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Cougars legend Field to play one final season

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Gavin Field is already a Cockburn Cougars legend and has decided that the 2024 NBL1 West season will be his last, but the last thing he wants is it to be a farewell tour and instead will want to savour every moment knowing he’s experiencing everything one final time.

Field basically grew up at Wally Hagan Stadium and was always destined to pull on a Cougars uniform once he was old enough to do so, and he has been able to put together the most remarkable of careers.

He did attend the University of West Georgia and did spend a season in the NBL at the Perth Wildcats, but it’s at the Cockburn Cougars where he has made a lasting legacy and put together a career for the ages.

Field has now won seven MVP awards for the Cougars including this past 2023 NBL1 West season highlighting what a remarkable impact he’s had over the course of his 316-game, championship winning career.

However, at 33 years of age and now a husband to Audrey and father to Iris and Wesley, he knows that he can’t continue to dedicate so much time and effort into basketball along with his working life as a teacher.

Basketball would have to give way to committing more time to family eventually and Field has decided that after the 2024 season the timing is right to do that, but now he wants to embrace everything that is to come over the next 12 months.

Deciding that it would be one last season

Field knew that time was ticking on his playing career while his two young children continued to grow and it was getting harder and harder to juggle basketball with working as a teacher and family life.

However, he had always felt like he wanted to go into a season knowing it would be his last instead of making a hasty decision after a season was over or waiting until a coach or his body made the decision for him.

That’s why he’s now content knowing that the 2024 season for the Cougars will be his last and he can’t wait to savour every moment even if they are usually things or places he doesn’t ordinarily enjoy.

“It is a strange feeling knowing it’s going to be my last season going into next year,” Field said.

“I made the decision about four weeks to go in the season just gone that I would go for one more and it would be my last mainly just with family and wanting to spend some more time with my children.

“It is kind of weird thinking that it’s going to my last pre-season and it’s going to be kind of a sweet ride going to the places that I don’t really like to play for the last time.

“Knowing it’s going to be my last time doing all those things and savouring those moments will make this season that much sweeter I think to experience.”

Field has spoken with retiring Cougars women’s captain Kirsty Whitfield who made the same decision that 2023 would be her last too, and the advice she gave was to embrace every moment because you know all the experiences could be for one last time.

“Just from talking to KP about last season and she had the same feeling of wanting to savour every moment even the hard moments in pre-season or training when things aren’t going too well,” he said.

“You still are in the mindset that this is the last season so I better enjoy every moment or it’s going to be pointless. I do think it will make everything a bit sweeter and I always thought I would do it this way going into a season making the decision that it would be my last one.

“I wanted to do that for myself rather than having it forced on me or I guess having my body make the decision for me. I always wanted to do that and I feel this is the right time for me, and also for the club to be able to move forward.”

Dreaming of a similar farewell to KP

Not only has Field taken advice from Whitfield on how to approach things in your final season, but the template is there about what a dream farewell looks like after she became a championship winning captain in her last ever NBL1 West game for the Cougars.

While that’s the dream scenario for Field to look forward to happening too, at the end of the day he will just embrace whatever next season throws at him and make the most of every moment.

“About 95 per cent of athletes would lose their last game or if you do win it to end a season, that meant you didn’t make finals so you don’t really want to be in that situation,” Field said.

“So for KP to have the perfect finish winning a championship is such a rare thing and I was so happy for her. I’ve known Kirsty since she was born basically, we’re family friends from a long way back and our nannas actually lived across the road from each other.

“So we’ve grown up together and to have that moment would be ideal as a way to end, but who knows what is to come ahead. It’s nice to dream of that though.”

Knowing that the timing is right

A lot of factors have gone into Field knowing this is the right time to decide to end his career in 2024. One of those is the fact that he hopes he still go out playing at a high level, and knowing it’s not because his form or body has forced his hand.

Factor in the desire to spend more time with his family and at home, and it just made all the sense in the world to make sure that his career would be over once the final buzzer sounds on 2024.

“In a way because I’ve been playing at such a high level and been such an integral part of the team for however many years, it would have been weird and different to take a backward step,” Field said.

“I think I would be OK with that, but I don’t know until I’m in that situation. So I wanted to go out on my own terms when I feel like I’m ready and the timing is right in terms of my life. It’s not basketball that’s forcing me to retire, it’s just about wanting to spend more time with my family.

“My daughter is going into kindy next year and I want to be able to be there reading books to her at night, and helping her through everything.

“So the time is right for me to be a bit less selfish and be home more for my family, so that’s why the timing is right. If I can still go out playing good basketball for one more season and am helping the team win games, then that’s the way I would want it to be.”

Wanting to finish knowing it will be last season

While Field still played at an impressive level with the Cougars in 2023 and won a seventh club MVP award, it wasn’t the season that anyone involved at Cockburn hoped from a men’s perspective.

There were plenty of reasons for that and frustratingly losing tight games and having precious few occasions with a full roster available made it a challenge, and ultimately they just fell short of making the finals.

Field also had a late injury that he battled through and on the back of that he wasn’t sure if the time might be right to make that his last season and retire immediately.

However, the more people he spoke with and then ultimately his wife made the case that he owed it to himself to go into next season knowing it’s his last, and give it his all.

“In all honesty, I was close to deciding to finish at the end of this season because it was a tough year on a number of fronts,” Field said.

“I tried to take out all of that with the injuries and everything as much as I could, but it was also thinking about my family so I spoke to as many people as I could about it like Carlin Hughes.

“I spoke to basketball people first and then I spoke to my wife, and basically her advice was that if I could still physically do it, I would regret not doing it for one more year. That made my decision and I was always thinking about wanting to enjoy that last season.

“Some guys have mentioned I just want a Kobe farewell tour, but that’s the last thing I want. I want to just enjoy my last season knowing everything I do I’ll be doing it for the last time, and then I can savour all those moments because I won’t get them back and I’ll enjoy them as they come.”

Looking ahead to 2024 season

Now going into his last season and while he will still be there and so will long-time teammate Seva Chan, it’s the beginning of a new era in a lot of ways for the Cougars with Mark Clayden taking over as coach.

No matter what the season has in store, Field will be doing everything he can to help the Cougars win as many games as possible like he always has and just let the rest fall however it does.

“Obviously I had no say in that decision to have a new coach or anything, but in the talks with Claydo over the last couple of weeks and we won’t be trying to change things too much,” Field said.

“Obviously there’ll be some player personnel that will be different like every season, but in terms of the roles of people and everything, we’ll keep things similar. Talking with the majority of guys, they are keen to come back for next season unless something magical comes up.

“Seva called me the day that it happened to ask if I was playing on and as soon as I said yes, he said he was too. Unfortunately no matter the situation, change is constant in a basketball association and club so no matter what we would never have the same team next year.

“Going through my career, I couldn’t tell you how many teammates I’ve had and name them because there’s so much fluctuation from year to year. As a player you just learn to adapt and make the best of what you can do of that situation, which is what I’ll do for one more season.”

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