The Cockburn Cougars are back home at Wally Hagan Stadium on Friday night hosting the Perry Lakes Hawks as part of First Nations Round in the NBL1 West.
Round 13 in the NBL1 West competition is First Nations Round in conjunction with the celebration of NAIDOC Week meaning all clubs will be wearing specially designed Aboriginal themed uniforms to commemorate the occasion.
To coincide with that, a man with his own wonderful history and connection with Cockburn, Dr Richard Walley, has been heavily involved with the design of a special uniform that will be worn to celebrate the occasion.
To celebrate the 50-year history of the Cougar Family, the design of the 2022 First Nations uniform will feature 50 circles for each year of the association which includes 10 larger circles representing a player who has made a significant contribution along the journey.
That is made up of five men and five women, with the women represented by Nicole Roberts, Vanessa Michael, Lisa McLean, Fleur McIntyre and Vanessa Cahill.
The men represented in the design are current captain Gavin Field, games record holder Troy Clarke and Pete Stanley, Al Erickson and Walley himself.
It is a wonderful way to celebrate both the 50-year history of the Cougar Family and the contributions and significance of the First Nations people.
Walley himself has been a huge part of the 50 years of Cockburn basketball having spent a lifetime playing basketball at Wally Hagan Stadium which has now gone right through his family including his siblings, children, grandchildren, and nieces, nephews and their children.
He still plays on a Tuesday night every week at Wally Hagan Stadium and he takes great pride in the 50-year design he was able to help produce for the Cougars.
“It does mean a lot to do these designs and what it does, I love telling stories. When you look at clubs and organisations, they’ve all got stories and it’s good to capture those in an artform,” Walley said.
“When I work on any pieces, the story is already and it’s how we interpret it and this one here was an easy one to work with as far as inspiration goes because there’s 50 years of history. So I focused on creating 50 circles but it’s about what those circles actually mean.
“It means that we are actually entwined with each other so the years roll through, and the decades roll through. You have some very good years which make up the larger part of the circles and you have some challenging ones, and then you have the circles which represent collections of people coming together.
“Within any organisation or club, you’ve got the officials and committee and organisers, and all of those who do a lot of work behind the scenes that help those on the court do their thing. They don’t always get a lot of accolades but they are such an important part of any club so we like to take all of that into consideration.
“With this design, I was hoping to do that so that when you look at the decades that the association has been going, it goes right back to the district days to SBL and now to what we have today with NBL1.
“That transition was able to take place without any major change of philosophies or ethics of family connections here at Cockburn so that was very important for me to capture.”
While it’s a significant occasion to celebrate NAIDOC Week, they are two massive games as well for the Cougars up against the Hawks.
It begins with the Women’s clash with Cockburn coming into the game in sixth position in the NBL1 West standings at 7-5 while Perry Lakes sits eighth at 5-9.
The Cougars are looking to bounce back from a loss also at home last week against the undefeated Joondalup Wolves while the Hawks have also lost five in-a-row including last week against the Lakeside Lightning by 36 points.
That leads into the Men’s clash between two teams trying to consolidate their playoff positions and to remain in touch with the top four at the same time.
The Cougars come into the match up in sixth position on the table with an 8-6 record while the Hawks are also 8-6 and just percentage behind in seventh spot.
Cockburn is looking to hit back after losing at home to the Joondalup Wolves last week while Perry Lakes is fresh off a thrilling overtime victory against the Lakeside Lightning.
Any time the Hawks come to Wally Hagan Stadium it’s a significant moment given their coach Matt Parsons was the man who took the Cougars to the 2016 championship.
He has since gone on to win two more titles at the Hawks including last year’s triumph so Cougars coach Andrew Cooper is fully aware that not only Parsons presents as a coach, but his team featuring leaders Ryan Smith, Ben Purser and Rob Cassir, but also Andrew Ferguson and Jack Isenbarger.
“I know Matt Parsons well enough and I know that Perry Lakes group very well from over the last three or four years, and they will no doubt be ready to go,” Cooper said.
“Their season is sort of on the line and they are in that position where they want to get back to where they were after it’s been a bit of a tough time for them. They’ve had some changes and obviously with Isenbarger coming in that gives them another really good character guy, and an offensive threat.
“I know they will be up and about, and ready for it, and there’s no ifs, buts or maybes, our groups knows that after Joondalup the next three games are huge against Perry Lakes, Lakeside and Rockingham.
“These three games now that we lost to Joondalup are huge in the context of the season and I know that Perry Lakes are the sort of team who if you think they are down or you can walk over them, you’d be pretty stupid.
“Purser, Cassir and Smith as the leaders won’t just lie down and let you walk over them that’s for sure. It’s definitely going to be a big one at Wally Hagan and hopefully it should be a really good game.”
While Cooper is fully aware of the challenge that Perry Lakes presents as they come to Wally Hagan Stadium on Friday night, it’s just a big occasion for the Cougars no matter the opponent and one that the team needs to embrace.
“No disrespect to Perry Lakes, but it’s the same with anyone we’re playing. We don’t like losing at the best of times and certainly don’t like losing on our home court,” Cooper said.
“The performance we put out against Joondalup was one where we played probably 80 per cent of what we should do, and unfortunately that hurt us and we can’t afford to do that against Perry Lakes.
“It’s an important game for the context of the season and it doesn’t really matter who the opponent is, we just need to play well and to win.
“The hardest part for us is that it is Perry Lakes and they are in a similar situation to us. The skill sets are similar on both teams so it’s going to come down to who can make those big plays. We need to get it right this time because we can’t keep making those mistakes in the critical time.”