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Wildcats aim for back-to-back NBL titles

NZN 30/09/2016 By Justin Chadwick

Perth Wildcats captain Damian Martin says the talent on show in the NBL is the best he's seen and it will take something special to win back-to-back championships.

The NBL has been bolstered by an influx of homegrown and international talent this season and interest in the league has also been boosted by the long-awaited return of the Brisbane Bullets.

The increase from two to three imports for each club has helped raise the quality of rosters around the league, meaning the Wildcats face a stern challenge to defend their title.

Martin has been part of the NBL since 2008 and he's never seen it this strong.

"It's my 10th season in the NBL and it's by far the strongest the league has been as a whole," Martin said.

"The calibre we've brought in this year has been incredible."

The Wildcats have introduced two new imports - Jaron Johnson and Jameel McKay.

They join fellow American Casey Prather on a talented Wildcats list.

Perth have won an NBL record seven crowns.

But they haven't gone back-to-back since the Ricky Grace-powered teams of 1990 and 1991.

"It's motivating to try to achieve that," Martin said.

"It's been a great seven years I've been here but that one thing we haven't been able to eclipse is the Ricky Grace era when they were able to go back-to-back.

"If we could do that this season, it would be special.

The loss of star centre Nate Jawai to Cairns is a big blow to the Wildcats.

Jawai was a 143kg powerhouse who dominated the paint.

By comparison, 206cm McKay weighs in at 96kg.

Martin said the change in personnel meant the Wildcats would attempt to become a faster-paced team.

The Wildcats begin their title defence away to Brisbane on October 6.

Star Bullets recruit Cameron Bairstow (shoulder) is under an injury cloud but former Wildcats import Jermaine Beal will line up against his old side in what's shaping up as a grudge match.

"I did see him in Brisbane. I told him we're going for a players' dinner and he said he'd stop by because it's a free feed," Martin said of Beal.

"Dolla's one of the best players in the league. He was a great teammate.

"I'm excited to be matched up on him. It will be weird seeing him in a maroon jersey while we're wearing red."

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