SBL: Joondalup Wolves club stalwarts in milestone games

Wolves milestone man Damian Matacz. Picture: Serene Maisey
Wolves milestone man Damian Matacz. Picture: Serene Maisey

THE Joondalup Wolves will this weekend honour milestones of two stalwarts who have spent a significant portion of their lives wearing the green jersey.

One of the best players in Wolves history, Damian Matacz notches up his 300th game as the Wolves clash with Mandurah at Joondalup Basketball Stadium on Saturday.

Heightening the achievement is the fact Matacz retired at the end of the 2013 season and did not play in 2014.

But he returned last year at age 36 and will this weekend put himself among the heralded club of triple centurions.

It is a long time coming for Matacz who spent a number of years playing internationally.

The centre’s career has taken him to Europe, New Zealand and to the NBL with the Perth Wildcats and defunct team the Singapore Slingers.

He represented the Irish national side in 2008.

“For a lot of players it would have come a little earlier,” he said.

“I’ve been playing for so many years but I’ve had on-and-off years playing overseas so it’s taken me a while.

“It’s a nice milestone to hit, particularly because it’s my last year.”

International exploits aside, the Wolves den has always been home base for the 204cm post player since he joined the senior team at the beginning of the century.

Matacz is a dual championship player and was named the SBL’s MVP in 2012.

He recalled how, early in his career, the team was “just happy to make the playoffs”.

Those struggles made the 2011 championship all the sweeter.

Then when he came out of retirement and won a second title last year, he was left feeling particularly fortunate.

After 299 games, Matacz said his body “starts to wear down a little more” each year but he was still in “pretty good” shape.

“I can’t do what I used to do anymore, particularly my knees just don’t allow me to,” he said.

“Basketball is still the love and passion… but I’ve also got family and work as well so it just becomes more challenging.”

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Rhys Smyth plays his 150th game on Saturday. Picture: Serene Maisey

His teammate Rhys Smyth, who appears for a 150th time on Saturday, is another who bleeds green.

Smyth began at the club as a 12-year-old, working through the ranks to achieve a regular position in the SBL squad.

The 26-year-old guard said it was an honour to amass 150 performances for Joondalup.

“It’s a good buzz… especially being at the club for the whole time,” he said.

Smyth was unable to play in the 2011 championship because he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

But he cites that title-winning year as the most treasured memory of his time at the club.

Smyth took a year off to travel last season, so missed the side’s 2015 grand final win.

But if this year’s team can continue the domination it has shown in the first half of its campaign, another SBL decider could be coming his way.

Smyth trumpeted the 2016 line-up as one of the best in which he had played.

“We’ve got two imports plus Greg (Hire), plus all the other guys so it’s pretty deep,” he said.