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Cougars move earns Gorman dream WNBL chance

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Not only has Steph Gorman’s move to the NBL1 West to play with the Cockburn Cougars brought the best out of her basketball, it’s reignited her love of the game and she’s excited to be rewarded with a Perth Lynx contract to begin her WNBL career.

Gorman had never been to Perth before she arrived ahead of the 2023 NBL1 West season after signing with the Cougars, but it’s now proved the best decision she’s made in her life on a number of fronts.

Firstly in terms of her basketball, Gorman is having a brilliant season with a Cougars team that holds a perfect 10-0 record where she has become the leading candidate for the Best Defensive Player award for the continued brilliance she’s producing at that end of the floor.

Gorman is also contributing strongly up the other end and is putting up 16.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game including a best of 28 points and 10 boards against the second placed Joondalup Wolves where she also did the job guarding Robbi Ryan.

The whole experience of joining the Cougars has reignited Gorman’s love of basketball too which had been flagging a little after she returned from her college career at the University of San Diego, and began playing in the NBL1 at the Albury-Wodonga Bandits, and then Ballarat Miners.

The move west has not only been great for her basketball, but she is loving the lifestyle too and she better because she’s now going to be staying a lot longer having signed at the Perth Lynx for the 2023/24 WNBL season.

“I actually am loving living in Perth so much so that works out well too. Perth is a really good place so I’m more than happy to stay here a bit longer,” Gorman said.

“What we’ve created at Cockburn especially is just a really fun environment to be part of. Obviously we take our basketball seriously, but we don’t take it too seriously at the same time and make sure we have fun with it, and joke around. I think that’s what has created that love for the game again for me.”

Gorman’s move west to join the Cougars was all about the goal of improving her game to continue her growth and development as well as trying to help the Cockburn women make history in chasing down that elusive first championship.

At 10-0, the Cougars couldn’t be going better as a team and Gorman couldn’t be playing much better either.

To be noticed by Lynx coach Ryan Petrik, and offered a WNBL contract, is something she’s still pinching herself about.

“I think it was definitely there in the back of my mind when I came over here,” she said.

“My No. 1 focus was to just enjoy the season and to do what I could for Cockburn, and put all my focus on that. By doing that, that’s what has created this opportunity for me that I’ve been lucky to be given.

“I’m pretty stoked to be honest and it’s actually a bit surreal right now. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet and it probably won’t until we actually get to practice, and all of the girls start getting together. But I think it’s a pretty unreal opportunity and I can’t wait for it. To get the call up for my rookie season and to get that opportunity, it doesn’t get much more exciting than that.”

While Gorman has proven herself a strong offensive weapon too for the Cougars, it’s at the defensive end where she has truly shone.

She has been a key reason why the Cougars are only conceding 65.8 points a game this season, and has no doubt that’s crucial to the success they are having.

“Defensively is definitely what gets us going on both ends of the floor, if that makes sense,” Gorman said.

“When things aren’t flowing so well offensively, we knuckle down on defence and know that it will end up creating opportunities for us offensively. That’s why it’s such a big part of our game at the moment.”

The best part about Gorman as a defender is the variety of players that coach Tyrone Thwaites can give her the challenge of going out there to guard.

Just last Saturday night and she was given the job on Australian Opals forward Darcee Garbin, the week before that and it WNBL import point guard Robbi Ryan. Going back through the season it’s included Sylwia Bujniak, Mikayla Pirini, Caitie Jones and Tayah Burrows.

She looks forward to the challenges each week and for this weekend’s double-header, it’s likely former Cougar Kat Tudor from the Mandurah Magic on Friday night, and then reigning MVP Stacey Barr from the Warwick Senators on Saturday she’ll be challenged to quieten.

“I’m excited for each one this weekend. I try to improve each week and it’s always a different challenge so it’s fun to get ready for each one,” she said.

“I think it’s fun to take on those challenges. Defence is what I pride my game on and it’s what gets me going offensively and in every other way too. I think it’s just fun being able to try to take on the opposition’s best players and focus in on those tasks every week.”

To watch the Cougars team so far over the opening 10 games of the 2023 season and they are playing so well together as a team where they are willing to sacrifice for one another to put the team first.

Even though Gorman, Jewel Williams, Jessie Edwards and Sarah Mortensen have all had some huge individual performances, nothing they do individually takes away from the good of the team as a whole, which is what Gorman is enjoying so much.

“I think our chemistry is definitely amazing and I don’t think I’ve ever played on a team that has such great chemistry. We all play for each other and we’re all team players, and no one is really just looking for theirs,” Gorman said.

“We’re all just looking to get wins and we’re doing whatever we can to help us do that. No one is worried about stats or their scoreline or anything like that. We’re all just focused on getting the win and doing whatever we can to personally help reach that goal.”

Any time you go on a winning streak like the Cougars are currently on it brings up the old question of whether or not it’s a good thing to drop a game along the way to ease the pressure of continuing the streak.

However, for Gorman and the Cougars, they won’t be thinking about that, and instead will just be focused on continuing to get better every week.

“I think our attitude moving forward is just to keep bettering ourselves in any way we can,” Gorman said.

“Obviously we want to keep getting the wins, but it’s more about working on our game and getting better every game to put our best foot forward. So it’s not that we’re focused on the winning streak, we just want to keep getting better and hopefully that does mean we don’t lose at the same time.

“We don’t necessarily need to have that loss or anything, but what we’re focused on is getting better game in and game out. That’s what is important to us.”

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