Are the Perth Wildcats losing their identity?
With new ownership and the playoff streak over, the Wildcats' sporting identity is under threat.
Credit: JBC Studios
The Perth Wildcats have dominated for so long, that winning has become their local identity for an entire generation.
The franchise has propagated the message following each successive winning season. An online search for “Perth Wildcats winningest franchise in sports” delivers a near identical media piece from 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021 within the first ten hits.
Such dominance works, as long as the league around a sporting club is developing, and the Wildcats business feasted on a suspect league over the first twenty years of this century. While the finals streak gets overblown locally in Western Australia —references to world records and global sporting leagues were a bit much— it reinforces the Wildcats’ place in the pecking order. The Wildcats were Perth’s perennial finals contender and they loved telling you about it. But what becomes of that identity, when they stop winning?
The NBL has finally grown into a competitive national competition, one where finals appearances cannot be achieved with rudimentary ease. The shift to a play in format will allow 60% of the league to claim “success” when the postseason arrives, but when you parse through the player quality around the NBL, it is harder than ever to show you’re a genuine contender and market leader. Brisbane and Adelaide are diversifying their approach after years of underachieving. South East Melbourne has graduated from infant to established club. The Tasmania JackJumpers will be hardpressed to return to the Grand Final, but their rise reinforced a newfound parity the NBL has historically lacked. Entering last season, only three franchises had won championships over the preceding 12 years. The monopolistic control over the league feels to be fading away. Sydney broke their drought last season, and it’s only emboldened the chasing pack.
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