HE missed championships because of college and an attempted TV-boosted Aussie Rules career but now Reece Maxwell hopes it’s third time lucky in his third SBL Grand Final for the Joondalup City Wolves on Saturday night.
Maxwell has played in the Wolves’ losing Grand Finals of 2013 and 2016 and before that he was tied up at Gillette College when they broke through for the 2011 championship ending an 18-year drought.
The Wolfpack then won again in 2016 but Maxwell had attempted to play WAFL football with Claremont that season a year removed from his time on the Foxtel reality television show, The Recruit.
He returned to the Wolves and rededicated himself to the club and basketball in 2016 and made himself a key contributor on the team that made it back to the Grand Final before losing to the Cockburn Cougars.
That means that Maxwell remains one of the unlucky few to have played at the Wolves in this run of five Grand Finals in seven years yet to win a championship and he desperately hopes that changes this Saturday night up against the Perth Redbacks at Bendat Basketball Centre.
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Maxwell’s sole motivation now in his basketball career back with the Wolfpack is to win that elusive championship especially having seen so many of his close mates who are still on the team get to experience it, and even Greg Hire who led the Wolves to the title in 2011.
“For me it’s a massive motivation to try and get one. At the start of the year we did a lot of work on culture and my goal to everyone was to keep everyone honest and if I felt they weren’t pulling their weight I would be on to them,” Maxwell said.
“I committed to that because most of them have won a championship and I’m still searching for one. I’m the one to keep everyone in line to make sure nobody slacks off halfway through the year.
“In that first championship we won I was actually in between college so I didn’t get to play in that and then I was playing footy the last time they won and now that desire I have to win on is massive.
“I’ve been imagining winning a championship at this club ever since I was a little kid. I really don’t know what it would feel like, it might be relief more than anything to finally get one.”
When Maxwell began his career at the Wolfpack success wasn’t something that was automatic. He sensed it began to change with the arrival of Mick Downer and now five Grand Finals in seven years is an achievement that speaks for itself.
“In my first couple of years we weren’t used to that success and struggled to make finals, and then flunked out in the first round,” he said.
“But ever since Mick Downer came and brought that Wolfpack brand it has been nothing but success. It comes down to having good people around and it’s the people around the club that just breed success.”
Maxwell’s return to the SBL last year was successful both in terms of him proving what a valuable basketball player to the Wolves he could still be and in the team making a second straight Grand Final.
But the loss stung and for Maxwell he didn’t complain about getting a measure of revenge on the Cockburn Cougars in this year’s quarter finals.
“Even in the quarter finals and despite them being quite a different team, it was nice to get a bit of revenge on them for last year,” Maxwell said.
“They did deservedly win last year and they played way better on the night but it was nice to get a bit of revenge against them still. So we have been able to use that pain of losing last year throughout different points this year to keep our motivation levels strong.
“I challenge myself every week against whatever import or Australian guy we come up against and it takes the pressure off Trian and Seb to let them have some more energy to shoot the ball which they do very well.”
Maxwell is more than happy with the role he’s currently playing with the Wolves and he prides himself on his defence and come Grand Final night, he’ll put his hand up to try and shut down anyone from the Redbacks if they catch fire.
“I love coming off the bench and being that impact guy. I try to be versatile and play anywhere from one to four really,” he said.
“Usually I take the role of trying to lock down their No. 1 offensive threat on the floor at the time and I relish that challenge because I’m a far better defensive player than offensive player so I like to stick to that.”
It was originally the chance to take part in the television show The Recruit that took Maxwell away from the Wolfpack in 2014. He enjoyed that experience and would never regret giving it a go even if it does mean he still gets recognised for it today.
“I still get recognised from that every now and then which is pretty amazing, but I have nothing but good things to say about it and the reaction of people who recognise me has never been anything but positive,” Maxwell said.
“Since high school I always wanted to play footy and I love it, but I could obviously could never do it while playing basketball. But the opportunity came over to go on The Recruit which was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would have always kicked myself if I didn’t give it a crack.
“I put 100 per cent into it and unfortunately because of injuries and things it meant footy didn’t work out for me. I also went a year without working because of two shoulder operations so that made it tough and financially I couldn’t sustain that.”
Shoulder troubles meant that Maxwell’s efforts to play in the WAFL with Claremont didn’t extend beyond nine games in the reserves in 2015. When that didn’t quite work out, Maxwell wanted to return to the Wolfpack and fitting back in hasn’t been a problem whatsoever.
“It was a bigger transition than I thought to be honest and I was getting really fit, but then did the shoulder and coming into a new group and not being able to do a pre-season with them was tough,” he said.
“It was a bit unfortunate that I could never train for more than two weeks without having to have a break through injury, which was a shame.
“I think I could have given it a better crack but in the end I just missed the boys here too much. It didn’t take too long to adjust to basketball again and it was just nice to be back around the boys and fitness wasn’t an issue so I got back into it pretty quickly.”
Looking beyond Saturday night’s Grand Final, Maxwell is looking forward to getting to enjoy the Wolves’ new home at Arena Joondalup in 2018 and couldn’t be happier with the send off they gave Joondalup Basketball Stadium last weekend by winning into the Grand Final.
“There are quite a few clubs that are now getting nice facilities and I’m a little bit sad after spending a lot of years at the old stadium, but it’s well-needed to move to the new one so we can play without leaking rooves and power failures,” Maxwell said.
“We’ve had some big crowds there to farewell the old stadium too and there was no better way to say goodbye than last weekend with two wins to make the Grand Final.”
Photo by Sports Imagery Australia