Easter Thursday night is always one of the highlights of any NBL1 West season and the Cockburn Cougars are at home in 2023 with the women looking to keep their hot start going against the Rockingham Flames with the men out to bounce back against the reigning champs.
The Cougars host the Flames on Thursday night at Wally Hagan Stadium in Round 2 of the NBL1 West season with the Wave FM Cup to be determined throughout the evening’s match ups between the southern rivals.
Doors open to Wally Hagan Stadium at 5.45pm with the women’s tip-off at 6.30pm followed by the men’s contest at 8.30pm.
The Cougars women couldn’t have possibly started the 2023 season more impressively or emphatically with Saturday night’s home win by 42 points against the Grand Finalists from last season, the Willetton Tigers.
Cockburn will now be looking to back that up again at home on Thursday night going into the Easter break against a Rockingham team who started last Friday evening with a first up loss also against the Tigers before also losing to the Joondalup Wolves on Saturday.
So with both teams having played Willetton in the opening round, it will be now be a fascinating match up on Thursday at Wally Hagan Stadium with the Cougars out to keep the momentum going, and the Flames to bounce back.
There was plenty to like in Saturday’s 97-55 win for Cockburn over Willetton with the three-point shooting continuing to be a focus and the Cougars went 17/50 as a team.
They also did well defensively holding the Tigers to 55 points on 25 per cent field shooting with new recruit Steph Gorman leading the charge at that end of the floor.
Meanwhile, Rockingham lost by nine points last Friday to Willetton and by 10 on Saturday to Joondalup meaning they come into the clash with the Cougars attempting to avoid starting the season 0-3.
Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites knows it’s going to be a significant challenge for his team even with the Flames not at full strength early in the season.
“We don’t take for granted the fact that we’ve got two home games to start the year,” Thwaites said.
“We’ve got two of our biggest rivals up front, which is nice, and this will be the only time we play Rocko this year and we’re going to face them when they are not quite at full strength. But you can only play who you can play, and we want to try take advantage of that.
“We do know they are going to be hungry to get the job done on Thursday night to avoid starting 0-3 to start the season so we’re not taking anything for granted. It’s great to have one first up win but you have to keep backing it up to be a real championship contender.
It’s a different story for the Cockburn men with the Cougars needing to bounce back from Saturday night’s horror show against the Willetton Tigers but facing the daunting task against the defending champion Rockingham Flames.
Willetton handed Cockburn a 111-69 hiding last Saturday night at Wally Hagan Stadium with Cougars coach Andrew Cooper savage on the lack of intensity and effort from his team throughout the contest.
That now can’t be replicated or things could get decidedly ugly this Thursday night against a Rockingham fresh off not only winning the NBL1 West championship in 2022, but also the National Championship.
The Flames started the 2023 season in ominous fashion in the opening round too beating both the Willetton Tigers and Joondalup Wolves with Devondrick Walker, Marshall Nelson, Tom Jervis, Ryan Godfrey and new import Jeremy Combs all leading the charge.
That provides Cockburn with the imposing task to attempt to bounce back on Thursday night, but ultimately coach Cooper will be judging his team on their effort and intensity levels.
“I don’t think we’ll have an issue with effort, but if we do then pending who those players are, then those conversations will certainly be had,” Cooper said.
“I’d like to think that the cobwebs are out now and in fairness to people like Courtney, we’d only had three hours with him on court and he had food poisoning all day Friday.
“But the thing is, this main group has been together for four years and there certainly shouldn’t be any of those excuses anyway for the performance we put in.”
Cooper will be challenging his players to make a statement this week on the back of what happened against Willetton, but ultimately he knows it’s going to be up to them to take stock and motivate themselves to bounce back.
“This is the gut check we’re going to have with the players this week,” Cooper said.
“We’re going to be spending a fair bit of time going over Saturday night’s game, there’s going to be conversations had with the playing group.
“I know there’s already been conversations had within the playing group themselves. I can almost guarantee that we won’t have the same lack of effort and intensity.
“We’ll still go in at 100 per cent knowing that if we play our best basketball we’re confident we can put up a good show, if not beat Rockingham. But our priority this week is on us and not Rockingham to be honest.”