HAVING shared so much in their NBL careers together at Perth Wildcats, Shawn Redhage is now looking forward to leading his Perry Lakes Hawks into battle against Greg Hire and the Rockingham Flames.
Redhage and Hire will both go down as two of the all-time greats of the Wildcats with both having won four championships of which they shared three of those together.
They are also two of the most competitive men to ever lace up a pair of basketball shoes and that often saw them going to head-to-head at training during their stories Wildcats careers.
Now it’s Redhage and Hire on opposite teams to open the 2019 SBL finals with the Hawks playing the Flames in the quarter finals starting Saturday night with Game 1 at Rockingham’s Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
Redhage and Hire are both already SBL championship winners too, Redhage with the Perth Redbacks in 2017 and Hire at the Joondalup Wolves in 2011, and now they are both as hungry and determined as ever to be part of more success.
Since retiring following his stunning 393-game SBL career following the 2017 championship, win, Redhage spent the past two seasons playing with the Redbacks before joining the Perry Lakes Hawks midway through the 2019 season.
He has fitted in seamlessly and playing more of a five man than ever before in his career but still making a strong contribution putting up 15.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game in a Hawks team coming off the championship and now entering the finals having won of seven of eight games.
But now in the way of Redhage and Perry Lakes is Hire and the Flames, and Redhage is looking forward to locking horns with Hire fully knowing if he is allowed to have a big impact then the job will be tough for the Hawks to overcome Rockingham.
“We’ve had plenty of battles I guess more in training over the years than anything, but my first game this year for Perry Lakes was against Rockingham and Greg was playing that night when they touched us up pretty easily,” Redhage said.
“I think we all know it’s going to be a tough battle against them and we have a lot of respect for their whole team, but especially Greg obviously. I know how he goes about it and we are going to have to match his energy if we want to win.
“At the SBL level, he is a lot more of a focus for his team and his energy, effort and rebounding is phenomenal. He’s a good NBL rebounder but then in the SBL he is elite at it. There aren’t many guys who can match his physicality, energy and effort levels at this level.”
The series has the potential for another Wildcats championship winner and captain to feature too, but whether or not Brad Robbins is healthy to play for Rockingham, Redhage is glad to see him get back on the court in 2019.
“It was good to see Robbo back out there on the court this year and getting healthy again, and getting close to having an effect on some of the games again,” he said.
“You love to have him as a teammate with the way that he competes out there on the court. He is a hard guy to factor in when you are playing against him and it would be sad if he’s not able to play this series, but at the same time it’s one less problem for us to worry about.”
Even though Redhage has only played 15 games this season with Perry Lakes, his body has taken on plenty of bumps and bruises given the battles he has been involved in on the inside.
But now the finals are here, he is excited for what might lie ahead for the Hawks especially knowing how well they are playing and the weapons they possess including Ben Purser, Clint Steindl, Ryan Smith, Rob Cassir, Brian Carlwell, Kyle Sovine and Cooper Hamilton led by point guard Mitch Clarke.
“This is the time of the year that you really enjoy and you know that this is what you put the jersey on for to be playing now in the finals,” he said.
“You want to be playing in games that matter and it’s exciting, but there’s a lot of hard work to go ahead as well. You are going to have to play well to end up where you want to.
“I think this last patch has been the best that we’ve played as a team. We had a tough schedule midway through the year and we had to settle some new guys into the team with myself and Clint coming in and losing Lochie.
“So there were some changes in the middle and that was the toughest stretch we had schedule-wise, but it’s been good to get a few wins since going into the finals.
“We’ve had some tough games too like against Lakeside and Willetton who were playing for their season so I think it’s been a good challenge for us heading into the finals. We’ve had to play well and now we need to keep going because we know Rockingham is playing well.”
Playing more of a permanent inside role is something that Redhage is embracing with the Hawks too given it allows such a potent line-up featuring Purser, Steindl and Smith to all spend a significant amount of time playing together at once.
“I’ve played different roles throughout my whole career and I don’t mind,” Redhage said.
“I think you have an advantage in some ways if you’re at the five so the fact that it allows Purser to move over to what I think is his natural position at the four helps us as well and he’s able to affect the game in multiple ways.
“One of the areas Matt Parsons is so good as a coach is in trying to tinker in the line-ups and figuring out what will be best for our personnel, and it seems to be working for us.”
Joining a team mid-season isn’t something that Redhage is too accustomed to during his illustrious career, but settling in at Perry Lakes took no time both in terms of building chemistry with his new teammates, and settling in with the organisation.
“I live near the stadium, my son was here every Saturday playing and you kind of felt like you were here anyway quite a bit already,” Redhage said.
“So it was a decision that made sense in a lot of ways and the club has been very welcoming of me and mindful of my commitments and that type of thing. I’ve enjoyed the group of guys and I’m excited to see where we can finish the year.
“It’s always a challenge coming into a team mid-season and I haven’t had to do that too often in my career, but the Hawks have been great with me.
“It took me a few weeks to kind of get my timing and everything back, but we have so many talented players on our team so it’s one of those things where I didn’t need to come in and dominate.
“I just needed to come in and contribute where I needed to, and find my role to help the team be successful. Guys like Purser, Steindl and Ryan Smith are pretty hand to have and they’ve been a great group to play with.”