EVEN if the Rockingham Flames continued to be a battling club, that’s where Ryan Petrik’s passion will always lie in the SBL but he takes great pride in seeing the club now become such a powerhouse and he credits just one person for making that a reality, president Warren Boucaut.
Petrik is born and bred in Rockingham with the club right at the forefront of his basketball passion. He played his sole SBL game in 2007 before being assistant coach in the Men’s team and then being appointed as Women’s coach in 2009.
He took the Flames to Grand Finals in 2012, 2014 and 2015 for championships in the last of those two seasons while in the majority of his 10-year stint in charge, they were playoff bound and title contenders most seasons.
Petrik impressed too as Coach of the Year in 2012 while earning a reputation as one of the brightest minds and most astute coaches in all of basketball in Western Australia.
But he always had a desire to coach the Rockingham Men’s team so when the job became available in 2019, he put his hand up, was quickly appointed and now has a remarkably deep and talented squad at his disposal that currently sits second at 15-5 with a month of the season remaining.
However, life at Rockingham for Petrik is more about the wins and losses, and being championship contenders or not – as important as that obviously is.
What Petrik has now seen happen at the Flames is the whole club turn themselves into a powerhouse in the competition off the court.
They are putting on a tremendous game night production and regularly are now attracting around 1000 people to a game which previously was only the domain of big clashes in the regional centres of Geraldton and Kalgoorlie.
But from the growth in the club from the grassroots level to what they are doing with their SBL program, it has been night and day from 10 years to go today and Petrik couldn’t be prouder to see what his local club has turned themselves into from when he first became a Men’s assistant coach.
While there has been a lot of hard work put in from a lot of people, Petrik knows none of it would be possible without current president Warren Boucaut.
“The reason why this club is flourishing is really simple, it’s Warren Boucaut. He does have an army of volunteers and helpers below him that he couldn’t do it without, but really he is the one and only reason for it all,” Petrik said.
“This is my 15th year in SBL and we’ve had some good GM’s and presidents before, but he is just next level.
“I always go back to why the Wildcats are so good and that’s because of their management and administration led by Nick Marvin and now Troy Georgiu which is backed up by a really good product on-court. The teams that struggle ala New York Knicks all stems from terrible management.
“Generally if you can get your admin right, your on-court flows from there and we have the best GM in the league by a mile. The work he is doing off-court is just crazy. We had 1500 people to a home game and people talk about Kalgoorlie and Geraldton, but we are getting more in Rockingham.
“What he’s doing is just next level and his army behind is great, but it’s all about what Warren Boucaut has done.”
Petrik probably felt as though it was time for a change at the end of 2018 when despite having a talented squad, the Flames women were bundled out unceremoniously as the higher seed by the Mandurah Magic.
It turned out Petrik didn’t have to look far for a fresh start, getting that by taking over as coach over a Rockingham Men’s team coming off reaching the semi finals as the No. 8 seed in 2018.
What stands out now as to the strength of the Flames is that after the difficulty of recruiting players a decade ago.
He’s now able to pull together a team that includes Greg Hire, Brad Robbins, Caleb White and Josh Ritchart to go with the Rockingham locals including captain Ryan Godfrey and young gun Luke Travers.
“I remember saying after my first year coaching in the women’s when we spent $3000 on players and at the end of the regular season we finished equal second on that budget,” Petrik said.
“I remember in that off-season I remember saying that I would coach a Willetton or Joondalup who just had a payroll to buy you a good team instead of us just trying to find ways with a Moneyball type plan to get into the finals.
“But slowly and surely this club has turned into a juggernaut and I always wanted to be part of a juggernaut. But it’s home for me too. Even this club was on the bones of its arse, Rockingham is home to me.
“I get that in the coaching caper it’s rare for one coach to stay at the one place forever, but the passion is here and my heart is here so I’d like to be here for as long as I can.”
With that support from the club, Petrik certainly has no complaints about the team he has been able to assemble.
There are NBL veterans and championships winners with Hire and Robbins, two quality imports in Ritchart and White while they also added a strong figure inside in Chudier Pal.
Add those five to the local contingent that includes Godfrey, Travers, Justin, Callum and Kyle Beard, Luke Roberts and Jarryd Griffin, and Petrik knows that any problems that come up because of their talent are nothing but first world issues.
So far in 20 games this season of which the Flames have won 15, they have only had everyone available twice and those two games resulted in a 24-point road win over the defending champion Perry Lakes Hawks but then a 10-point home defeat at the hands of the Willetton Tigers.
So far White has missed two games through injury with Godfrey missing three, Pal two, Ritchart the last three, Travers four, Robbins 13 and Hire nine though a host of other commitments.
Petrik won’t get much respite either coming up in terms of having everyone available with the best case scenario being that in Round 20 it will happen when they face a potentially crucial clash at home to the Lakeside Lightning.
If not, then it will be during the finals that the Flames should be at full strength all things going well.
Petrik did have practice back in 2016 in the Flames Women when he attempted to make a superstar trio of Darcee Garbin, Sami Whitcomb and Ify Ibekwe. That didn’t quite work out, but largely due to Ibekwe never quite fully settling in and then getting injured in the semi finals against Willetton.
But having gone through a similar juggling act previously with such quality talent has helped Petrik be better prepared for what he’s now dealing with in 2019.
“I think for finals at this stage it looks like we should have everyone available and then should have them altogether from then on, barring injuries of course,” Petrik said.
“It might happen a week earlier in Round 20 if everything falls into place. We don’t expect to have our full team until Round 20 at the earliest for the third time of the year though.
“The beauty has been that our best basketball has generally been without having a full team, like when we beat Perry Lakes and were without Greg Hire.
“That was probably the best game we’ve played and you can think what it would have been like if you put Greg Hire into that team, then we could become incredible.
“So you do get excited about how the team can all go together at the same time, but until you actually see it in practice you definitely don’t get too ahead of yourself and you stay cautious that it might not all click how you have planned.”
While not ideal to have players continually coming in and out because of other commitments, Petrik knows that in order to have such high-calibre talents, sometimes that is what you have to put up with and he’s not about to complain.
“If you want to get elite talent like Greg Hire and an elite junior like Luke Travers into your team then the reality is that they are going to be in and out a bit. The same thing happened in 2016 with Darcee, Whitcomb and Ibekwe,” Petrik said.
“The three of them together were just oh my god, but I think they played four games together for the year or something stupid like that. If you get elite talent, the problem in a state league is that they will never be available all the time.
“Going through that in 2016 really helped just because we never had our full team there so I’ve learned some strategies to deal with it.
“I at least have a bullpen rotation kind of thing so I have an idea what I have available any given night, but it’s more frustrating than anything else because you just can’t get guys settled into a role.
“Normally you’d know who your top six and next two or three guys are and you can build off that, but the issue with us is getting into a regular rotation and having everyone understand what they are doing.
“They are first world problems essentially and I’m sure a lot of coaches would like to have this problem, so there are no excuses and we’ll get on with it.”