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Round 1 NBL1 West Recap – Cougars men embarrassed by season-opener

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There was no hiding from what Cockburn Cougars coach Andrew Cooper labelled as an embarrassing season-opening loss to the Willetton Tigers and he’s vowed to make it a priority to not happen again.

Coming off a top four finish last season and having a full roster available for the season-opener on Saturday night, even if the pre-season preparation had been slightly disjointed, there was nothing to prepare Cooper for what his team was about to dish up on Saturday night at Wally Hagan Stadium.

Rightfully, Cockburn had high expectations of a strong start to the season but it wasn’t to be with Willetton imposing its will on the contest from the outset with 31 points to 15 in the opening quarter.

It only got worse from there for the Cougars and with current, former and future NBL players Gorjok Gak, Mark Worthington, Josh Ibukunoluwa, Huter Clarke and Damien Scott leading the charge, the Tigers romped to the eventual 111-69 victory.

There virtually wasn’t a single positive for the Cougars to take from the game and while the shooting of 33.8 per cent from the field and going 4/24 from downtown wasn’t great, the problems ran deeper in Cooper’s eyes.

He simply felt there was no effort or intensity from his team, highlighted by giving up 111 points on 54.3 per cent shooting for Willetton along with being outrebounded 57 to 36.

Cooper didn’t mince his words upon reflection.

“There’s certainly no excuses for the performance we put in and to be honest, it was embarrassing,” Cooper said.

“It was an embarrassing performance by our playing group, it was embarrassing for the spectators, our volunteers and everybody that puts the work in behind the scenes for our players to come out and produce that type of effort. It’s just not acceptable and we will certainly make it our priority that it won’t happen again.”

Cooper did sense that the Cougars might have taken a while to warm into the season, but nothing quite prepared him for what he saw on Saturday night in terms of their effort and intensity levels.

“I was surprised but mainly because our guys just didn’t have any effort or intensity. It wasn’t really a skill based issue from our perspective,” he said.

“We’ve had an interrupted pre-season and I think that showed a little bit that we just weren’t ready. Not that that’s an excuse because Willetton were very good and I don’t want to take anything away from their efforts, but the biggest thing for us was the lack of effort and lack of intensity.

“That was a surprise considering it’s been such a long pre-season and we should have been ready to go.”

While Willetton had already played a game to open the season on Friday night to get their cobwebs of the season-opener out of the way, by no means is Cooper willing to let that be an excuse his players can hang their hats on.

“I watched Willetton play on Friday and the concerning thing for me from our performance wasn’t the skill areas or the missed shots, which you can probably live with and say that it was to be expected in our first game,” Cooper said.

“That was probably a cobweb thing that Willetton went through on Friday night, but our issue was the effort and intensity. That’s something that there is never an excuse for the lack of that because it’s not something you can teach. It’s just something that you either want or you don’t want.”

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