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Cougars Preview | NBL1 West Round 3

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The Cockburn Cougars are back to Wally Hagan Stadium this Saturday evening with two fascinating match ups against the visiting Kalamunda Eastern Suns.

Steph Gorman will be returning to the Cougars line-up for the women’s match for the first time in 2024 while the Cockburn men will be attempting to bounce back from a disappointing loss last Friday night to the South West Slammers.

The women’s contest begins the evening at Wally Hagan Stadium with tip-off at 5.30pm with the men’s game to follow at 7.30pm.


The Cockburn Cougars are back to Wally Hagan Stadium on Saturday night looking to remain unbeaten but are expecting a stern test from the Kalamunda Eastern Suns.

The Cougars have started their championship defence in 2024 with victories at home to the Mandurah Magic and away to the South West Slammers by a combined 66 points.

That has been an impressive start with Cockburn having not been close to full strength either on both occasions, but that has allowed others more opportunities and also to bring in Alex Ciabattoni last week against the Slammers.

Now it’s Steph Gorman coming in to take on the Eastern Suns this Saturday night on the back of her WNBL season at the Perth Lynx.

The Cougars have won eight straight matches now dating back to the end of last season and the beginning of 2024, but the Suns will come into the match up boosted by last week’s 104-101 win at home against the East Perth Eagles.

The Suns are coming off their first loss of the season last week in a game featuring 205 points against the East Perth Eagles so that says it all about the potency they possess.

With some high calibre talent led by Tayjanna McGhee-Pleasant and Tiahna Sears supported by Tessa Marsh, Ashleigh Cole, Jaymee Firkins, Ella Fotu, Olivia Berry and Mackenzie Taylor, and the Cougars certainly won’t be taking them lightly.

“You probably disregard Week 1 for them with most of their team not there, so even myself, I had a quick scan over it and disregarded it pretty quickly,” Thwaites said.

“They’ve got the right mix of guards now and they were smart enough to bring in a guard-forward McGhee-Pleasant, and Tiahna Sears is a rock solid pick=up.

“Obviously we’re not taking anything for granted, but I think anyone who looks at Kalamunda and thinks that they can base their assessment off round 1 would be silly.

“I think they probably surprised a few teams on the weekend, it will be a nice test for us before we head into a pretty big stretch of games over the next month.”

Thwaites is also excited to bring in Gorman for her first appearance of the 2024 season on the back of how influential she was last year in the championship triumph, and then went on to be in the WNBL at the Lynx.

Gorman went on to be the league’s Best Defensive Player in 2023 before winning the Grand Final MVP award and then transferring that into playing a key role for the Lynx in their run all the way to the WNBL Grand Final.

Having her back is easy to understand why Thwaites is so excited and especially to see how she works in the back court alongside Jewel Williams and Alex Ciabattoni.

“We’re really excited to bring Steph in. We have been careful to deload her and carefully ramp back up again after she was battling a couple of niggles through the WNBL season,” Thwaites said.

“She trained last week but we weren’t going to risk too much, too early, and she’s trained again this week, so it will be the first time we’ll get that trio of backcourt in action.

“It might be a little bit rusty to start with, but the IQ between those three is going to be ridiculous. And to have our No. 1 defensive stopper roll out on the floor and have Jaya Scafidi complementing her is a really nice place to be in.”


Bouncing back strongly is on the minds of the Cockburn Cougars men ahead of hosting the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Wally Hagan Stadium on Saturday night.

The Cougars did start the 2024 season strongly with the 103-91 home victory against the Mandurah Magic, but last Friday night against the South West Slammers never went to plan.

Whether it was going down to Eaton Recreation Centre on a Friday night or whatever it was, but there was a flatness to the Cougars even during the warm up and then throughout the game, but the Slammers also played well to come away with the deserved 89-77 victory.

That was a tough loss for Cockburn to take early in the season made worse with an ankle injury to seven-time club MVP Gavin Field with 276-game veteran Seva Chan still on the sidelines.

There were some positives including a breakout performance from new Kiwi signing Riley Bensemann who had 13 points and five rebounds while new import centre Demetris Morant also got his first game under his belt.

However, the Cougars will be looking for better performances right across the board ahead of taking on an Eastern Suns team looking for their first win of the season.

The Suns have lost their opening two matches at home to the Perry Lakes Hawks and East Perth Eagles, but it’s a team not short on talent or experience and is well coached by former 422-game NBL player Aaron Trahair.

It’s a Kalamunda team with great experience from Rob Huntington, Seb Salinas, Reece Maxwell and Brendan Dinardo topped off with New Zealander Jack Exeter, gun Bryan Michaels, import Marek Nelson and another new signing on the way.

You only need to look back to the remarkable game that the Cougars played with the Eastern Suns at Wally Hagan Stadium to close the 2023 regular season to have a glimpse at what is possible when these two teams together.

Now Saturday night back in the same building looms as a nother fascinating match up and while there’ll be no complacency whatsoever from Cougars coach Mark Clayden or his team, he’s expecting a strong response to last Friday night’s loss.

“You just look at whenever Suns play Cockburn they seem to lift a gear and there’s been some pretty incredible games,” Clayden said.

“I remember even going back when I was working with Coops that twice when we went out there to play them they beat us even when they only won a few games so there’s definitely a bit of a history there.

“They seem to have the wood over us at the moment and they got us in pre-season as well which was another flat performance from us. We’re not underestimating them at all and we need to come out and get prepared the best we can.

“There’s talk about their new import arriving this week as well so that’s an extra thing to think about but with the experience they have with Seb, Rob and Reece they will be organised and Trahair has been doing this stuff long enough that he well and truly knows what he’s doing.”

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