Petrik confident of Flames' staying around the mark
RYAN Petrik is in an interesting position in 2017 trying to ensure the Rockingham Flames are a strong competitive unit in the Women's SBL but with championship-winning stars having departed he can't help but think it's at least partly a rebuild.
The Flames won Women's SBL championships in 2014 and 2015 on the back of a grand final appearance in 2012.
Still last year they finished second at the end of the regular season before losing in three games in the semi finals to the eventual champion Willetton Tigers.
It has been quite a run for the Flames and the high point in the club's SBL history but having Sami Whitcomb and Darcee Garbin in the line-up was never going to last forever.
Last year's Game 3 in the semi finals against the Tigers ended up as their last game for the Flames, at least for now. Ifunanya Ibekwe hasn’t returned either giving Petrik a big task of replacing three of the best players in the competition.
It wasn’t just those three who moved on following last season though.
Lizel Buckley and Talisia Bourne are two more championship winners to have departed and from the outside it could very well look like a rebuild for the Flames in 2017.
Petrik isn’t quite sure how to define it and while he knows there isn’t the superstars like Whitcomb, Garbin and Ibekwe, remains confident in Rockingham's ability to remain strongly competitive.
A lot of that stems from the recruiting of Dena English from the South West Slammers and Chelsea Armstrong from the Stirling Senators. Their hopes of being a title threat could still rest on the availability of import Chastity Reed.
But with a core group remaining that includes Jacinta Bourne, Tarsha Fletcher, Ashlee Sidebottom, Amanda Pether, Ariana Hetherington and Ella Kennedy, it's still a more than capable squad and all are capable of more production with increased responsibility.
So far the Flames have beaten the Perth Redbacks to open the season and lost to the Stirling Senators and Joondalup Wolves heading into Friday night's clash with the Lakeside Lightning at Mike Barnett Sports Complex.
Petrik remains unsure how good his team could be in 2017 and what label he should put on the stage they are at, but he does remain confident in their ability to remain competitive.
"I genuinely have no idea how we are going to go. Clearly there is Willetton and Wanneroo who are going to be strong again, and we are going to go backwards from last year. But how far we have no idea," Petrik said.
"We are in a semi rebuild while still semi trying to go after it, which is a weird position. But you still look at our team and we have Jacinta Bourne, Dena English, Tarsha Fletcher, Ash Sidebottom, Armstrong, an import and a few other girls who can go.
"Our team still looks really good and it's obviously not the team we've had the last two or three years, but it's not a slouch team. I'm very excited from that point of view and I'm looking forward to coach with a new system and a new way of thinking about doing things with a whole new defence to suit this team instead of the one we've had."
Petrik also continues to develop as well with the 2012 Coach of the Year and dual championship winner having been a significant part of the Perth Lynx in the WNBL as the lead assistant coach to Andy Stewart.
He enjoyed everything that was involved in that role even if it does make for some long hours when trying to hold down his full-time job, get the Flames ready for a new season and to keep things happy on the home front.
"Being the lead assistant, your job is to know what the other team is doing before they do really. That's not the easiest thing in the world and the constant question is how they are likely to guard this action, what are they likely going to try to do and counter this," Petrik said.
"Obviously you have to try and work that out without being in their huddles, and that bit has been really cool. Getting to talk to lead assistants from other teams and opposition players, and more importantly opposition scouts is something I've learned a lot from and it's helped my put my resources together to try and put together a game plan.
"Some of the stuff is just really trippy at this level. And getting to work with the Wildcats and speaking with Jamie O'Loughlin and to pick his brain, he is amazing.
"Getting to do the video stuff we do as well is fatiguing and tiring, and you are guessing the great unknown with trying to work out what a team will do before they do it.
"And getting it wrong is bad, but obviously you try to get it right as much as you can, and it's really good fun working at this level with some increased resources and it's a huge learning experience."
Photo by Vikki Hile