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Cougars Preview | NBL1 West Round 6

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A string of double-headers for the Cockburn Cougars begins this weekend starting at home to the South West Slammers and ending with a big Saturday away to Willetton with significant milestones for two veteran point guards.

The Cougars have three consecutive double-header weekends that starts in Round 6 of the NBL1 West season and first up is hosting the South West Slammers at Wally Hagan Stadium on Friday night. The women’s clash begins at 6.30pm followed by the men’s at 8.30pm.

Then next up is a trip to take on old rivals the Willetton Tigers at Willetton Basketball Stadium on Saturday. It starts with a women’s Grand Final rematch at 5pm followed by the men’s clash at 7pm.

The night will also be special for two Cockburn point guards with Taryn Priestly to celebrate her 200th game to earn life membership with the Cougars while Kyle Armour will be playing his 300th SBL/NBL1 West game.

WOMEN

The double-header for the Cockburn Cougars women begins with a home clash with the bottom placed South West Slammers before a Grand Final rematch with the Willetton Tigers.

Fresh off winning last year’s championship, the Cougars won the opening four games of 2024 but had a slip up on the road to the undefeated Rockingham Flames last Saturday to now be 4-1 coming into this weekend.

That begins on Friday night against the Slammers at Wally Hagan Stadium with the chance for the Cougars to continue to work on finding their groove and being closer to full strength with everyone expected to be available aside from Maria Blazejewski.

While the Cougars have won eight straight over the Slammers by an average of 56 points and South West are on a 38-game losing streak overall, there’ll be no complacency from Cockburn or coach Tyrone Thwaites.

The Slammers do still have a team with import Yasmeen Smith, Cougars championship winner Zaya Black, returning 213-game veteran and prolific scorer Courtney Bayliss, and some good young talent.

So Thwaites won’t be taking them lightly and will want to take plenty out of the match up.

“We will use it as a really good opportunity to build some cohesion and find our identity after a week where we probably didn’t have that with some different players out on the floor,” Thwaites said.

“That’s what we’ll use it for and we don’t take anything for granted. They might be battling a little bit, but we’ll use it as a chance to hone in on getting our identity right on Friday night.”

Then following that game at home on Friday night, the Cougars will turn their attention to the Grand Final rematch on the road to the Tigers on Saturday.

Any Cockburn match up with Willetton has added feeling given they are local rivals, but coming off playing in last year’s Grand Final where the Cougars were able to create history and this contest has that bit of extra feeling.

Both teams will be looking to make a statement too with Cockburn looking to show that last week’s loss to Rockingham was just a slip up but Willetton is starting to build some momentum too on the back of wins last week over the Eastern Suns and East Perth Eagles.

It’s a new-look Tigers team for 2024 but they will unveil new import Jillian Archer this weekend and with Claire and Amy Jacobs along with Perth Lynx development player Grace Foster, import centre Melisa Brcaninovic, and captain Desiree Kelley, and they are still a team that should be a contender.

Cougars coach Tyrone Thwaites is fully aware of the test they will be for his team and he’s looking forward to how they take it on while also celebrating the 200 games of Taryn Priestly that sees her earn life membership with Cockburn.

“It will be a nice little test for us. We know they will be raring to go and it will be a massive crowd, and it’s always a big game when we go across the freeway to play them,” Thwaites said.

“We expect them to have their new import, Jillian Archer, and she looks really nice and we know the Jacobs twins are starting to play really good basketball.

“They are the type of team who are hard to beat when they build some momentum so it’s a nice challenge for us on the back of last week. We have to make sure we find our feet, get back to playing our way and if we do, then hopefully we take care of it.”

MEN

The Cockburn Cougars are looking to get back on the winner’s list and face two significant tests at home to the South West Slammers and away to the red hot Willetton Tigers.

The Cougars come into Round 6 with a 2-3 record on the season so far with wins at home against the Mandurah Magic and Eastern Suns while losing on the road – ironically all down south to the Rockingham Flames, Magic and South West Slammers.

The double-headers now begin this Friday night with the Cougars hosting the Slammers at Wally Hagan Stadium with a measure of revenge on their mind.

Not only did the Cougars lose at Eaton Recreation Centre to the Slammers back in Round 2 this season, but also late last season which cost them any chance of staying in playoff contention.

Cockburn did plenty right last week especially to hold a potent Rockingham team to 83 points, but scoring wasn’t as easy as the Cougars would have liked and the focus will be on finding more offensive flow this weekend.

While the Cougars are fully aware of the threat presented by the Slammers led by Buay Tuach, coach Mark Clayden hopes they can hit back and square the ledger at 3-3 before heading to Willetton on Saturday.

That clash with the Tigers sees the Cougars take on a team now on a five-game winning streak including having handed Rockingham its lone loss of the season so far.

Clayden is fully aware of how tough, deep and talented Willetton is led by Michael Vigor, Damien Scott and Andrew Black while having now added Marshall Nelson, Michael Dupree and Deng Gak along with the emerging young pair Josh Ibukunoluwa and Roosevelt Williams.

Clayden is looking forward to seeing how the Cougars will step up this weekend.

“Starting with the Slammers, we got to learn firsthand what they are capable of. I think we got them on the first game where they started to step it up and we certainly won’t be underestimating them at all,” Clayden said.

“They’ve got one of the MVP candidates obviously with Buay down there, he’s amazing, and he’s just a perfect prototypical basketballer. He plays offence, he plays defence and if he’s not on his game, he just adjusts and makes everyone around him even better.

“So we’ll be ready to go for them on Friday and we’ll come into the game with a little bit more confidence hopefully for Saturday. Willo is going to be a good test and there’s obviously that nice natural rivalry there between the two clubs.

“It’s similar to how we looked at the Rockingham game, we’ve got nothing to lose here so let’s just go play and see what happens. Obviously we walk out of his weekend at 2-5 it’s a bit of a tough position to be in, so we need to try to avoid that and put our best foot forward to have a good weekend.”

Saturday night is also a significant occasion for new Cougars point guard Kyle Armour who will play the 300th game of his decorated career, and it just happens to be against the team he started his career with.

“We talked about that when we first signed Kyle and a couple of days letter he’d already pencilled that date in to go back to Willo and to play his 300th game,” Clayden said.

“We know exactly what it means for him and it’s a great acknowledgement of the warrior that he’s been for a number of teams, and no one in the league has a bad word to talk about Kyle.

“He might have played for a few teams, but wherever he’s been he has made an impact and the people he’s played with he’s left an impact with. He has left a mark wherever he’s been so we hope to help him celebrate on Saturday night.”

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