The Roar
The Roar


Careers of four great NBL rivals nearing the end

The NBL is having a season to remember. (Chris Pike)
5th January, 2017

It is hard to imagine the NBL without Mika Vukona, Mark Worthington, Shawn Redhage and Anthony Petrie but reality is that the four veteran forwards who just happen to be fierce personal rivals will all be retiring in the near future.

They have won nine NBL championships between them and all have represented their country – Vukona the New Zealand Tall Blacks, and Worthington, Redhage and Petrie the Australian Boomers.

Worthington and Redhage were even Olympic teammates at Beijing in 2008 while Vukona and Worthington shared an NBL title together with the South Dragons in 2009.

The careers of all four stands on their own as four of the best, most respected and productive NBL players this century. But what stands out even more is their individual battles the past decade.

The Vukona-Redhage battles have made up a huge part of the New Zealand-Perth rivalry the past seven seasons as the only clubs to win championships.

But Worthington-Redhage has been worth the price of admission alone whether Redhage’s Wildcats were playing Worthington’s Sydney Kings, Dragons, Gold Coast Blaze, Melbourne Tigers or most recently the Cairns Taipans.

Petrie’s individual contests with Vukona in particular have been the most physical in the league but true to both men who played together at Gold Coast, they are just as happy to share a beer after locking horns.

The careers of Vukona, Petrie, Worthington and Redhage all deserve to be celebrated individually and that opportunity will present as the retirement announcements begin to come whether it be this season, or next.


But the chance right now is to look at the battles they have all had between one another while each contest has at least one more chapter to be written.

When Vukona sits back and reflects on his career, the three men who he went to battle with that he will never forget will always be Worthington, Petrie and Redhage. And at the Dragons, Blaze and Breakers respectively he spent time playing with each.

“Those three really stand out and it gets the juices flowing when you get to play against guys like that. I have a lot of respect for those players and it’s always a good litmus test for how you are going in that season every time you come up against someone like Mark Worthington,” Vukona said.

“You know he’s going to come at you 100 per cent and he has a skill-level that most four men don’t have in this league. What he does out there is awesome and I always look forward to coming up against him. The same with Redhage.

“And with Peach, we had a great relationship playing together at Gold Coast and when I come up against him now I know we’ll bash bodies and go hard, but off the court we’ll catch up easily for a beer and it’s same for Wortho. I have totally loved the match ups with those three guys and I still look forward to them.”

Now that every time Vukona comes up against one of the other three men, like Worthington this Friday night in Cairns, it could be the last time there is a little bit of extra incentive there.

“Now it’s a lot harder to be totally honest to play against them. The older you get the more wise you get, but you get more stubborn and you hate losing even more. I think they would give the same answer if you asked them,” he said.


“The time for all of us is getting a little bit shorter so you always want to have the last laugh, or the last dig against them and no one wants to lose. That’s one thing that shows, everybody hates losing to each other but everyone loves winning.”

Vukona has put together a remarkable NBL career winning a championship with the Dragons in 2009 and now four with the Breakers in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. He is a veteran of 382 matches and the competitiveness in the 34-year-old isn’t fading yet.

“I’ve got another year on my contract with the Breakers and from there I’ll just see what happens,” Vukona said.

“I’m still enjoying it and I speak for all sportsmen, you think you can play forever and it’s just whether or not father time allows you to do it for as long as you want to. He always has the last say and the last laugh. I’ll just try and push it as far and as long as I can.”


Worthington is one of the most decorated Australian basketballers. Not only is he a championship winner with the Dragons in 2009 to go with four times being named to the All NBL First Team during his now 324-game career but he is a dual Olympian with the Boomers.

He continues to be a star of the league and is having a strong season with the Taipans trying to buck the odds and keep them in the playoff hunt. He knows the end is near but the 33-year-old isn’t yet willing to put that final date on his career.


“It’s a tough one and it’s tough when you’re starting to play good basketball again. I guess towards the end of the season I’ll know where I’m at,” Worthington recently told

“When you’re in the midst of a tight season the only thing you worry about is trying to win the next game. Whatever happens in the future will come out whenever it happens.

“I know that I’m playing some half decent basketball at the moment and I’m still helping my team win games. When the time comes, I’ll know when to put up the hand. It will probably be happening in the next year or two.”

Redhage had an indifferent start to his NBL career being cut by the Breakers after half a season having previously played in the SEABL as an import after graduating from Arizona State.

But since arriving in Perth for the 2005-06 season, the unconventional yet effective forward has put together a career that will end up seeing his No.42 retired to the Perth Arena rafters.

He is a triple championship winner in Perth having played more than 350 games with the club and is now chasing down the 371 played by James Crawford to be second behind only Ricky Grace.

Redhage has settled into a lesser role on the Wildcats team this season unlike Vukona, Worthington and Petrie. But he remains capable of delivering in smaller spurts now than at his peak and it his ability to be the ultimate professional that has led to his longevity.


“That’s just the progression of a lot of players’ careers. As you get older you are probably a little bit wiser, you can figure out that if you still want to play you have to find your niche within the team,” Redhage said.

“Even in college that was something I had to adjust from with going from high school to college to play a different role. If you are willing to do that, then you can still be part of the team and even if you are playing a different role it’s worth it if you still end up with a championship.

“Preparation has been really key for myself and I kind of realised that if I wanted to play in this league with the talent there was, you had to be prepared and ready to go each time you stepped on to the court.

“I have prided myself on being consistent with that preparation so that has held me in pretty good stead coming into each season to make sure the body is in the best shape it can be. I just make sure I am a bit smarter with my recovery while doing the same amount of work.”

Petrie is the only one of the four yet to win an NBL championship, but it’s going to be hard to find a more universally respected or admired man in the league.

Opposition players or supporters might not always like him on the floor given his uncompromising nature, but they will always respect him for his competitiveness and the hard work that saw him belatedly get his NBL chance, and now amass 250 games.

While he won’t be playing again in the 2016-17 season due to a knee injury that has been operated on, Petrie is committed to at least one more season now that he is settled relatively close to home in Brisbane with the Bullets and his wife and three daughters having joined him from Adelaide.


“I did sign at Brisbane in 2008 for the season they folded and I never got the chance. It was the first place I ever went to watch an NBL game so I always had a desire to play there, but the chance just happened to come about later in my career. But it was all about family,” Petrie said.

“Tenterfield is three hours from Brisbane and my mum got diagnosed with Parkinson’s a couple years ago, and dad is no spring chicken these days. My brothers and their families are back here and so are all the friends of my wife and I. That was huge for us.

“But I’m real about it, I know I’m closer to the end of my career than the start, and we were big on getting back and trying to be around family again. I’m a son, husband and father first, and basketball player second. So that was a big reason why I came here to finish my career and set up our lives.”

Adelaide 36ers 117 beat Illawarra Hawks 85 – Titanium Security Arena

Cairns Taipans vs New Zealand Breakers – Cairns Convention Centre 7.30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs Melbourne United – WIN Entertainment Centre 5.30pm
Sydney Kings vs Perth Wildcats – Qudos Bank Arena 7.30pm

New Zealand Breakers vs Adelaide 36ers – North Shore Events Centre 3pm


Brisbane Bullets vs Perth Wildcats – Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre 7.30pm