Masters Games a magnet for sport-loving seniors

2021 Masters Games a magnet for sport-loving seniors

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ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: Former Wildcats captain Mike Ellis with old basketball mates Richard Whalley (left) and Ernie Dingo. The three will be taking to the court during the Australian Masters Games.

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: Former Wildcats captain Mike Ellis with old basketball mates Richard Whalley (left) and Ernie Dingo. The three will be taking to the court during the Australian Masters Games.

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Original 1982 Wildcats join seniors descending on Perth for huge celebration of sport.

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Excitement is building in Perth for what could be the largest multi-sport event ever seen in the city: the 2021 Australian Masters Games on October 9-16

The city is expecting to welcome more than 8000 participantscompeting in 50-plus sports, including favourites such as dragon boat, netball and athletics, and newcomers like fin-swimming, windsurfing and the racquet sport padel.

One of those champing at the bit is Mike Ellis, captain of the initial 1982 Perth Wildcats basketball team, which is reuniting for the event.

And joining them will be a couple of famous friends: acclaimed actor Ernie Dingo and performer musician and writer Richard Walley.

Mike, 63, said the pair weren't part of the then Westate Wildcats but belonged to an Indigenous team well known to the city boys from country carnivals around WA.

"They've been great supporters of the club for years and we catch up with them regularly," he told The Senior.

"We have a couple of guys who can't play much any more so we thought it would be nice if Ernie and Dick could join us. And they were only too happy to do it.

"They were great players. Ernie was a really good passer. He wasn't super-athletic, more of a string bean, but he could squeeze through any little crack and get through to the bucket."

Mike, who still coaches, says it's hard to believe he's been involved with basketball for 50 years: "It's scary - you have to say the number fast!"

But he wouldn't give it up for quids and is thrilled to be taking to the court again at the Masters.

"I hadn't played for years - purely because I just didn't have time. But when the Masters came around, we went, 'Mate, wouldn't be great fun just to get out there again, have a bit of a play, and get the guys back together.'"

Mike jokes that it "won't be at any great speed or quality. I've looked at some of us and we're all in shape - I wouldn't say it's great shape, it's a shape! But we'll be out there running around and doing our best."

"It's a fantastic what the Masters is doing. This is the first time it's been held in Perth since 1993. The opening ceremony is at Optus Stadium and it will be great thrill for many people to walk out on that hallowed turf. It'll be great to show young people that just because you're older, you don't need to be put out to pasture."

In the meantime, the Wildcats will warming up. "We were talking about doing some training but it will more than likely be at the pub," Mike said with a laugh. "But we will get back together. It will be great fun."

As The Senior went to press, some eastern states were in lockdown and it was uncertain whether they would be able to attend. Here's hoping...

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