Their rivalry might not produce the sparks it used to, but veterans Adam Ballinger and Shawn Redhage are keen to get reacquainted on Wednesday night at the WIN Entertainment Centre.
Hawks forward Ballinger is in his 12th season after making his debut with the long-forgotten Victorian Giants in 2003-04.
Redhage arrived from America 12 months later, starting with New Zealand Breakers before becoming a 10-year mainstay with Perth Wildcats and winning three titles.
While 35-year-old Ballinger’s role has diminished over the past year or two, Redhage is still highly productive at 33.
“He just keeps going,” Ballinger said.
“It has been a rivalry since I’ve been in the league. He’s a bit younger than me and has a different role than I do now, but I’ve always enjoyed playing Perth and always enjoyed playing against him.
“He goes and goes and goes. If he doesn’t have a good game he’ll still hit the last two shots, just because he doesn’t stop.
“You have to be physical with him and make him take tough shots, just like we have to do with the rest of their guys.”
After losing to Perth by 10, 19 and 24, the Hawks will probably have to play a near-perfect game to turn the tables.
The New Year’s Eve clash is their last chance to conquer the Wildcats.
“It’s always nice to beat Perth, no matter what the situation,” Ballinger said.
“Our last two games have been against top teams and they’ve been close losses, so we can take a bit from that.
“If we can get Perth that will be an improvement, and improvement is what we’re looking for in every game.”
Perth have won 11 of 16 games and appear certain to extend their incredible run of consecutive finals appearances to 29 years.
At the opposite end of the ladder are the Hawks and their horrible 3-14 record.
“In these kinds of times, staying motivated is part of your pride,” Ballinger said.
He said fans turn out to see you “play hard”, win or lose.
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