Galen Young wrestles with Taipan Tony Rampton
Galen Young wrestles with Taipan Tony Rampton

Carins Taipans, Gold Coast Blaze and Melbourne Tigers. We may as well call this 'Grudge Match Week' for the Perth Wildcats.

The second and third games of Cats' road trip this week present bigger challenges on paper, but tomorrow night's game against cellar dwellers Cairns is also shaping as a heated encounter.

While a long-standing rivalry exists with the Tigers, who the Cats visit on Saturday, rivalries have also surfaced with the Taipans and Blaze this season.

Three players were ejected following a final-quarter scuffle when the Taipans were smashed at Challenge Stadium last month in scenes reminiscent of the post-game brawl between the Wildcats and Blaze earlier in the season.

Cairns coach Aaron Fearne and his players hit out at the Wildcats following the Taipans' January 16 defeat, angered by the WA side's perceived physical brand of basketball.

"They play hard, they play physical and they're going to do what they can do. It doesn't happen anywhere else around the league," Fearne said after the game.

"I just think it escalates to that (a brawl between players). It seems to be about the fourth occasion that's happened out here (in Perth) and it just escalates and blows up. "We're not going to take any of that s***. We'll fight."

Perth coach Rob Beveridge was in no mood to apologise at the time and said this week the Wildcats would continue to focus on their own game.

"I'm not going to whinge or whine about what happens at all," he said.

"Aaron's the one who's coming out and whinging about it and I reckon he's probably regretted saying that.

"We're just completely focused on the game and we can't control what he thinks. We're not going to change a thing.

"I've spoken to Aaron about it because it concerns me that people think we're thugs and bullies. He said he wished his team played like that, so it was a little bit ironic.

"I don't know what he was trying to say, whether it was us or whether he was trying to get some media attention about the referees and hometown calls. I don't know what he was trying to get out of that but we're just focused on us right now."

But Fearne hit back this week via Cairns' major newspaper, rejecting Beveridge's "whinger" claims as the verbal stoush heated up.

"You don't like to be called a whiner and you don't like to be called soft and it's obviously what's coming out of (Perth)," Fearne told The Cairns Post.

"But now they're coming on to our court. We're either going to stand up or we're not.

"They're definitely the team to beat. They expect to win a championship.

"They're the hunted, we're hunting them."

Fearne said the key to victory, something his side achieved against Perth way back in round two, was matching the Wildcats' intensity and "physicality".

"You match that and you give yourself a chance. You don't and they run all over the top of you," he said.

"Is every one of these (Taipans) guys on this team going to stand up and be counted on (tomorrow)? If they do, there'll be a ball game."

The Wildcats take on Gold Coast on Friday night in an event sure to bring back vivid memories of the November showdown between the sides in Perth.

A massive post-game brawl kicked off when Perth swingman Stephen Weigh took offence to a pre-meditated post-game celebration by former Wildcats Chris Goulding and James Harvey in the middle of the Challenge Stadium court.

Exciting youngster Goulding has stoked the fire early this week, telling the Gold Coast Bulletin: "They are a bit of an arch rival now after what happened in Perth so it should be good.

"We will just be focusing on the way we play, which is good hard-nosed tough defence and that sort of stuff.

"And if sparks fly then the sparks fly ... it might get the crowd involved a little bit more."

The West Australian

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