Wild­cats give back

Geraldton Guardian - - Sport - Matthew Wood­ley

Lo­cal kids from all over Geraldton got a chance to meet their bas­ket­ball idols yes­ter­day, as the Perth Wild­cats kicked off their re­gional tro­phy tour with a bunch of school vis­its and bas­ket­ball clin­ics.

The 2015-16 NBL ti­tle win­ners are in town un­til to­mor­row, show­ing off all seven of their cham­pi­onship tro­phies while mak­ing ap­pear­ances at as many venues as they can squeeze into their jam­packed sched­ules.

Three-time NBL cham­pion Jesse Wagstaff is part of the trav­el­ling party and said he loved get­ting out to re­gional towns to con­nect with the fans and show off the tro­phies to peo­ple who hadn’t seen them be­fore.

“It’s su­per ex­cit­ing to bring half the team, and get out and visit some schools, and en­ter­tain some kids,” he said.

“You don’t of­ten get to ex­pe­ri­ence (win­ning) a tro­phy… but it’s ob­vi­ously a pretty spe­cial ac­com­plish­ment and to share that with the peo­ple of Geraldton is also some­thing spe­cial.”

The 203cm power for­ward said the enthusiasm and pas­sion kids showed dur­ing their vis­its was his favourite part of their off-sea­son trav­els and that he was look­ing for­ward to see­ing as many fans as pos­si­ble.

“You wake up in the morn­ing and some­times it’s a drag, but you come out here and you see their smil­ing faces and their ea­ger­ness to par­tic­i­pate and com­pete, and it’s pretty ex­cit­ing,” he said.

“We are called the Perth Wild­cats, but we’re rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the State and I think the WA com­mu­nity sup­ports us un­be­liev­ably… so it’s nice to give some­thing back to them.”

Wagstaff, who had stints at SBL club the Perth Red­backs, said so far it had been very dif­fer­ent to his vis­its from a few years ear­lier when he was on the re­ceiv­ing end

from the no­to­ri­ously pas­sion­ate crowd at Ac­tivewest.

“Last time I was in Geraldton I was ac­tu­ally get­ting yelled at by the Gero fans, so it’s nice to come back to some smil­ing faces,” he said. For­mer Wild­cats cap­tain and fu­ture Hall of Famer Shawn Red­hage was also part of the group, which in­cluded cham­pi­onship­win­ning play­ers, Matt Knight, Greg Hire and Cor­ban Wroe, along with as­sis­tant coach Jamie O’Lough­lin.

In ad­di­tion to the 11 schools they will be vis­it­ing dur­ing their stay, the Cats will con­duct four coach­ing clin­ics and visit tonight’s fi­nal ses­sion of Mid­night Bas­ket­ball.

Pic­ture: Matthew Wood­ley

Perth Wild­cats Matt Knight and Jesse Wagstaff run a clinic at St John's Pri­mary School.

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