He’s a Championship captain, the all-time assists leader in SBL/NBL1 West history and he’s played more SBL/NBL1 games for Perth Redbacks than any other player.
Secretly we hoped he would keep playing forever, but it’s not to be. This Saturday, Joel Wagner, one of the most decorated players in Perth Redbacks history is retiring.
His story is the one we dream of for every WABL kid coming through our ranks.
He started his Perth Redbacks representative career in U12 WABL as a 10-year-old. He says he was ‘definitely no superstar’ in those early years. His game plan was simple – go out there and play as hard as he could.
Well, that simple game plan paid off. By the age of 16, he was in our SBL squad. And he got his first SBL start at the same age.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be playing that night or not. While I was warming up and shooting free throws with the rest of the team, Nik Lackovic our coach came over and said, “You’re playing tonight.” So that’s how I found out I was making my debut. It was against Willetton Tigers, and he threw me out there in the first quarter. It was in 2004 that I made that debut. I didn’t play too many minutes in 2004 and 2005 because we had a couple of really good point guards – AJ Johnson and Wade Horwood. I would say 2006 was the year I really cemented a spot in the team. AJ and Wade had either stopped playing or went elsewhere, and I kind of got thrown in the deep end and given the keys to the team. It was a case of fake it till you make it at first. I really didn’t have a choice but to make it happen.”
And make it happen he did.
As a development player with the Perth Wildcats in 2009 and 2010, he got to experience an NBL Championship while training and playing with guys like Martin Cattalini, Shawn Redhage and Damian Martin.
The following year, an injury saw a point guard spot open up at the Sydney Kings and a Friday night phone call from Conner Henry saw Joel on a plane to Sydney the next day.
While Joel’s NBL career ended up being short, he has no regrets. He feels that getting to that level with where his talent was at was a pretty big achievement.
And of course, after his stint in the NBL, he returned to the Perth Redbacks.
Highlights include two SBL All-Star team selections, winning the 2017 SBL Championship and overtaking Troy Clarke in 2019 as the SBL/NBL1 all-time assists leader.
Everyone who has ever played with Joel has experienced the joy of being on the end of one of his sweet dimes, and for his part, Joel has always loved the experience of getting his teammates involved in the game and onto the scoresheet.
And he’s always loved being a Perth Redback:
“I came back to the Redbacks after playing NBL because they’d always shown faith in me throughout. I feel like as a junior, even when I would go to things like state tryouts, I wouldn’t even get a look in, but I would come back to the Redbacks and always feel at home, always be given great opportunities and have people who believed in me. I’ve stayed with the Redbacks the whole time I’ve been playing basketball because guys like Jamie Baker and Matthew Earp were my mentors early on, I looked up to them and they were one-club players. The club is something I’ve always loved being part of.”
It’s a good thing he loves being part of the club as he was awarded Perth Redbacks Life Membership in 2019.
Life Membership is the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a Perth Redbacks member and is awarded for outstanding contribution to the Association over a period of time. Joel has contributed to the club as much more than a player over the years. He worked as our Development Officer for a number of years helping build the Loftus Domestic program. He also coached extensively at Domestic and WABL, and was instrumental in developing our schools program, growing our Aussie Hoops program and much more.
Now that he’s retiring, we won’t be seeing him on the court anymore. But we greatly look forward to seeing him in a greater capacity off the court now that he will have all this extra time on his hands. (*Club waves to wife Katie.*)
Joel, thank you. It’s been quite a ride.
We don’t want to get off yet, but love that you’re getting to go out on your own terms.
Joel, your knowledge, application, experience and effort is the best I’ve seen as a player and coach. To play for decades is amazing. To play for one club is special. Your support for your club and team (and this year, me personally) is a tremendous testament to the person you are.
