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Cougars Preview | NBL1 West Round 5

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The Cockburn Cougars head south again on Saturday evening to take on the Rockingham Flames for two fascinating NBL1 West match ups.

Cockburn’s two road trips so far this season have been to the South West Slammers and Mandurah Magic, and now the Cougars head south again to play the Flames on Saturday.

The women’s contest featuring two unbeaten teams gets things underway at 6pm followed by the men’s match up at 8pm.


The Cockburn Cougars face the biggest test of their championship defence so far on Saturday evening when taking on the also undefeated Rockingham Flames on the road.

Both teams come into the Saturday match up at Mike Barnett Sports Complex undefeated so far in the 2024 season with the Flames having won their first six matches, with four of those at home, and the Cougars having won the first four since winning last year’s championship.

It’s a significantly new-look Rockingham team for 2024 with the arrival of coach Marcus Wong and signing of Alex Sharp, Georgia Pineau, Nes’eya Parker-Williams, Shani Amos, Jess Jakens, Sophie Doran, Emma Gandini, Opal Mader and up until last week, Sami Whitcomb.

That’s helped the Flames to those opening four wins of the season but things have been coming together nicely for Cockburn too in the first four victories despite not being at full strength at this point.

That sets the stage for potentially the match of the season so far on Saturday evening and Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites can’t wait for it, and is happy for everyone to be talking about Rockingham’s championship credentials.

“Everyone’s been talking about them through the off-season which for a team coming of a championship, there’s nothing better than the heat going somewhere else,” Thwaites said.

“It puts us back to underdog status which is where we live and breathe and thrive as a club.

“We’re very, very comfortable with that and to be honest, it’s like going back to playing in the Grand Final again with Doran, Jakens and Sharpy there.

“We know what to expect from them and Sami going out will change the dynamic a little bit, but they’re a very good team and will make the adjustments to find where those extra points come from.

“We’re looking forward to what will be a really fun game between two very good teams.”

While the Cougars will still not quite be at full strength with Jessie Edwards and Maria Blazejewski not there for Saturday’s match up, Israeli import Daniel Raber will be in the line-up for the first time.

“We expect Daniel to come straight in to give us a bit of toughness inside and help the growth of Harriet Ford, who has been really pleasing to open the season,” Thwaites added.

“We think we’ll get Chibba back as well which will be a nice back court to get out there with Kinley and Amelia off the bench for us.”

Cougars and Perth Lynx WNBL guard Steph Gorman is looking forward to taking on the Flames as well on Saturday night and another potential match up with two-time MVP Alex Sharp who she locked down in the second half of last year’s Grand Final.

“I think it’s always fun if people think you might be the underdogs and having that challenge to take on who people might think is the best team,” Gorman said.

“So I’m really excited for the game, they obviously have a really good roster and I think it’s going to be a good challenge and one that we’re definitely up for.”


The Cockburn Cougars men take on the Rockingham Flames on Saturday night with the chance presenting to make a statement of their intent for the rest of the 2024 season.

The Cougars have won two of the first four games of the season with encouraging signs in home wins over the Mandurah Magic and Eastern Suns, and then a couple of frustrating Friday night road losses to the Magic and the South West Slammers.

The next challenge for Cockburn comes this Saturday evening against a supremely talented Rockingham team looking to hit back from a first loss of the season themselves last week against the Willetton Tigers.

That sets up a tremendous match up for the Cougars and a significant challenge against the team that won the 2022 NBL1 West and National Championship before finishing in top spot last year before just missing the Grand Final and then also making the championship game at the National Finals.

Cougars coach Mark Clayden is fully aware of the challenge that Rockingham present for Saturday night’s match up, but he’s also looking forward to seeing how his team performs without the pressure of expectation hanging over them.

“The first four weeks we were hoping to be a little bit further ahead than where we are, but there’s been a lot of talk about needing to win this game or that game,” Clayden said.

“But I think anyone that’s smart says that the Rockingham boys are a long way ahead of us in relation to their team development, to their skill development and in a lot of ways we have a free hit this week. It’s as simple as that.

“The last couple of games we might have been expected to win but now we can go into this game with no expectations on us so we can just get back to training, get back to playing basketball and seeing if we can free a few people up without those expectations to win.

“The shoe’s on the other foot a little bit, but we know they are a great team with a core group who have been there a long time and Petrik is an exceptional coach with quality imports.

“We know it won’t be easy, but we’ll go down there and give it a crack, and that’s the culture we’re trying to build. Even in the games we’ve lost we haven’t thrown in the towel and that’s the most important thing we’re learning so far.”

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