RYAN Godfrey might be one of the more under the radar stars in the SBL but he is the leader and heart and soul of the Rockingham Flames, and there’s nobody more excited about them being two games from what would be a historic Men’s Grand Final appearance.
When you think of heart and soul type players it’s Gavin Field at Cockburn, Ben Purser at Perry Lakes, Joel Wagner at Perth, Seb Salinas at Joondalup, Mat Wundenberg at Geraldton, Jarrad Prue at Lakeside, but Godfrey comfortably belongs among them for the stature he holds at Rockingham.
He might not always receive the plaudits from the outside the Flames with the presence of the likes of Greg Hire, Kevin White, Curtis Washington and even the emergence of Justin Beard, but no one is a greater barometer of how Rockingham is travelling than Godfrey.
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Having learned some leadership traits from Taylor Land for a number of years, this is now Godfrey’s team and that’s still the case even with an NBL vice-captain in Hire and NBL captain in White as part of the group.
And it’s the fact that he contributes in so many areas that make him such a valuable member of the Flames group. His defence has got right back to where it was earlier in his career while his leadership is now growing all the time as he adjusts to life as captain.
But all of that doesn’t mean he isn’t still a dynamic scorer when he’s called upon and that was on show in the quarter-final series against the Buccs.
He wasn’t required to do much offensively in the Game 1 win in Rockingham but he still had a big impact on the result despite only taking five shots. He did make five of them and still shot 2/3 from deep.
But it was his time to step up last Saturday night in Geraldton and he delivered 31 points on the back of shooting 11/15 from the field and 5/7 from three-point territory.
That was a big factor in the Flames stunning the Buccs to knock out the regular season champions on their home floor to advance to the semi finals up against the Perry Lakes Hawks starting this Saturday night at Bendat Basketball.
Godfrey was happy to play such a key role in one of the best wins the Flames have had in their SBL history, but really as long as he’s playing a role to help the team he doesn’t matter what numbers are next to his name.
“I just want to do whatever it takes to help us win really. The week before I only took a couple of shots and we had Justin Beard step up. This week it was just my turn to take my opportunity and that’s what it is. I don’t really look into it too much, as long as we put the win on the board that’s all that matters to me,” Godfrey said.
“It’s all about being able to fill in the gaps where we need it. Whether it’s defence I’m there, whether it’s shooting then some nights or there or if it’s running the offence I’m there.
“I feel like I’m definitely a more well-rounded player and I’m out here to help make sure we have wins now which is a bit of a different mindset than in the past. For us to get to the position we’re in now, I’m happy to play any role I can as long as we’re winning.
“I’ve definitely been here long enough to see some great players and great leaders come through our club, and it’s a real honour to be captain now following on from those names.
“In some ways I feel like it’s my team as the leader now but I don’t want to put all the ownership on me. We’re all in it together and it’s a team game where we are pulling each other’s weight. I’m happy to be in that conversation as a leader but we’re all in it together.”
The Flames had to battle hard just to reach the playoffs and they entered in eighth position with a significant job ahead of them against the regular season champion Buccaneers.
It was a stacked Geraldton team but after the way the Flames played to win Game 1 at home, they felt good heading off on the bus and knew they had to throw everything at getting that first game on Saturday night.
For Godfrey, it couldn’t have turned out better.
“It was just a very high level of excitement. Coming off last year where we had a lot of inconsistencies, this year we have had our fair share of ups and downs too, but the boys regrouped together before the week of the quarter finals. To put it altogether for the majority of both games, it’s nice to see it paying off at the right end of the season,” he said.
“We knew we had to do it one game because backing it up in Gero on the Sunday was going to be hard enough let alone coming off a loss the night before. I don’t know how many teams have gone up there and won on Gero’s home court in finals time to eliminate them. For us to go and do that was a huge effort from the boys and it gives us a lot of belief going into this week.”
While it was one of the more enjoyable trips home to Rockingham the Flames have endured, they were eagerly waiting to find out who would prevail between Perry Lakes and Lakeside to see who they would face in the semi finals.
“It was definitely a lot of fun coming home on the bus after that win and it was just really exciting that we kept our season alive to try and do something special that we’ve all been working so hard towards,” Godfrey said.
