March 13, 2024 | Perth Lynx news

Brad Robbins has been a winner a lot of his basketball life, but he knows the task is still ahead of the Perth Lynx to close the deal on the Southside Flyers coming into Game 2 of the WNBL Grand Final on Thursday night.

Going back to 2003 and Robbins was part of the storied Australian Emus team that won the under-19 World Championship.

Then throughout the rest of his playing days, he won an NBL championship at the Perth Wildcats in 2010, won an SBL championship at the Joondalup Wolves in 2011 and he’s been close to winning more titles since.

However, Robbins knows as well as anybody just how hard it is to close the deal in a championship series.

He experienced that over his last three NBL seasons, and now as a coach he has been an assistant to Ryan Petrik both in the WNBL Grand Final at the Lynx two years ago and at the Rockingham Flames in the NBL1 West back in 2021.

So Robbins is fully aware of the challenge still ahead of the Lynx to try and win the club’s first WNBL championship since 1992, but to see them playing their best basketball of the season right now gives him great heart of what could lie ahead.

Trying to clinch the championship

From his own playing career, Robbins knows how hard it is to close out a series especially with a championship at stake. He was also part of the Lynx coaching staff two years ago when they won Grand Final Game 1 against the Melbourne Boomers but couldn’t quite complete the deal.

Now up against a Flyers team with the experience of Lauren Jackson, Leilani Mitchell, Bec Cole and Mercedes Russell, and added quality of Maddy Rocci, Carley Ernst, Jaz Dickey and the emerging Nyadiew Puoch, and Robbins knows the challenge still ahead of the Lynx.

“It’s going to be a grind. It’s obviously exciting for us to have the opportunity to close it out at home, but the job is not done and we can’t go in thinking it is,” Robbins said.

“As happy as I was on the plane home on Sunday and I was really happy for the girls and as exciting as it is, my mind already had ticked over to what we need to do for the next game, and how we need to get better.

“Even as a player, I never wanted to get too high with the highs and always wanted to come back down to earth a bit and refocus. Obviously you do take time to reflect on the game and to be happy and celebrate the victory and what not, but it’s a three-game series and each game you have to take on its own merit.

“If I’m Southside, I just move straight on from Game 1 and focus on Game 2, and they obviously are going to come out really physical and we have to be able to match that.

“We have to be ready for the challenge that’s going to be ahead of us and can’t think too far ahead into the future or reflect too much on the past. We just have to focus all our energy on Game 2 and don’t let anything else cloud that.”

Thoughts after Sunday’s Game 1 win

Coming out of Sunday’s stunning performance in Game 1 in Melbourne, everything the Lynx have wanted to do this season all came to fruition.

They shot the ball at a stunning clip, they pushed the pace to exhaust their opponents, and they did enough defensively to make life a challenge for the Flyers.

Robbins was just happy for the players to get that reward.

“Even watching the game back on the plane, it was pretty surreal to watch because the girls were just incredible,” he said.

“They executed the game plan almost exactly how Ryan wanted it to go. From my point of view, they executed the scout perfectly. There’s always adjustments and tweaks you need to make here and there, but to get Game 1 is obviously pretty big in a three-game series.

“We were just really happy for the girls more than anything and obviously it’s been a rocky season with it up and down here and there, so to play that well I was really happy for them.”

Enjoying everything coming together

The Lynx came into this WNBL season with a definite vision of how they wanted this team to play. There were times throughout the regular season it came together to a degree particularly when they won eight of those first 11 games.

Then in the semi finals against Townsville it was on show, but it went to another level again in Game 1 of the Grand Final series on Sunday which Robbins was delighted to see.

“The one thing with this group is that you can’t fault them for is that they constantly apply themselves, and they are constantly giving effort,” Robbins said.

“Not once the entire year have we ever had to challenge their effort so they’re always training and playing super hard.

“On the flipside of that on Sunday and to be honest for the last six games, they’ve just been applying the scout, they’ve been following the scout down to the last letter and they’ve been applying themselves in all the little one per cent areas that come finals time can often be game changers.

“There are just those little things they are doing and that includes following the scout, following the game plan and just having trust that over a 40-minute period that it might pay off.”

While Robbins loved the way the Lynx played to the plan and stuck to the scout in Game 1 on Sunday, what he’s noticed as the season has gone on is just how much the group has grown together.

“Part of it as well is that we have virtually a brand new team this year but I think the maturity of the girls has really shone through, and it’s grown over the season,” he said.

“At times things aren’t going to go to plan, but you just try to stay the course and have trust in one another, and I think that’s the other part of it that’s been really pleasing is the growth that they’ve made throughout the entire season. That shone through to me on Sunday as well.”

Coming up with the scout for each game

While Robbins has made a start with his coaching previously being at the helm at the Joondalup Wolves in the NBL1 West competition and as an assistant coach to Petrik at the Rockingham Flames, he’s learned a lot the last three years at the Lynx.

As he prepares to coach the Warwick Senators in 2024, being charged to come up with a scout for the Lynx every game is something he has embraced.

Working alongside Nat Burton is something he’s enjoyed too and soon he’ll step into being her coach at the Senators this season, but for now Robbins is thankful for the faith Petrik has put in his assistant coaches and he’s giving it the best he can.

“It is quite challenging to be honest and it’s really difficult, but ultimately you have no idea what the opposition coach is thinking and what they are going to put forward in the match,” Robbins said.

“All you can really do is have a guess and I’ve obviously watched a lot of film to study the opponent prior to putting the scout together. But it really is a guessing game and then you try to lean into our strengths with what we’ve got within our group, and the athletes we’ve got.

“Then I’ve got to pitch it to Ryan and Nat is obviously a big part of that too, so her and I will get together and pitch a game plan to Ryan. Then ultimately he has the final say and he tweaks what he wants tweaked, and then we roll the ball out.

“Nat and I do take a lot of pride in putting it together and we’re really grateful that Ryan has the faith in us now, and we have been working together three years now.

“He gets the final say and makes adjustments where it’s fit, but at the end of the day it’s on him and he has the decision. I am very grateful, though, that he has the trust that he does in both myself and Nat to put it together.”

How would you go guarding Aari

Throughout his own playing career in the NBL, Robbins built a reputation as one of the best defensive guards in the competition.

Whether it was trying to stop someone like Ricky Grace before he got to Perth or then his battles with Corey Williams, Kevin Braswell and Ayinde Ubaka, Robbins always made their life hell but he isn’t quite sure how he would tackle trying to stop Aari McDonald.

Even on Sunday with Amy Atwell and Anneli Maley grabbing a lot of the spotlight, she still came up huge with 15 points and 10 assists, and Robbins is sure glad he doesn’t have to try to come up with the scout of how to try to limit her influence.

“She is such an incredible talent. I’ve rarely seen anybody like her in my whole career and I’m not sure how you guard her, I really don’t know,” Robbins said.

“She is going to get her numbers regardless and you try to just limit her, and even then it reminds me of playing against Ricky Grace. The first time the scout was to not let him go left and he still went left every time, but you just couldn’t stop him.

“Strategy is great and you can have as many schemes as you want, but someone like Aari always seems to find a way. Not only that, but in my opinion if she stays healthy she is the MVP of the league and not only that, she’s one of the most unselfish players I’ve seen in my life.

“She’s so humble and she still manages to put up the numbers she does. Even on Sunday, it seemed like she was a little bit quiet and she still had 15 and 10 so I’m not really sure how you would put a scout together for her.”