THERE’S no doubt Perth Arena is one of the most unique sporting venues in Australia. I’ve been there on many occasions both as home and away coach and certainly in the NBL no other place comes close to it.
A lot of coaches don’t like to talk about all the things that make it such a tough place to play but I believe you can’t kid yourself. If you know exactly what you’re up against then you know you need to respond and we know as a group how we need to respond this week.
The most obvious factor is it’s sheer size. When I started out in Perth we played at Challenge Stadium which was very similar where we play now at the WEC. Like the Sandpit, the crowd was very close, it was very very loud and it remains one of my all-time favourite venues.
Perth Arena was a completely different kettle of fish. We went from somewhere as small as four and half thousand seats to 13 and half thousand so when we first moved there in 2012 it was a difficult venue to play at, even as a home team, just getting used to the mammoth size.
There’s 13,000 people there for every single game all wearing red. Their announcer Lachy Reid has a great understanding of the game and when you’re in a hole as a visiting team, he recognises that and he gets the whole crowd going and they are super intimidating.
It doesn’t matter where you go all home crowds are one-eyed but when a referee makes a call against the Cats, whether it’s right or wrong, the noise and the vitriol is such a huge factor. All of a sudden you’ve got an advantage on every 50-50 call and I knew that as a coach.
There are also number of other more subtle factors that make it a difficult place to play. Shooting-wise it’s the lowest percentage gym in Australia and I’m adamant it’s got plenty to do with the size of the place. Obviously Perth teams are always good defensive sides which makes it difficult to score but the different dimensions have a huge impact a shooter’s spatial awareness.
The other factor that people talk about but probably don’t fully understand is the impact of the time difference. I know we definitely played on that when teams came to Perth.
When we went east we were effectively traveling to play an afternoon game. When we played at home with a 7.30pm tip-off it was a 10.30 tip-off Eastern Standard Time. Come halftime it’s around that 11.15 mark and you go back into the change rooms, you cool down, your body clock slows down. By the time you’re back out there it’s 11.30-11.40, the whole crowd are on their feet screaming and yelling and it becomes a psychological battle.
We always spoke about the fact that we were going to go all-out, kamikaze as hard as we could straight after the halftime break because that was when the away team was vulnerable. That’s the challenge for us this Friday night.
I’ll be the first one say we’ve shot the ball poorly in our last two games. That’s shooting and that’s basketball. I know we can turn that around quickly.
What’s been a bigger concern for me as a coach is breakdowns in our defensive scout. That’s what we’ve worked on the most week because, even if we shoot the hell out of it, you can’t go over the Perth and just expect that to be enough.
One thing we can’t do is go over there and try to play their style of game. We’ve got to push the tempo from the start and then do it afresh to start the second half.