Perth Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge will write a regular column for thewest.com.au during the NBL season.
I have 100 per cent mixed emotions about last Friday night. There was just pure excitement about being home after being on the road for so long, and to finally get into the Perth Arena in front of 12,000 people. It was our biggest crowd ever and there was so much hype involved in that, which was really exciting.
This club has an enormous amount of tradition and it is the best club in Australia, so it was really important to me to have former captains and champions of the club there with the team before the game.
I invited in Mike Ellis, Andrew Vlahov and Tony Ronaldson. I invited Ricky Grace, but he was overseas, and Paul Rogers was away so I attempted to have all of the past captains there. I also invited in Martin Cattalini, who was a special part of our championship a couple of years and he was an inspiration to a lot of these current players.
A forgotten person in the club as well is Eric Watterson and I think that he is a legend of the club, and I truly believe he should have his singlet retired having played 350-plus games. He always played second fiddle to guys like Ellis and Grace, but you need to have tremendous role players like him in any successful team.
It was really special to have him and all those other people there before the game. That there was a great moment and when I look back on the first game at the Perth Arena, I will remember that.
The second side of it was the absolute, extreme disappointment of losing the game. I was absolutely gutted about it and our players tried so hard for the fans. They just tried so hard for all the fans, the sponsors and everybody supporting the club.
They played their backsides off, but we just shot the ball extremely poorly, we missed foul shots and that cost us the game. The exact same thing happened the week before.
For us to lose our first game on such a big occasion was one of the most disappointing experiences I've ever been involved in. We feel as though we let people down and that's something that is hard for me to swallow.
I definitely feel that the pressure will be off our guys this week. There was such a build up and such excitement last week, and it created so much anxiety in the group. Right now we have been there now and we have to move on from the disappointment of losing the first game as quick as we can to prepare for a massive game against New Zealand. It is like the weight is off our shoulders now.
The guys are in a good frame of mind this week and to me there is hardly any nerves at all, and I like the look of our group. We just have to get back identifying who we are, the style of game we play and getting back to that. We have gone away from what works which is our hard-nosed defence even though we have held teams in the 60s. Dropping from averaging 83 points to in the 60s is the main concern, though, but I think there is going to be less pressure on our players this week.
New Zealand are a very good team and they are the current champions. We've always had tremendous battles with them and it will be another one on Thursday, we know that. We have an enormous amount of respect for them and I'm sure they have a lot of respect for us as well.
We do have a lot of pressure taken off after just playing that first game at the Arena, though, and these players have got an enormous amount of pride. They were just so devastated and felt as though they let everyone down last week. I don’t know if redemption is the word, but they just want to show our fans that we can still play exciting, and winning, basketball.
Right now our focus is New Zealand and then we have to get the best recovery we possibly can. It's going to be hard because we fly out at 7.30 on Friday morning, have to be at the airport at 6.30 and that means a 5 o'clock start for a lot of people. That's going to be a really long day and there is a lot of work being put back on all our support staff to try and get their bodies recovered the best we possibly can.
We know that Townsville on Saturday night will be another massive challenge as well. On Thursday it is going to be another absolute arm-wrestle and a very physical game, and will take a lot out of us. Then for us to travel for 12 hours on Friday and play on Saturday in Townsville is a massive ask.
Townsville are going to win games. They are too good a team to keep losing and their coach is extremely experienced, and they've got some really good players there. Sooner or later they are going to turn it around and hopefully it's not against us.
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