It was a moment, like so many during the course of a regular season game, that led to a turnover. Tellingly, this moment could have crystallised in the eyes of many, the end of the line for a legend of the sport.
Instead, it helped encapsulate why he is a legend.
Many here will recall, Tim Duncan battling Father Time better than any elite sportsman before him. Timmy was leading the count for 18 years then overnight looked 55, a battered and broken down old man gasping on the last vapour fumes in the tank.
It happens to all the great ones eventually.
To observers of this moment, his time was up. He obviously didn’t have “it” anymore. Was he now doing more than harm good being on court?
There he was, top of the key. Ball in hand and 4:52 left.
It’s the last quarter. “Winning time” as Magic Johnson once famously said.
A hero was still to be cast and they live for these moments.
The Perth Wildcats are only up 4, clawing for room, trying to hold off a suddenly electrified foe making one final push.
With a record of 11-12, this is a monumental game in the push for an historic 31 straight playoff bouts.
The Wildcats in a tight and tense battle. It was deja-vu for them in a topsy turvy 2016/17 season; another winnable game was slipping from their grasp.
‘The Jungle’ as tense as ever; the once frenzied atmosphere is much quieter now. Stressed, not really understanding the implications of what missing a post-season would mean, as many had never felt the disappointment.
While not readily admitting it, the coach feels it too. Being the only Perth Wildcat coach in history with two championships, likely won’t save his job if Perth loses this and misses the playoffs.
In this pressure filled environment, his team in need, the old workhorse’s tank was now seemingly empty. Despite his best intentions of providing a winning play, a spark, he had nothing to give. The still proud warrior could no longer conjure any magic from within.
His body, a cruel millisecond, behind the mind.
With 4.52 left, the officials whistle resonated. The high pitched shrill echoing up to the cheap seats for a moment.
Offensive foul, number 42 – Shawn Redhage.
Melbourne United ball.
Father Time was drawing ever closer to another victim.
Clinching victory in front of the close-knit Red Army, a delirious following captivated by his prowess for so long, would need to be cajoled by someone else tonight.
He was done, and probably doing more harm than good now.
Like so many weary champs before him, Shawn still had one more great moment left.
A mere seven seconds later, Chris Goulding casually and forcefully knocked down another three. Perth’s lead was now down to one. Melbourne was coming fast and Perth needed a saviour.
Then a strange and unexpected thing happened to finish the game.
Busting free of the tightening old man shackles, 36 year old Shawn, became the best player on the court. For the last few minutes of action, he wanted it more than anyone else. He literally had a hand in everything.
2 clutch free-throws, 3 enormous steals, a rebound, an assist and one huge floater.
It was his only field goal for the night and it proved to be the difference.
Final score: 73-71. Wildcats victorious and still in the hunt for history.
He just might have lit the fuse that finally gets the Wildcats rolling.
The Man. Shawn Redhage.
Shawn Redhage competes on the edge.
He is scrappy and loves to niggle his opponent with a lot of unnecessary pushing (flailing) and shoving (flopping). Always in your face, looking for a way to get inside your head and put you off your game, even just a bit. You have to be mentally strong and wary when you play Shawn, he will suck you in otherwise.
Putting that aside, it is the dogged determination and relentless edge which enabled Shawn to come back from career-threatening hip surgery in 2011. It’s what enabled him to forge a stunning 13-year career many thought a fairytale.
Following 11 lackluster games for the NZ Breakers, then playing in the SEABL, to now retire as an NBL great was clearly going to require every ounce of effort and gamesmanship… if we can call it that.
When you glance over his career numbers, they are phenomenal yet under appreciated. They highlight his longevity and consistency for one of the NBL’s best franchises.
