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Passion, commitment and confidence – new Perth Wildcats coach John Rillie has brought those traits to his team in their red-hot start to the NBL season, writes WILL SCHOFIELD.

It’s been a solid start for the Perth Wildcats under new head coach John Rillie, tempering Red Army fears that the club was on a decline.

After an all-time 35-straight finals streak was broken last year, new ownership concerns and a raft of changes in personnel both on and off the court, uncertainty was rife.

But Rillie oozes a sense of calm and confidence that has quickly instilled faith that the Wildcats won’t be out of finals for long. After four games to start the NBL season, they sit second on the table. The broken finals streak doesn’t seem to phase coach Rillie.

“You can say the streak ended. But one thing I try to point out is they went 16 and 12 last year. If you‘re a business and you operated at 16 and 12 it would still be a pretty successful business, if that was considered your down year,” he says.

“My expectation is playoffs and higher so even if the streak wasn‘t broken, our expectation wouldn’t have changed.

“I feel like I‘m going to be involved in this game for a long time. The sport has been great to me. I want to be great back to the sport.”

Rillie has begun his tenure at the most successful club in NBL history. The head coach of the Wildcats carries a certain weight. It’s different in Perth.

“Every franchise isn‘t the same, as much as everyone likes to say they are, Perth Wildcats have a lot of expectation and great history. I like that,” he says.

“I know that I wouldn‘t function well where people are just trying to make something good.

“To walk in, be with a franchise of Perth’s status, to have one of the league‘s best players, if not the best player in Bryce Cotton. To start your head coaching role, with that, you hit the ground running.”

Rewind 12 months and Rillie was in the mix for the job before last season, but he was beaten to it by Scott Morrison (no, not the former prime minister). He learned a lot during the interview process, most importantly that he needed to really want the job rather than just hoping he would be given it.

“You learn a lot going through that process. The thing that I would say and I would confidently say that they noticed, was I was more confident in my approach. Just my bravado about pursuing and wanting the job, versus probably hoping or wanting the job the first time around.”

So what does a head coaching interview look like? What does the administration of an NBL club want to see from a prospective head coach?

“It’s basketball first. You need to be able to show that you have a game plan. What your offence is, what your defence is, show that you feel confident in what you’re coaching,” Reilly says.

“Now, once you get there, the players really dictate how that evolves. Because at the end of the day, good players make great coaches. I‘ll go out on a limb, point me in the direction of a good coach who had also-ran players. Good coaches have really, really good players.

“But the other part of it, obviously with what had gone on with the Perth Wildcats, some of those things needed to be addressed. Understanding the dynamic of the club, the expectation that comes with the role. I just pointed out my personality and what I can bring. I think I could really help with that part of it.

“I certainly had an understanding and knowledge, although I’d never played for Perth, I could respect it from a distance. I had felt those 8000, 9000 fans on my shoulders. So that’s a part of it and just the way I was going to interact with the players and how I could build it into a good team.”

As a player, Rillie played 481 NBL games in his career with the Brisbane Bullets, Adelaide 36ers, West Sydney Razorbacks, Townsville Crocodiles and the New Zealand Breakers. Known as a prolific scorer and three-point shooter, Rillie also had a fiery streak on the court.

With his competitive nature and his will to win, it will be interesting to see whether Rillie can control his emotions from the sidelines.

“I‘m for sure going to be passionate. How people judge that, that’s up to them, but I’m going be passionate. That’s how I played, that’s how I feel about the sport. I get to do what I love and if I want to be passionate, that’s what the fans and that’s what the NBL is going to get.”

Will Schofield

Will SchofieldContributor

Will Schofield spent 14 years as an Australian rules footballer who played as a key defender for the West Coast Eagles in the AFL – battled his way to 200 games, a premiership in 2018 and Life Member of the Eagles. Can be heard on Fox Footy, Perth radio 6PR and his podcast Backchat. A fantasy footy aficionado, he’s turning his skills to SuperCoach for the first time this season.

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