~ Mark Edman, 2022 NBL1 Head Coach
Joel Wagner is Redbacks. He is the ultimate teammate and club man. He leads by example and is no doubt one of the smartest players I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved with. Joel, you have taught me so much in my time at the Redbacks. The respect the club and your teammates have for you is something all players should aspire to.
~ Ron Flores, 2022 NBL1 Asssistant Coach
Joel Wagner: others before self – pass before shoot …
~ James Elder, 2022 NBL1 Men’s Manager and longtime friend
From the moment I met Joel, it was clear he represented everything that Perth Redbacks stands for. The humble but deliberate approach he takes to everything he does has made the teams he’s played in better, the people he’s played with better, and he’s certainly made this club better just by being part of it. Joel has set a clear standard for every player coming through our ranks to aspire to. We are eternally grateful to have him as a Life Member of the club as it ensures the impact he’s had to date will continue long into our club’s future.
~ Anthony Nixon, PBA President and fellow Life Member
The first two words that come to me when you mention Joel Wagner are: Professional and Respect. These are two of the greatest attributes you can give a person. From a Professional point of view, there is no one I’ve met who works as hard as Joel. He is first on court at practice and last to leave. He looks after his body and knows what his body can do. With regard to Respect, this is not a trait that is learnt. It is earnt. In my time at the Redbacks, Joel’s leadership has been one of respect. The number of players that comment, “If Joel thinks it is good, then it must be good” is notable. When Joel talks, everyone listens and everyone respects. It has been an absolute honour working with Joel. Whilst saddened that he won’t be running out on the court next year, I’m so happy he is retiring on his terms and know that he will be around the club in some way in the future. Thank you for all the support you have given me Joel. I look forward to seeing what the future brings.
~ Nathan Barns, PBA NBL1 Director
I’d like to offer my congratulations to Joel on an outstanding career. He was an incredible teammate to play alongside and was a big reason why I chose to play for the Redbacks when retiring from the NBL. Joel is someone who always sacrificed so much for his teammates and made everyone around him a better player and person. Joel, it was an honour to play alongside you. All the recognition you receive over the coming weeks is rightfully deserved!
~ Shawn Redhage, Wildcats and Perth Redbacks Championship teammate
You’re one of a kind, Joel Wagner. The Perth Redbacks are tenfold better off having you as a part of our identity for all of this time. Your resilience, tenacity and selflessness on the court are a direct reflection of the person you are off of it as well. There have been many times when I felt captaincy was so far out of my capability. With each phone call, you reminded me what it truly means to be a leader – and that is just to act as a great example. The long captaincy stretch for our ‘pair of 10s’ may be over for now, but I’m certain that the impact you’ve made on this association as a whole will be an enduring legacy.
~ Jess Jakens, Perth Redbacks Women’s SBL/NBL1 captain since 2013
Joel’s on-court accolades speak for themselves: all-time SBL/NBl1 assist leader, all-time Redbacks games record holder and Captain of a Championship-winning team just to name a few. However, what really separates Wags from the rest is his ability as a natural leader. He has been the heart and soul of the Perth Redbacks club over the past 20 years, inspiring hundreds of junior players to follow in his footsteps and leading the senior men’s team to great success. He leads by example with an incredible work ethic, great passion for his teammates and a selfless, team-first approach to the game. He is one of the few players who truly makes every teammate around him better. He is a great friend to all that know him and is a true legend of the Perth Redbacks and WA Basketball. Congratulations Wags on an incredible career!
~ Jamie Baker, Perth Redbacks teammate in the early years
Since I was a kid at Trinity College, Joel Wagner has always been a guy that I looked up to. As a basketballer, he has been the pinnacle of what a true point guard should represent in any team. Joel has led the way for so many people in this sport, and I have been so privileged to have played and trained alongside him. His leadership on and off the court is to be admired. His commitment to REDBACKS Basketball and his family have built a lasting legacy at this club. Thank you, Joel, I wish you well.
~ Isaiah Walley-Stack, Perth Redbacks Cultural Ambassador
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