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Why Perth Wildcats deserve to be crowned the best team in Australian sport

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Expert
5th December, 2021
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When it comes to sustained success among Australian men’s professional sports franchises, Perth Wildcats are the champion of champions.

They just fell short last season but the behemoth that is Perth’s NBL side is the most successful team in any pro sports league in the nation.

Better than the best in the NRL, AFL, the various soccer leagues, rugby union or cricket despite what a recent report found that had Sydney FC at the top.

The only team that comes close to a comparably bulging trophy cabinet is NSW in the Sheffield Shield but the Blues have not been able to enjoy the sustained overall consistent success the Wildcats have enjoyed.

After not being part of the inaugural three years of the NBL, Perth have competed in every season since 1982 and have racked up 10 championships, well clear of the next-best team in the franchise that spent three decades in the Victorian capital as the Tigers before becoming Melbourne United.

That gives Perth a strike rate of a championship every four seasons. It actually took them nearly a decade to win their first one so it’s actually been a trophy every 3.1 years since their breakthrough success in 1990.

They’ve also qualified for the finals for 35 successive seasons since 1987, which is both a scarcely believable streak and a phenomenal strike rate of 87.5%.

Perth Wildcats win again

(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Professional sport around the globe is cyclical, especially in leagues governed by a salary cap, but the Wildcats have managed to buck that trend.

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To put that into perspective, the last time they missed the post-season, Bob Hawke was in his second of four terms as Prime Minister, Kylie Minogue was starting out in Neighbours and only three current NBL players were born – David Barlow, Brad Newley and Jesse Wagstaff.

After being swept by Melbourne United in last season’s grand final series, the Wildcats have had a slight changing of the guard heading into the new campaign.

They’ve entrusted Scott Morrison to be their leader – no, not that one – with the Canadian coach, who has been an assistant at the Boston Celtics, taking over from five-time champion Trevor Gleeson, who has gone the other way to try his luck in the NBA on Toronto’s staff.

Morrison will have the bulk of last season’s team at his disposal, led by star guard Bryce Cotton, with former Houston Rockets wing Michael Frazier II and ex-Bullets forward Vic Law coming in as imports after American tall timbre John Mooney took up an offer in Japan.

Bryce Cotton

(Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

Perth are ranked as second-favorites behind Sydney to win the title with most bookmakers – one thing’s for certain, you wouldn’t put money on them not to be in the playoffs at the very least.

Of the major men’s professional sporting leagues, NSW have for a long time crowed about their success rate in the Sheffield Shield, in which they have been crowned champions in 47 of the 119 seasons – a stunning 39.5% of the time or a win every 2.53 summers contested.

However, it was a three-team competition also involving Victoria and South Australia from 1892 before eventually expanding to six with the additions of Queensland in 1926, Western Australia in 1947 and Tasmania in 1977.

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In the past four decades, they’ve won 11 Shields but also missed the two-team final on 21 occasions.

Western Australia have won the men’s one-day cricket trophy 14 times in 52 seasons for a strike rate of once every 3.71 years but have also failed to make the final 25 times.

Sydney FC fans could also mount a case for their team to be considered one of the titans of Australian men’s sport.

They easily have the best record among NSL/A-League clubs – in their 16 seasons the Sky Blues have collected five championships as grand final winners for a 3.2 year clip, including four times as premiers for the best regular-season record.

However, they have had a few troughs among those peaks, missing the finals on four occasions.

In the NRL, the pick of the bunch when it comes to trophies in the modern era has been the Broncos, who were prolific in the 1990s and 2000s before going on a dry spell the last 15 seasons – they have six titles in 34 years for a strike rate of one every 5.67 years.

Melbourne Storm have been more dominant in recent times but have only four legitimate premierships in 24 seasons, so once every six years.

If you go back further, South Sydney (21 in 112 years at 5.33 years per win) and the record-breaking St George side (16 in 79 seasons at 4.94) before they merged with Illawarra, also have great results but don’t match Perth’s success.

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Over the past four decades, Hawthorn in the VFL/AFL have also claimed plenty of trophies like the Wildcats, winning nine flags at a rate of one every 4.67 years.

However, it was confined to separate golden eras from 1983-91 and 2008-15. The club’s overall record since its foundation in 1925 is a title every 7.46 seasons, which is the best of any VFL/AFL club ahead of Essendon (7.69) and Carlton (7.81).

And when it comes to women’s sport in Australia, nobody comes close to the NSW Breakers, who have won 20 of the 25 Women’s National Cricket League titles and missed the final just once. That record may never be surpassed by any team.

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