Emma Payne

Emma is a sports enthusiast with extensive knowledge and experience in the industry. She is a sports presenter at 91.3 Sport FM reporting on sporting news from around the world, with an emphasis on Australian sport.

The #NBL18 season is finally here- time to get that three-peat!

We did it #RedArmy, we survived the off-season! The news that Casey Prather would be playing for Melbourne United instead of the Perth Wildcats hit me like a tonne of bricks… But besides that, we’re doing OK! On a similar note, it seems to be some sort of new trend that the Wildcats have a drama or two with their imports, and this season is no exception.

Devondrick Walker was recruited (from NBA D-League) however, he fractured his foot while training and unfortunately had to be replaced. He still managed to crack a smile though!

The Perth Wildcats, or should I say ‘the most successful professional sporting team in Australia’, will be aiming for back-to-back-to-back Championships this season. They recently became the only professional sporting team in the country to ever make 31 consecutive finals appearances. What an achievement!

To get this season started, the Wildcats take on the Brisbane Bullets on Saturday at Perth Arena, tip-off at 5:30pm. 

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Take a look at who will be pulling on the red kit for the Wildcats this season:

#2 – Lucas Walker

Lucas ‘Waxy’ Walker was originally brought to the Wildcats last season as an injury replacement for Matty Knight. He ended up staying on the bench for the Wildcats for the whole season and in return was offered an official contract for 2017/18. He won the Wildcats Coaches Award last year for his leadership and contribution to the team and has been one of the Wildcats best players in the pre-season games.

#4 – Greg Hire

Not only is Greg known for what he does ON the court, he is also making quite a name for himself with what he does OFF it. In 2014 he founded a non-for-profit agency called ‘A Stitch In Time’, which provides programs for youth in the Perth Metro area and Regional communities. Their focus is to contribute to changing the mental health landscape in WA, by implementing mentoring programs through partnerships with schools and sporting associations, to create more positive health and wellbeing outcomes. Great work by him and the team at A Stitch In Time.

Aside from that, he has also become a Championship selfie pro (below), and the ‘King of dad jokes’ – If you follow Greg on Instagram you will know what I mean!

#5 – Jean-Pierre Tokoto (Import)

JP has been given the label of the ‘most athletic player in the NBL’. Anyone with a label like that gets my approval! JP is the replacement import for Devondrick Walker (foot injury) and I am very excited to see him in action this season. Fun fact: According to Damian Martin, JP is the only import ever to like vegemite… he’s one of us now! Check out the video below to learn the correct way to pronounce JP’s name, you will want to get it right when chanting his name this season:

#8 – Jarrod Kenny

Perth’s favourite kiwi! He’s been busy in the NBL off-season, playing for the Hawke’s Bay Hawks in the 2017 NZNBL season, finishing with career best numbers – averaging 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists over 15 games. He was awarded the NZNBL Assist Champion award while playing for the Hawks, after recording 15 assists (and 22 points) in one game. Nice work JK!

#9 – Matty Knight

Sadly, this will be Matty’s final season in the NBL. *sobbing* Adding to the heartbreak, injury-prone Knight hurt his thumb during the pre-season, and has missed a lot of practice time with the team. Some good news though – Matt has been cleared to play the season opener against the Bullets this weekend. Here’s hoping that he remains injury free for his last stint in the NBL. Knight is one of the most decorated Wildcats of all-time and we will all be very sad to see him go.

#10 – Dexter Kernich-Drew

Sharp-shooter Dexter Kernich-Drew had limited game time last season but I look forward to him playing a larger role this season and hopefully contributing to some scoreboard pressure for the Cats. He is known for nailing his shots from long range and has been impressive with his time in the pre-season games.

#11 – Bryce Cotton (Import)

The 2017 Grand Final MVP and all-round legend Bryce Cotton is back!! I was overjoyed to hear that he was returning, I could watch him do his thing on the basketball court forever. Cotton played 11 regular season games (plus finals) last season and is excited to be in Perth for a full term – and we are bloody excited to have him back!

The Perth Wildcats hit the bottom of the ladder at Christmas time last year however, their win-loss record jumped to 12-4 after Cotton’s arrival, including a seven game winning streak to close out the year. And who could forget his dominance in the finals, scoring a Grand Final record of 45 points in the Championship decider.

#12 – Angus Brandt

The MIGHTY ANGUS! He was voted Most Improved Wildcat last season and was rewarded by being named in the Australian squad, who won the Asia Cup in August. This will be Brandt’s second season with the Wildcats after jumping the Sydney Kings ship and heading west. He has developed a relationship with triple NBA Champion Luc Longley, and has credited his newfound friendship for his great improvement in the last 12 months.

#13 – Derek Cooke Jr (Import)

After a long to wait to be cleared to play, DC is finally official! He hasn’t played a game in Wildcats colours during the pre-season so his first game will be in front of a 13,000 strong Red Army crowd- a great way to be welcomed to a new club. DC is an exciting American forward, recruited from the NBA Development League. He is a high-flyer, standing at 206cm tall, who says he cannot wait to show the fans what he is capable of. Check out some of his highlights:

#24 – Jesse Wagstaff

A new-look Jesse! Not the long haired, bearded face that you would remember from last season – Jesse has had a haircut and a shave and looks like a new man! Four-time NBL Champion Wagstaff was named on the Australian All-Star roster this year, along with teammate Lucas Walker, who took a trip to China to take on their National team. Jesse is a huge part of the Perth Wildcats and one of just eight Wildcats to play 250 games for the club.

#53 – Damian Martin (Captain)

THE MAN. Damo clearly needs no introduction. Skippering the Perth Wildcats once again, I look forward to seeing him defending the heck out of the NBL this season. One of my many favourite Damian Martin moments will always be the 2016 Olympics when he stripped NBA superstar Kevin Durant of the ball when Australia played USA. #NeverForget

I’m predicting another exciting season for the Perth Wildcats, and another Championship trophy to add to the cabinet!

Show your support for the Perth Wildcats in #NBL18 at @PerthWildcats #RedArmy

Emma Payne

Emma is a sports enthusiast with extensive knowledge and experience in the industry. She is a sports presenter at 91.3 Sport FM reporting on sporting news from around the world, with an emphasis on Australian sport.