PERTH Wildcats vice-captain Greg Hire has always been vocal about his dedication to the Joondalup Wolves in the State Basketball League.
It was the club he captained to the 2011 championship and the side that gave him a pathway to the NBL.
So when rival club the Rockingham Flames first mentioned the possibility of him joining them for the 2018 season – in the NBL’s downtime – he did not think the suggestion would amount to much.
“I didn’t really take it as a serious offer at the time, just because of my ties to Joondalup,” he said.
“I hadn’t even really considered playing SBL until Rockingham voiced it.
“I discussed it with the Wildcats coaching staff and we came to the conclusion it would be smart to try and get my legs under me in the offseason and work on a few things.”
He said he was confident he still had three or four “good years” of NBL basketball left in him.
So with the decision made that he would play SBL, Hire then went to Joondalup to assess their situation for the upcoming season.
He said the Wolves were looking for a player who could commit to every game including potential finals, which he could not do because of his NBL commitments.
This was not the case at Rockingham, which was chasing someone who could help build a winning culture in the regular season.
The challenge of influencing a success-starved side was an enticing one for Hire.
A more lucrative financial offer, the details of which he preferred to keep private, was also a factor.
So came the surprise announcement Hire’s next SBL game would not be in Wolfpack colours.
Half and half between money and opportunity
He considered it a “half-half” decision between money and the opportunity to better his game.
“The Flames wanted to help me transform the club and shape the culture, which is something I did in 2011 when we won the championship (at the Wolves),” he said.
“That excited me – the opportunity in that regard and allowing me to grow as a player.
“You want to be the best that you can be and the SBL provides a platform to do that.”
He said the Flames were understanding that he could not commit to every fixture, but he expected he would play more than 20 games.
And he would be making the effort to get to training in Rockingham despite living in the northern suburbs.
“I’ll be taking that two-hour trip two times a week,” he said.
“It won’t be a gimmick for me to go to the Flames. I’ll be trying to compete for a championship and have a big off-season.”
Heated reception expected from fans
With Joondalup Wolves fans among the most passionate in the league, Hire expected to be met with a chorus of jeers when the Flames travel to Arena Joondalup.
But supporters will have to wait until July 21 – the second-last round of the season – to witness Hire on Joondalup turf.
The sides first clash on April 28 in Rockingham.
“They’re quite passionate so they’ll give it to me and rightfully so,” he said.
“But I’ll be quite happy going back in there knowing that I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Hire’s NBL contract is up at the end of this season and said he would not be focussing on that aspect of his job until after the Wildcats’ final game.
“If there’s a position for me that I can fill and still contribute then it’s obviously a no brainer for me to stay,” he said.
“But we won’t have those discussions until the end of the year and that’s fine by me as well because I’d rather concentrate on getting us back on the right track.”