Career Totals and Wildcat All-Time Rank (as at the 4th Feb 2017. Includes playoffs):
- 2nd in games played – 372
- 3rd in points scored – 5649 (15.2)
- 4th in rebounds – 2076 (5.6)
- 4th in assists – 1006 (2.7)
- 8th in steals – 254 (0.7)
- 5th in blocks – 179 (0.5)
- 2 X All-NBL 1st Team – (08, 10)
- 3 X Championships – (10, 14, 16)
- 6 X Gordon Ellis (club MVP) Medal – (06-11)
NB: It must be noted, from the 2009-10 season the NBL’s 40 minute era began. All other players at the top of most of the career leader boards played 48 minute games. Shawn’s final numbers and averages would almost certainly be higher. Alas, the missing 8 minutes is far larger debate for another time.
HANGING FROM THE RAFTERS.
There is little doubt the number ’42’ will rightly hang alongside the other greats of Wildcats lore. With his recent retirement announcement bringing a finality to one of the franchise’s great careers (was it a final call to arms?), plans should already be underway to celebrate this all-timer and retire his number as early as next season. Why waste time?
So who will 42 be sidling up to in this most rarefied of air?
The current list of hanging names have gone well beyond ‘household’ to became legendary. Each, is synonymous with a tireless devotion to excellence and a fervent pursuit to winning. They are – Number 6 (Mike Ellis), 7 (James “the Alabama Slammer” Crawford), 14 (Scott Fenton), 15 (Ricky “amazing” Grace), 21 (Andrew Vlahov) and 30 (Scott Fisher).
Shawn Redhage won’t be out of place.
ONE GIANT MOUNTAINTOP: PERTH’S MT RUSHMORE.
Whenever the final buzzer sounds to bring a close to #NBL17 for the Wildcats, Shawn Redhage, will hang up the sneakers and gingerly waddle off the court a champion. Of the NBL, not just Perth.
One of America’s favourite things is ranking the best. It could be for anything. To categorise the best of the best, meant you had to be on Mt Rushmore and if you are on someone’s Mt Rushmore, that means you are one of the four greatest to them.
Has Shawn had the type of career that would usurp one of the incumbents on the Wildcats mountaintop? Has he built a strong enough legacy to cause a re-modelling of Cat Rushmore?
Today, (hidden away in a secret location 18 km NW of Perth Arena) the hypothetical Cat Rushmore has being carved with the silhouettes of: the rock solid brute – Andrew Vlahov; the handsome and chiselled bag-o-walnuts – Scott Fisher; the blurred lines of speedy, hubcap thief – Ricky Grace, and the carnage left below from a soaring Alabama Slammer – James Crawford. Seriously, those four and me… still winning titles.
There is no debate or disputing their standing within the Wildcats pantheon. They are the cream of the crop. They are the cream and the crop!
It is the view of many (one that I share) that Grace, Crawford and Vlahov are untouchables as Perth’s top 3. Most have Scott Fisher and Mike Ellis rounding out the top 5. The combined imprint on the Wildcats story by these five, can be seen all through the NBL history books.
Given Shawn’s career numbers and the chance (even a slim one) at a 4th Championship, it’s getting pretty hard to deny him pushing past first runner-up, Mike Ellis, and probably Scott Fisher too (which almost sounds sacriligious to even contemplate).
If Perth had Scott during his North Melbourne Giant days, when he was an otherworldly basketball colossus (he once had 37 pts and 29 rebounds in a final!!), then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. At all.
Scott Fisher compiled Wildcat averages of 17.4 PPG – 8.6 RPG – 2.6 APG and 1.1 SPG. They are superior averages compared to Redhage, but he played more minutes. Where Shawn is able to seperate himself is: the 6 MVP’s compared to 2 MVP’s for Fisher and the 3 championships (from 5 Finals) as opposed to 2 championships for Scott.
It’s a tough call, thankfully it’s hypothetical so there is no right or wrong here. In the end, only playing 247 Wildcat games, probably works against Scott here.
Writer’s note: Shawn, should you ever read this, you should be immensly proud – as all of the Wildcat fraternity is – for what you accomplished in this foreign land that became your home. Like Grace, Crawford, Vlahov, Fisher and Ellis before you, your legacy – one forever entwined with the Perth Wildcat franchise – will endure for many a year.
You are one of us.
Well done, mate.