Brothers Justin and Callum Beard will continue their basketball careers with their hometown club after the pair both signed on with the Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames for the 2021 NBL1 West season.
The pair won’t be joined, however, by Justin’s twin Kyle, who for the first time since the twins broke into the men’s team won’t suit up alongside his brothers.
Both Justin and Callum admit it will be “weird” to not have Kyle out on court with them, but they’re certain he will still support them, and the team, from the sideline.
“Growing up in domestic, WABL and State teams we pretty much have always played together, but I’m sure we will be at the bar cheering us on,” said Justin, while Callum said he had become so used to having both older siblings as teammates.
“It’s a weird feeling for sure (not having Kyle play). I have got so used to having the two of them there on the court and around me, but we will be down every game to watch so it won’t be that bad,” he said.
Even without their brother, the pair had no hesitation in signing on for another year with the Flames, with Justin going as far as saying he would probably give the game away if he was no longer a Flame.
“Honestly, I didn’t even hesitate,” he said.
“This club did so much for me as a WABL player growing up, so I couldn’t imagine playing elsewhere. I think I would just retire if I couldn’t play for the Flames, especially with the effort all the volunteers put in. They do hours of unseen work because they genuinely enjoy watching us play, so why would I want to play elsewhere?”
Callum, while far too young to be contemplating hanging up his kicks, echoed his brother’s sentiment and said the atmosphere and collective spirit around the Mike Barnett Sports Complex was something he could never experience with another club.
“It was definitely an easy decision re-signing with the Flames family again, and the opportunity to play and be a part of the culture we are building as a club is something you can’t replicate anywhere else,” he said.
“Winning is always a good thing, but it wouldn’t even come close to being the same as doing it alongside the brotherhood we have all grown to be a part of here, since the junior leagues to now.”
Both played important roles for the Flames in the 2020 West Coast Classic, with each finishing inside the top of 5 players for points, rebounds and assists per game during the competition.
However statistics don’t tell the full picture; the season also presented each with the opportunity to take on a greater role, with Justin stepping up as one of the more senior players despite being just 24 at the time (he’s now 25) and Callum enjoying a key role in the starting rotation.
“It was pretty weird being viewed as an old guy, I still feel like a young guy out there,” Justin said of his WCC experience.
“But I tried to view it as a challenge and become a bit more of a leader for the younger guys. I know as a young bloke in SBL all the vets looked after me and taught me things so now it’s kind of my time to start doing the same thing.”
For Callum, who ended the season with averages of 8.8 points, 1.7 assists and a club-leading 7.1 rebounds per game, he looks back a little sheepishly on the season and admits he wasn’t in the best condition – something he is keen to atone for in 2021.
“I definitely took it upon myself that I was in nowhere near the shape I needed to be in (2020) fitness-wise,” he said.
“It was definitely a kick in the butt, even though I was playing okay in the bigger role. But I’m definitely excited to see how I go this year being in much better shape.”
Team success is at the forefront of both Beard’s hopes going into the new season, and while Justin views himself in a less offensive frame of mind on the court, he can’t wait to make a difference maker in close games.
”It’s probably gonna be a lesser role offensively this year with the crazy amount of talent we have once again, but I would much prefer to be the guy who guards the opposition’s best player,” he said.
“Hopefully in the final minutes of the game I get the role of guarding their best player. Team-wise it’s definitely championship or bust. Ryan (Petrik) and Warren (Boucaut) have done a great job of putting together another 5-star team, so I don’t see any other goal than winning the whole thing.”
“The team’s goal is always obvious, we’ve made some big time signings and we have some real good chemistry with the boys,” Callum said.
“On a personal level (my goal) is just to contribute as much as I can to the team and play the role I need to play.”