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MacLean hoping Lynx win after seeing Cougars breakthrough

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Seeing the Cockburn Cougars breakthrough for a first ever women’s NBL1 championship last season was a huge thrill for Lisa MacLean and now she is ready to see another WNBL title come the way of the Perth Lynx.

MacLean was part of the first and only championship that the Perth team has won in the WNBL back in the 1992 season when they were known as the Breakers.

She would go on to have both a standout SBL (now NBL1 West) and WNBL career and now fresh off seeing the Cougars breakthrough in 2023 and being back involved coaching at Cockburn, she’s ready to see another title on the national stage come west.

MacLean is rightfully proud of what that Breakers team did to win a WNBL championship in 1992, but 32 years later and she’s more than ready to see another group of Perth players join that group as title winners.

“I think it’s definitely time, 32 years is obviously a long time and that was the first and last time that we’ve actually won it,” MacLean said.

“I know that during my period of playing, I played in two other Grand Finals and in ’93 we lost by one point which was quite a heartbreaker to Sydney over there.

“Then in ’98/99 we lost to the AIS too and that was a team that had players like Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor, Suzy Batkovic and it was just one of those years where that crop of AIS girls was incredible.

“I know that the girls made a Grand Final two years ago and had the chance to win at home in that second game, and couldn’t quite do it. But hopefully they can do it this time and 1992 was a long time ago now so I definitely think it’s time to have another championship that’s for sure.”

Can the Lynx get the job done

It’s remarkable to think that the last WNBL Grand Final that MacLean played in featured Lauren Jackson on the opposition. She will still be out there on Thursday night for Game 2 of the Grand Final Series at Bendat Basketball Centre playing for the Southside Flyers.

With a player like her in the opposition, MacLean knows that the Lynx will have to produce another brilliant performance if they want to close out the championship, but she’s hoping they can get the job done on their home floor.

“Obviously on Sunday they just absolutely shot the lights out and if they can do that again then I don’t think it would matter who they are playing,” MacLean said.

“They just seem to have so much confidence in themselves and their shots, and Ryan as the coach has given them the all clear to shoot the ball if they are open.

“Hopefully that happens again but I’m sure that Southside will come out after having their tails between their legs after that loss on Sunday. They’ve got some superstars and you only have to look at Jackson so I’m sure they will come out firing as well.

“I hope it’s a good game but of course I hope it’s not close and that we win by a bit of a margin which would be nice. I’m excited for the girls more than anything because I know the hard work it takes to get to this position and it doesn’t happen every year that’s for sure.”

Special bond with that championship team

That bond with the championship team of 1992 will last a lifetime and MacLean is looking forward to seeing the likes of Tanya Fisher, Maryanne Briggs, Liza Dagostino and Natasha Bargeus there on Thursday night.

There’s still that connection with the likes of Tully Bevilaqua, Clare Hotchin, Katrine Linnsen, Robyn Maher, Michelle Timms, Lisa Townsend and Lara Webb too. MacLean has embraced the chance for them to all talk leading into the championship chance even if it’s in a group chat.

“We do still keep in contact as much as we can via social media and things like that so that’s been great, and we’ve had a group chat going in the last couple of weeks leading up to this talking about if this might really be the year,” MacLean said.

“And goodness gracious, one of the things we’ve mentioned is that nobody in this team was even born when we won that championship back in ’92. That made us feel a little bit old but we do stay in contact and some of them live over in Victoria or different places so they can’t be here for this game.

“Then Lara Webb is over in the US as well but thankfully because of social media we’ve been able to stay in contact and catch up when we can. It’s good to at least have that.

“Obviously that Grand Final team was extra special, but when you toil away with such hard for a number of years, you remember all those teammates you had and cherish those memories and enjoy staying in touch with anyone you played with.”

Couple of Cougars players with the chance at glory

There’s a strong Cockburn connection in this Lynx team too attempting to win the championship on Thursday night.

Steph Gorman moved to Western Australia to play with the Cougars last NBL1 West and became a key player in the championship triumph ending up being named Grand Final MVP and being the league’s Best Defensive Player.

She’s taken that into her rookie WNBL season and been a key contributor for the Lynx while new Cougars signing Alex Ciabattoni has returned to the court as a mother to continue her WNBL career, and been pivotal in Perth’s success.

While it’s a little different of a setup to what it was like when MacLean was juggling playing for the Cougars and the Breakers in the WNBL, she’s proud to see Cockburn players performing so well.

“Steph Gorman is going to have had quite a 12 months really. She was part of that first Cockburn win last year and now if she can get this it would be incredible,” she said.

“For me it was a bit different because the seasons were going at the same time, they didn’t roll one into the other. So when I was playing SBL the WNBL was running together with it so I played when we didn’t have a game or weren’t travelling.

“That was a juggle in itself fitting in playing at two clubs while holding down a full-time job but that’s just what you did.

“I had played for Cockburn since 1985 but these girls have it much better now where they have their WNBL season and can then go straight into their NBL1 season even if it’s without much of a break.

“What an achievement it would be for Steph to win an NBL1 championship and if she’s able to get a WNBL one too. It would be pretty special, she might get a bit too used to winning titles after moving over here.”

What was it like seeing Cougars win championship

Even before there was an official SBL competition, MacLean was honing her craft with the Cougars and then she was part of Cockburn for that inaugural 1989 season.

She would go on to play with the Cougars for those first four SBL seasons too and the club has always had a special place in her heart naturally, and seeing them win that maiden championship last year was quite the experience.

“It was so exciting and even more so because we’d just had the 30-year anniversary celebrations so lots of my old past teammates came to that,” MacLean said.

“Now that I’m also back involved down there coaching juniors as well, of course it was a big buzz. It’s also giving the young girls something to strive for as well that this is what you can do if you put your work in and get up to NBL1 level, and what a Grand Final win looks like.

“Willetton’s always been a bit of an arch-rival of ours too so that probably made it even better to beat them in the Grand Final.

“It was an immense occasion and I did make some Grand Finals when I was playing for Cockburn but we never got the title so to get that first women’s championship was pretty special. It was good to be on the sideline watching it.”

Enjoying being back involved at Cockburn

After a bit of a break from the sport, MacLean is also loving every part of being back involved at Cockburn in a coaching capacity in the WABL now too.

“It is good and I sort of got back involved through friends who had a daughter who decided she wanted to play basketball,” MacLean said.

“It was going down to watch her play that gave me that taste of wanting to get back involved again and spread on some of my experience and teach the young girls something if I can.

“For me it was time to get back involved and do some coaching. I was doing domestic and assistant coach at WABL, and now I’m coaching my own WABL 16s girls team and it’s good. Just to try and get the girls’ skill level and basketball brain going is what you try to do and it’s nice to see those rewards as they improve along the way.”

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