SIMON Parker has dedicated his life to the Willetton Tigers and he has the long-term goal of remaining in charge of the Women’s SBL team for the opening of the new stadium, but his short-term focus is on another successful 2018 playoff campaign.
Parker first rocked up to Willetton Basketball Stadium as an eight-year-old to begin hitting the hardwood floors and he’s never left.
He continued to play basketball at the venue growing up and still does play in the mid-week competition now. In between he had an SBL career that consisted of 120 matches and now he’s making quite the mark as a coach.
Having led the Tigers women to the championship in 2016 and then back to the semi finals again last year before coming up short against the eventual champion Perry Lakes Haws, Parker has his team back in the playoffs from fourth position in 2018.
That sees them earn home court advantage in the quarter-final match up with the Kalamunda Eastern Suns starting with Game 1 this Saturday night at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
On top of that, he has been appointed coach at least up until the end of the 2020 season with the club fully backing up as the man to lead the Tigers forward both in terms of continuing to develop young talent and having a winning culture at SBL level.
Parker is proud to be continuing on for another two years at least in charge of the Tigers women and he certainly has set his sights on being there still for the opening of the new stadium.
“I was there from when I was eight years of age when I started playing so I haven’t left since and haven’t gone anywhere else. Now to be head coach of the women’s basketball program is something pretty special and I’m proud to be doing it,” Parker said.
“I’d give it away before I ever went to another club unless they offered me a truckload of money. It’s never been about money for me, though, it’s about building a good program with good kids coming through.
“I think the signs are that we’ll remain a strong club and we have the new stadium to look forward to as well. One of my goals is to be here when we open that new stadium and to be there on that new court for the start of that SBL season. I need to make sure I need to keep doing a good job up to that stage.”
With the great success the Tigers have in the Women’s SBL having won eight championships from 12 Grand Finals and producing WNBL stars like Kate Malpass, Melissa Marsh and Zoe Harper who remain committed to Willetton, that culture is something that Parker wants to build on and retain moving forward.
“One thing I spoke about in my review was that we’ve created that culture on the back of Kate and Mel and those WNBL girls we’ve produced, but a big thing for me going forward was that we want to build our own culture and identity with this group,” he said.
“I wanted to make sure we maintained what Willetton is all about and I think we are getting there slowly.”
Parker has done a good job building this 2018 Willetton team too to end up reaching the playoffs from fourth position ahead of the quarter-final battle with the Eastern Suns.
That was a Tigers team coming into the season that lost the likes of Kate Malpass, Stacey Barr, Emma Lobb and now Zoe Harper as well.
They did add Ajay Johnson and imports Ashli Payne and Leah Cotton have been on board after the first month when Sami Whitcomb made a cameo, but really Parker has tried to focus on the emerging group of young players and he’s proud of the way they are growing.
Sophie Maines, Emma Gandini, Carla Drennan, Tayla Hepburn and Hayley Winter are among those showing exciting signs for the future.
“That’s a great positive out of this season is the way we’ve been able to do pretty well despite the turnover we’ve had. Teams often when they lose a lot of senior players end up being bottom eight, but we’ve stayed up there with the team we’ve got,” Parker said.
“We’ve had a lot of ins and outs from the start of the season with different players coming in and others leaving along the way, so we’ve had a lot of upheaval along the way. But I’m pretty happy with the way the season has turned out for us.
“Ash Payne is probably a three man but she’s played a bit of the four this year and she’s done a really good job at that. Sophie Maines is another one we’re happy to throw in there to give an opportunity to especially when the games are on the line.
“We don’t want to just give them garbage minutes and our younger girls have been really good. We don’t have the size we have had in the past and Sam can’t really play 40 minutes coming off her knee, but she’s doing a hell of a job for the 25 or 30 minutes she is playing.”
For the first time in his time coach, Parker has two overseas imports in his team for 2018 and he’s happy with the way Payne and Cotton are now performing heading into the playoffs.
“Even though they are professional athletes, they actually work to get their money and they’re not just down the gym shooting 500 shots a day or anything. They work for their money, but they have fitted in really well and from what we’ve done with them I’m happy with how it’s gone,” he said.
“With the way the fixture played out too with being able to get Taylor and Sammi for the first four weeks was great and that gave us that bit of extra time to find those guys and to get them here, and settled in.
“It’s pretty hard work to be honest finding imports and we’d all like to go local first with the Lynx players and that sort of thing, but that didn’t pan out so went out on a search and I think we’ve done pretty well.”
The Tigers beat the Suns a couple of weeks ago at Kalamunda to secure fourth position and home court advantage for the quarter-final series which Parker is more than happy about.
But looking at the overall playoff picture, he sees no reason if the Tigers play to their potential that this could be a full five-week finals journey for them.
“Home court can definitely be a big advantage, especially when we shoot the ball pretty well on our home court. Actually everyone shoots well on our court, it’s one of the better ones. But it’s good to play in front of your home crowd to support you and stuff like that,” Parker said.
“All the games we’ve lost, even to Lakeside and Rockingham and those top teams, we’ve actually on been about 10 points away from being really competitive and also won most of the effort areas in those games.
“That’s probably the frustrating part. If we can just polish up on a bit of shooting once we play the better teams and hit a few more shots then I think we’ll be there or there abouts, and can beat anyone on our day.”