“By Sunday we had switched our focus as we were looking at the live stats between Perry Lakes and Lakeside. When we found out finally our opposition would be Perry Lakes then they became our focus and you start reflecting on the games you played them this year.
“The coaches were great putting the games up in the live feed so that we could watch them instantly and get a taste of what we’re coming up against.”
What makes Godfrey even prouder of being where the Flames are two wins away from a Grand Final is the fact that they have done it with a group of local Rockingham players.
Sure there is Washington, Hire and White from the outside, but aside from that there’s himself and Jarryd Griffin as veterans of Rockingham basketball now and then the new generation including Justin, Kyle and Callum Beard, Beau and Dain Samuelson, Luke Travers, Luke Roberts, Melusi Mkhwananzi and company.
“It’s a great feeling around the club with so many of the group having grown up together here as homegrown Rockingham guys,” he said.
“That’s a credit to the whole Rockingham community that we are able to put so many good basketball players on the floor at the one time. To do it with all these boys is a massive credit and even Curtis who is American, he feels like a homebody already and Greg and Whitey have fitted in great too.”
While Godfrey has enjoyed his leadership role with the Flames, he feels having the experience of Hire and White alongside him to provide their input from NBL level has been invaluable to the development of the team.
“It’s been a real pleasure to have guys who can handle the pressure and who you know will handle to ball in those times. Even for the other boys, to have fresh voices from NBL level has been huge.,” he said.
“They’ve probably heard my voice for the last couple of years now and it probably gets a bit old. Having a couple of new guys come in from NBL level saying the same things I do is kind of a nice addition to the group.”
As much as there is a great feeling in the Flames playing group, the whole Rockingham community is getting behind their push for a first Grand Final appearance in the Men’s SBL and Godfrey is certainly feeling that.
“We look at it like we have three wins to go and hopefully we can do it in three games. Then we could look back and reflect on the rest of the season, but right now it’s important to not look further ahead than Game 1 and focus on Perry Lakes. As long as we give it 100 per cent I’m sure we’ll be right there at the finish,” Godfrey said.
“It would be a credit to all the support and sponsors we’ve had this year. That’s something we haven’t had to this level for a number of years so for everyone to feel as though they can back us in and have confidence that we can do something special is huge.
“I can’t thank everyone enough and as long as they know all the boys have put in all the hard work up to this point, hopefully that’s enough to get us over the line over the next few weeks.”
As impressive as the Flames were to beat the Buccs, Godfrey is under no illusions just how big the challenge ahead is against the Hawks in the semi finals starting on Saturday night at Bendat Basketball Centre.
Godfrey did feel like the Flames were capable of big things in 2018 but things just never quite clicked. But he’s not surprised they’ve now ended up in the semi finals with the blend of experience and youth they have.
“They are going to be tougher again and after having that tough first round series going to three games, they are in the finals groove now,” he said.
“They’ve got a tough outfit with a good couple of imports and guys that are involved in Wildcats and have done the whole college thing. They are going to be just like us and hungry for it but I’m confident that us boys can get up on top.
“We probably thought we would have finished higher than eighth this season with the team we had, so it felt like we had kind of underachieved.
“But under all the circumstances and with all the things that happened to us this year, to scrape into the finals was fine and we took on the eighth seed. But we thought we were better than an eighth seed and I feel like we are more than deserving of being in the position we’re in now.”
The Flames were last in a semi-final series back in 2015 where they lost to the Joondalup Wolves but Godfrey feels this team of 2018 is much more capable of going further than that one was.
“I definitely feel a lot more confident about our chances than the last couple of times we’ve been in the semi finals. We have a fully fit team now and we have a ton of talent, it’s probably one of the more talented teams we’ve had since I’ve been here. It’s all exciting and I can’t wait to get back out there,” Godfrey said.
“I think this might be just about the first time that the men are hanging around longer in the season than the women so that’s a nice change. It’s unfortunate for the girls that their season ended early, but for us boys it’s a nice confidence booster and we’re happy to be representing Rockingham.
“Hopefully it’s a nice dynasty that we can start with a new board and the support we’ve had from the Rockingham community. It’s been fantastic and hopefully we can continue for years to come.”