The Roar
The Roar


Wright calls on NBL refs to stop players getting hurt

Jean-Pierre Tokoto of the Wildcats in action during the Round 1 match between the Perth Wildcats and the Brisbane Bullets at the Perth Arena, in Perth, Saturday, October 7, 2017. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)
3rd February, 2018

A brawl is always likely to attract some mainstream attention, and while it has certainly built anticipation nicely for Sunday’s rematch between the Adelaide 36ers and Perth Wildcats, Joey Wright feels it should have been prevented earlier, though he wasn’t surprised to see tempers boil over.

The Wildcats returned to ominous form to beat the 36ers 111-90 at Perth Arena on Friday night and in the process reclaim second position on the NBL ladder ahead of a rematch on Sunday at Titanium Security Arena in Adelaide.

The game itself had plenty to get excited about. The teams combined for 121 points in the first half, with the 36ers going into the break leading 61-60 in what was the first time ever in a 40-minute NBL game that both teams had scored 60 points.

But the Cats came out and hit the opening 13 points of the second half, keeping the 36ers to just one field goal and nine points for the entire third quarter on the way to a 51-29 second half and an eventual 21-point victory.

But it was the last 0.9 seconds of the game where things really got out of hand. It had been building to that point all evening, and with second position on the line and the natural rivalry that exists between Perth and Adelaide over the course of 36 years and 126 meetings, it was no surprise.

(AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

Both teams play with a fair degree of bravado and a physical approach too, so officials were always going to need to watch things closely.

Right throughout the game Perth’s Lucas Walker looked more interested in having an impact physically to make up for his form drop and was treading a fine line, but he wasn’t alone.


His teammate Derek Cooke Jr wanted to make a physical statement, but Mitch Creek and Majok Deng in particular weren’t about to take any backward steps from Adelaide.

But the more things were let go, the more things threatened to boil over, and that’s exactly what happened with 0.9 seconds left on the clock.

Perth’s Dexter Kernich-Drew had just entered the floor for the first time on the night and got tangled up with Adelaide captain Brendan Teys, and the pair were going at it with the ball up the other end of the floor.

Then the Wildcats gained possession. Debutant development player Lochlan Cummings drove to the hoop to be met by a charge from Teys. He still made the layup, but it was a big hit and Kernich-Drew reacted swiftly to shove Teys rather forcefully.

Teys’s teammates Creek and Nelson Larkins didn’t like that and quickly took Kernich-Drew to the floor. Then the other players on the floor quickly jumped in, including a couple off the bench, and it was a mad scramble for coaches and referees alike to clear things up.

(Chris Pike)

When it all settled with 0.9 seconds still on the clock, Teys and Kernich-Drew were ejected, as were Shannon Shorter from the 36ers and Walker from the Wildcats for getting involved while on the bench.


There will be no action taken by the NBL until after Sunday’s game in Adelaide, but the charge sheet is extensive. Despite that, Teys’s charge on Cummings looks adequately dealt with as an unsportsmanlike foul while Kernich-Drew did little more than forcefully shove Teys.

Unless other footage shows something else, it’s unlikely any suspensions will result, but it does set the stage nicely for Sunday’s rematch in Adelaide and for a potential semi-final meeting between the two old foes.

But the NBL referees have been under the pump this season and, at least according to Sixers coach Wright, who has coached 434 games in the league, it was because of their unwillingness to stamp out the niggle earlier that led to things boiling over.

“I knew it was going to come to that. If we don’t do a better job of protecting the obvious things, it’s going to be like that every game and someone is going to get hurt,” Wright said.

“I thought there were a lot of plays that the refs should have cleaned up earlier and it probably wouldn’t have got to that point.”

Wright’s not buying into the incident leading to a more fiery clash on Sunday, though – in fact he couldn’t care less if his players get involved in something like that. He cares how they play the game.

“It has nothing to do with me, I couldn’t care less if they get involved with that stuff on the court,” Wright said.


“I’m always surprised that coaches get upset because players fight. It has nothing to do with me. They can wrestle or tussle as much as they want to and end their careers with stupid plays.”

(Chris Pike)

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson was disappointed in the way the game finished but has quickly turned his focus to Sunday’s rematch, where second spot is again on the line.

“It went crazy, didn’t it? It’s disappointing that our development player Lochie comes in and there’s an intentional foul on him and then it just escalates from there. It’s disappointing that the game finishes that way,” Gleeson said.

“It was just the last three or four minutes it went overboard. There were niggles all the way through, and we have to be a little bit smarter out there as well. We’ll find out what happens on Sunday now.”

As for Kernich-Drew’s reaction on Teys that sparked the brawl, Gleeson doesn’t find too much fault with it but doesn’t necessarily encourage it.

“I’m happy that Dexter stood up for his teammate first and foremost, but we have to play smart,” Gleeson said.


“There’s other ways to skin a cat, so to speak, and reacting straight away is not the way. Getting down and playing defence and getting lockdown stops and hurting them on the scoreboard is a better way to go than physicality.”

(AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

NBL Round 17 Fixtures (AEDT)

Illawarra Hawks 73 lost to New Zealand Breakers 77
Perth Wildcats 111 defeated Adelaide 36ers 90

Melbourne United 69 defeated Brisbane Bullets 61
Cairns Taipans 86 lost to Sydney Kings 93

New Zealand Breakers vs Illawarra Hawks – Spark Arena, 1pm
Adelaide 36ers vs Perth Wildcats – Titanium Security Arena, 3pm