make sure the body is in the best shape it can be. "I have stopped playing in the off-season the last few years which has helped me continue so I just make sure I am a bit smarter with my recovery while doing the same amount of work." It's funny how things work out and as Redhage moves into third on Perth's all-time games played list, it's only fitting it comes against the Breakers where he started in the NBL and whom he has taken part in three Grand Final series' against – two losing and one winning. "I hadn’t really thought about it until it was brought up earlier in the week but New Zealand have set a great standard in this league and we've had a lot of great battles," Redhage said. "For me I started out in the league playing for New Zealand so it's fitting to go up against some great players. "I've had a lot of great battles with Mika over the years and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his club and organisation for what they've been able to achieve from starting out as a new club to now winning quite a few championships." When Redhage began in the NBL back in 2004/05 and arrived in Perth a year later, the league is unrecognisable to the one that is now thriving. The Melbourne Tigers won the championship back in 2005 but all of the growth the NBL has undergone, particularly in the past 18 months is something Redhage is proud to have been part of. "There's now so much talent on every team. You look at the Australians playing in the NBA and still in Europe, and now we've got a number of those guys like David Andersen and Brad Newley coming back to the league," he said. "Then you add a third import and the things the league is doing over in China and Asia, it's an exciting part to be part of and I can only see things getting bigger and better down the line. The talent level on each team and the depth is just incredible." Not only has the league changed dramatically over his 350 games in Perth, but things at the Wildcats are dramatically different. The club was based in their offices under the old Perry Lakes athletics stadium with the team training at the famous yet decrepit Perry Lakes Stadium. That is now a high market apartment township across the road from the club's new headquarters at the Bendat Basketball Centre. The Wildcats, back when Redhage arrived, were struggling to fill the 4000-seat Challenge Stadium. But as things improved by the time the Perth Arena was built, the Wildcats' had well outgrown that facility and have averaged well over 10,000 fans ever since in the new building in the heart of the city. Redhage has felt how much all of Perth has grown in their support of the club. "I came in and we were getting a couple of thousand people to Challenge Stadium and then last Saturday night we opened the season in front of almost 13,000 fans all wearing red," Redhage said. "The intensity and passion for the club, especially from the city, is something that really makes the Wildcats unique and it makes it a huge honour each time you are able to put on the Wildcats jersey knowing you are representing such a fantastic club and the city that supports it and in a League that is going places."
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