JOONDALUP Wolves coach Ben Ettridge had plenty to be proud of in Round 5 of the Men’s SBL despite his team losing for the first time in 2019 as they responded strongly 12 hours later with their depth on show while the club did great things for Cancer Awareness.
The Wolves made an emphatic start to the season winning their opening five games leading into Saturday night’s clash at HBF Arena against the Perry Lakes Hawks.
While the result was an eight-point loss for the Wolfpack, it was a tremendous contest in the Grand Final rematch but the Wolves had little time to stew over that backing up little over 12 hours later on the road to the Kalamunda Eastern Suns on Sunday.
The result a 31-point first half from Earnest Ross and an eventual 102-79 win for Joondalup to improve to 6-1 on the season heading into the Easter Thursday clash with Greg Hire and the Rockingham Flames at HBF Arena.
But sometimes things are bigger than basketball and while Saturday night was a tremendous game and likely the best of the Men’s SBL season to date between the Wolves and Hawks, the Cancer Awareness clash hosted by the Wolfpack did a lot of tremendous things.
Just the head coaches Charles Nix and Ettridge alone raised $2195 for Cancer Council of WA and Relay for Life with Nix having his famed beard shaved live in the building while Ettridge wore a custom made pair of shoes that were then available for purchase.
The Wolfpack continue to lead the way in such ventures and it makes Ettridge proud to be associated with such a worthy cause that goes so far beyond basketball.
“I’m massively proud of what we could do as a whole club,” Ettridge said.
“We say that people around the place are affected by cancer, but we’ve had one club stalwart pass away last year just before the cancer round and we found out on Wednesday night last week that another of our set up crew is battling bowel cancer and we wanted to put it on the line for him.
“I’ve had players who have had passed away through cancer and family members that have passed away, and I’ve also got players and family members that have survived.
“It’s very humbling the support that has been delivered and the club is phenomenal leading the way. Hopefully they’ve raised a fair bit of money that can eventually help find a cure, which would be wonderful.”
Looking back on Saturday night’s game against Perry Lakes, despite the loss it was a game that Ettridge and his Wolves team took out of.
“It was an unbelievable game and just the type of game you want to be part of. A quarter of the way into the season, to get a test like that it’s phenomenal and now we get another one on Thursday night against Flames,” he said.
“That’s what you want, you’re not going to go through undefeated and the closest I’ve come to that was my 0-26 team down in Mandurah. It’s not going to happen but those are the games you want to be part of and you want to continually be getting better every time you hit the court. We’re happy with that.”
The best thing about the weekend for the Wolfpack was that they had a short turnaround from the Saturday night game with Perry Lakes to taking on Kalamunda on Sunday, and Ettridge likes things that way and couldn’t have asked for any more from his players.
“That’s what you want, you don’t want to be sitting around waiting for 10 days lamenting and everyone is over analysing what happened,” Ettridge said.
“It’s actually good to play again straightaway and it gets back to that tournament-style play where you don’t have time to think. You just have to get ready and onto the next one.
“That’s what you want, them being able to turn it around in 12 hours and come out against a team that’s really well coached and did some really good things, and make you play. Nothing gets your mind off losing than playing another game of basketball so we’re happy.”
The depth at the Wolves remains their great strength and that was on show on Saturday night with 366-game veteran Damian Matacz stepping in for his first game of the season and not missing a field goal on his way to 14 points.
Earnest Ross might have delivered 54 points on the weekend too but across the two games eight players all produced double-figures in scoring while plenty others played meaningful minutes.
While Rhys Smyth is yet to play in 2019 and Matacz has played just the one game, emerging players Lachlan Strelein, Joel Offereins, Kye Chamberlain and Sam Curtis are all getting increased opportunities.
When you add those to the remaining core group of Seb Salinas, Ben Ironmonger, Sean Easther, Trian Iliadis, Reece Maxwell and Rob Huntington along with Ross, Kevin Davis and Ridell Camidge, and it continues to be quite the juggling act for Ettridge and his coaching staff.
When everyone is fit, firing and available there are comfortably 15 players Ettridge will have to choose between but it’s that depth that also continues to ensure everyone at the Wolfpack is giving their all.
“Damo played his first game on Saturday night and goes 7/7 in 14 minutes and that’s just phenomenal. That depth is a curse but it keeps everyone on their toes and everyone accountable,” Ettridge said.
“We need to keep getting things right for each game and that’s a work in progress still, but it’s a credit to the boys for understanding our situation and to the staff for getting everyone ready to go.
“That goes back to what we’ve done for a long time is having that mentality where it’s 17 guys who are accountable on the day and we don’t really want, or haven’t in the past wanted one person, to have to take over.
“But you look at Brian Sullivan, Janel, EJ or Ridell and that’s sort of been the missing factor for us and if you look at what Perry Lakes have done by adding Clint, they’ve got that guy now who can take over a quarter and we’ve got EJ.
“There are plenty of guys around the place who can do that and they are your difference-makers. It’s up to us to learn how to play with him and him to learn how to play with us. I think we’re doing that really well.”