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Field excited for Cougars prospects in his last season

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His teammates might still not believe him, but Gavin Field has made it clear this NBL1 West season is his last with the Cockburn Cougars and while it’s in his own softly spoken way, he can’t hide his excitement over what the 2024 team could do.

Field played the 318th game of his remarkable Cougars career in Thursday night’s season-opening win against the Mandurah Magic at Wally Hagan Stadium, and that was an evening that backed up a lot of the excitement over what he was feeling coming into the 2024 campaign.

With two children at home with wife Audrey, his commitments as a school teacher and having played basketball his whole life, the 34-year-old knew that time was running out on his career at least at NBL1 level and he didn’t want it to catch him unawares.

That’s why he wanted to make that decision before his final season even started so that he could embrace every part of it along the journey, but ultimately at the end of the day winning is what matters and he has great confidence in what this Cockburn team will be capable of.

What this team is capable of

While Field did want to be able to embrace one last season of a career at SBL/NBL1 level that began officially in 2007, but really he’s spent a lifetime around the Cougars and at Wally Hagan Stadium, he also wanted to be part of a team that was a genuine contender again too.

There’s every reason to suggest that is capable of happening too just purely based on the personnel which starts with not only Field coming back in 2024, but Seva Chan, Josh Hunt, Nathan Pond, Hayden Bell and Charlie Dimmock all back again.

Matt Clifford is also back after a year away and then there’s the new additions Rhys Vague, Hunter Clarke, Kyle Armour and Demetris Morant, and there’s every reason for Field to be excited about what the Cougars of 2024 will be capable of.

“It is actually quite exciting because we are a lot deeper than we’ve been for a long time,” Field said.

“There’s five or six starting line-ups that we could put out there that theoretically could work depending on how you wanted to do it, and it will be interesting how we finish games.

“In the pre-season, we had three games and finished each one of them with a different line-up depending on what was going on, who was going on and what not. So it just gives that little bit of an added dimension rather than knowing what is going to happen and we don’t have that flexibility.

“I also feel a lot more comfortable actually calling for a sub where in days gone past I felt like I needed to always be out there for us to be doing well.

“I don’t have that feeling on this team and if I come out I have full faith in my teammates, and that also works with the frenetic pace we want to play at especially on the defensive end.

“It’s pretty exciting knowing how many bodies we have available to throw out there and we’ll only get better as we get used to playing with each other.”

Strong leadership group leading the way

Another aspect that has Field excited about the 2024 season is that there is a strong leadership group including himself, Chan, Armour and Clarke, and not only are they all good leaders, but all go about it in such different ways.

That’s something that has Field confident that they have every area covered including that relationship with new coach Mark Clayden and assistant Grant Davey, which has him feeling good they are all going to get the best out of one another.

“There’s just more different personalities within the group now and in a meeting with our leadership group Grant Davey put it perfectly by saying that we have four leaders, and all four of us have different personalities and different ways of being a leader,” Field said.

“I like that we’ve now got that because we can go about doing things our own way and as a combination we have every area covered, and we can all focus on doing things what we’re comfortable with.

“We’re all meshing well and in the end we’re all going for the same goal, and are pushing for the one thing which is team success and there’s no egos getting in the way.

“We just all want to be doing what’s best for the team and there’s already been times we’ve gone to the coaches to talk about things that aren’t working, and they are trusting us to make some decisions on what we feel comfortable with, which is good.”

Different feeling entering last season

Everything Field is doing now he is doing for the last time. His last pre-season is done, his last season launch is done and now his first season-opener is in the books.

However, being on a farewell tour is the last thing Field is interested in and he’s just going to be taking everything as it comes, but changing his mind isn’t likely going to happen either.

“I keep joking with the guys and say that anytime we do anything it’s my last whether it’s the season launch, last pre-season game or whatever it is,” he said.

“I think they’re still in denial about it and think they’ve got a whole season still to convince me otherwise, especially Kyle Armour who is trying my hardest to get me to change my mind. But for me it’s just like normal right now and there’s no real feeling about how I’m doing things for the last time.

“I’m just focused each game as they come and when it gets closer to the end of the season, and closer to that last game, then it will be different, but right now it’s just another first game of the season for me.”

Playing at this level with Kyle Armour

Another fascinating aspect of the 2024 season for Field is getting to play as a teammate at this level with Armour for the first time.

Their careers have run parallel in so many ways with both growing up playing against one another as juniors, both going to college and then returning home to be development players at the Perth Wildcats.

They were NBL teammates for the 2012/13 season and now for the last decade have been rivals at SBL/NBL1 level often with Field’s Cougars up against Armour playing either at local rivals Willetton or Lakeside.

However, their relationship goes beyond that as rivals and they have spent time in off-seasons playing together, and Field couldn’t be happier to now have the championship winning point guard out on there on his team this year.

“We’ve played against each other since we were seven or eight or whenever it was and going through all the way to under-14s and 16s, and we have played a little bit together in the off-season,” Field said.

“Like in the Cockburn league, we’ve played the last few seasons on a team together and having someone like him around this season is great. He’s just a bundle of energy as anyone who knows Kyle will be well aware of, and he keeps working and works so hard, and has a lot of experience.

“That’s made it a lot easier on me because another one who will speak up at training saying what we need to do, and he doesn’t mind having that role.

“Because we have played together before and obviously against each other so much, we kinda know how each other plays and have that familiarity with each other. It’s been good bringing him and it’s very good to have him on the team.”

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