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Here’s a favourite childhood memory for you…

When my sister and I were 12 and 13 years old we played a lot of basketball. It was the 90’s and the National Basketball League Perth Wildcats were the coolest guys gettin’┬áround. Owned by Kerry Stokes, the Wildcats won consecutive grand finals in 1990 and ’91 and they made it to their 4th grand final in 7 years in 1993. Their games at the Entertainment Centre were loud, lively and a lot of fun. It was a golden era for basketball in WA.

Star point guard Ricky Grace was known for his generous heart. A humble, joyful and warm guy, in the early 1990s, he set a goal of shaking hands with every young kid in the state. I believe he might have achieved that goal. With good mate Craig Jackson of the Perth Redbacks, Ricky travelled around the state doing coaching clinics and camps called, ‘Camp of Champs’. Kath and I would attend quite a few of these clinics and camps, and we struck up a friendship with both Ricky and CJ.

One fond memory I have of Ricky and CJ took place during a Busselton camp, maybe in 1993. After the training clinic, our Youth Group was having a 3 on 3 basketball tournament. We joked to Ricky that it would be fun if they came to Youth Group to be on our team.

We didn’t expect that they would actually show up. But just as we were getting going, Ricky and CJ walked in. “We’re on Team Hammond,” they said.

You should have seen the looks on the other kids’ faces.

But the best memory is this…

Every home game Dad would drive us all the way up from Dunsborough so we could go to the game. We would get there early so as not to miss a single moment. Ricky had a pre-game ritual that involved watching the Women’s match before his. And the pre-game ritual also involved us. We would go down courtside and wait to get Ricky’s attention. He would let the security guy know to let us through, and we would sit and watch the game with Ricky. Ricky in the middle, me and my sister either side. He would even politely ask other people to move along so we could sit with him.

It was like being allowed into the oval office to do colouring at the President’s desk.

It was like being allowed to rollerskate inside the Louvre.

It was like Meghan asking you to ride to the wedding with her.

I’ve told you before that they were pretty rough years for my family, but our world was better because Ricky and Craig were in it.

It was so sweet to be loved by those guys. Good, good people with no agenda, except to use their power and influence to make the world better for two little girls.

An absolute childhood highlight.