WINNING just follows Perth Wildcats and NBL legend Shawn Redhage and he capped a remarkable 2017 with another championship having played a starring role in the Perth Redbacks breakthrough SBL triumph.
Redhage might have retired from the NBL following the 2016/17 season having won a fourth championship with the Perth Wildcats, but he did so feeling remarkably fresh and like he had plenty left in the tank.
Despite coming off a career that included 380 games for the Wildcats and 392 overall in the NBL on top of time representing Australia highlighted by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and stints in Puerto Rico in off-seasons, Redhage had never felt better as he retired from professional basketball.
Because he was feeling so good having played so few minutes for the Wildcats in his final NBL season, Redhage was keen to continue playing and he signed with the Redbacks seeing that as the best fit for him where he could reunite with old teammates Joel Wagner and Michael Vigor.
Redhage proved right throughout the season just how good he was still feeling physically, how much gas he had left in the tank and most importantly, that his motivation and professionalism remained at such a high level where he could deliver some unstoppable basketball.
If he hadn’t taken a break during the second half of the season to go on a family trip back to the United States, Redhage could well have won the league’s MVP award.
But he wasn’t playing in the SBL for individual accolades. As a six-time Wildcats MVP and four-time NBL champion, just helping bring success to others is now what he’s all about given the remarkable career achievements he’s already racked up.
Redhage quickly bought into the culture at the Redbacks and the desire was strong to bring them their first championship since 1997, and to do it for the likes of coach Nik Lackovic and long-time Perth players Wagner, Vigor and Ben Smith.
“I was asking Joel when he started here at this club and he said as a 15-year-old and he’s 29 now so he has waited long enough for this,” Redhage said.
“This couldn’t have happened to a better guy or teammate and I’m excited for him, excited for Nik and all the guys that we could come together and pull this off.
“A guy like Joel who most people might not have noticed the job he did on Trian but those type of performances win you Grand Finals.
“Obviously Lee played outstanding and Ben Smith hit some daggers in that second half so it was a fun group to be part of with different guys stepping up. You just have to enjoy this experience as much as you can because you never know if you will get another opportunity.”
Following his four NBL championships, Redhage could be excused for starting to take winning titles for granted but that can never be the case. Every title win has its own individual story and that is certainly the case for him with the SBL championship for the Redbacks this year.
“They are always special and I’ve played enough games to know that this is a special moment, especially for this club,” he said.
“They hadn’t won one for 20 years and you could just see the support that we’ve had the last few weeks especially and the guys were really switched on for the game. It was a fun Grand Final to be a part of and that was probably the best we’ve played all season, and the best prepared we have been and that all paid off.”
When Redhage initially signed with the Redbacks for 2017 it was always with the long-term goal of winning a championship, but it wasn’t the sole focus. The club was keen to get Redhage on board to help cement their culture and to set the ultimate example for the developing players.
Redhage was only too happy to provide that role as a grizzled veteran still with plenty of game left, and he couldn’t have pictured it turning out any better.
“Winning a championship is always the goal and with the team we put together, and with the camaraderie we have built, and the team work we showed was on display in the Grand Final,” Redhage said.
“That was our best performance all year and the smartest we’ve played as well because we read the game well and read what the Wolves were going to do against us. We kept playing our game and it’s fun when everything comes together and we all play our part like we hoped we could coming into the season.”
Speaking of those young players, Redhage just could not have been more impressed with what 16-year-old Kyle Bowen and new Illawarra Hawks development player Marshall Nelson were able to deliver on the big stage.
“In the big moments they come on and played great. Kyle last week came in and played with some great energy and it’s a credit to him for coming back from the Centre of Excellence because he wanted to be part of it,” he said.
“And Marshall, the sky is the limit for him. He’s got some great ability and he can take his game to the next level and I’m excited to see his growth over the next few years because I think he will be an exciting player for a long time at the next level.”
Redhage is yet to make any decisions on 2018 yet. In the short-term, he will be beginning his NBL commentary career for Fox Sports and he’s worry about what the future holds later.
“For me I’m at that point in my career where I celebrate the wins you get and then worry about the future later on,” Redhage said.
“I enjoyed this year and body-wise I felt good and I was able to train every week. Lackovic did a great job in putting me in positions to be successful and to have guys around me to make my life easier like Ben, Joel, Mike and Lee. It was a fun group but we’ll see about next year.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)