The Roberts Family – 50 Years of the Cougar Family

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For much of the last 20 years the Roberts family have been a synonymous part of the Cockburn Basketball Association and their rich contributions make then significant figures in the 50-year celebrations of the Cougar Family.

It all started going back to when twin sisters Nicole and Alyce along with older sister Katie started playing junior basketball, and as they say, the rest is history.

Nicole has only just announced her retirement following the 2022 season after 330 SBL/NBL1 West games in a decorated playing career while twin sister Alyce played 125 matches as well with the Cougars in the SBL up until the end of 2017.

Then there is Katie who has gone on to be one of West Australian basketball’s top referees which has seen her officiate in the WNBL and SBL/NBL1 West Grand Finals.

None of what the three sisters have been able to accomplish would have been possible without the support of their parents, Neil and Alison, who themselves have had a long involvement in Cockburn basketball.

Neil is a life member in recognition of his service in a number of areas while Alison has been a long-time volunteer in her own right.

Throw in the coaching work and commitment to the Cockburn Basketball Association in all areas, and the Roberts family have been enormous parts in the growth and development at the Cougars this century.

Nicole is proud to have been part of everything her family has put into Cockburn basketball.

“I don’t know if calling it our second home is quite an accurate description, but it is a worthy one and we certainly wouldn’t have spent so long there if we didn’t enjoy it and didn’t find opportunities and ways to maintain our involvement as the years have gone on,” Nicole said.

“I guess for us we got involved in basketball because we loved it and it was a good opportunity to be part of something and have that sense of community.

“That has remained unchanged and we are very lucky to have been able to have a massive contribution as a family to the club for the best part of 20 years now, which sounds like a very long time when you put it like that.”

Nicole remembers it all starting for her when she began playing under-12s basketball with the Southlake Steelers simply because she didn’t want to feel left out with her sisters Katie and Alyce already playing and her parents there supporting, coaching, score benching.

The journey since has been one that’s been a tremendous way of keeping the family together and given them a common interest, and focus, while the support they have given each other has been a significant part in why they have continued to be such key figures at Cockburn.

“My first experience was in the domestic competition on a Tuesday night with the under-12s girls. Both my sisters, Katie and Alyce, had played a season prior to when I started all playing for the Southlake Steelers and then I decided I didn’t really want to be away from my family on a Tuesday night,” Nicole said.

“So I gave basketball a go and growing up in the stadium has been somewhat of a blessing. It’s helped all of us form some really lifelong friendship which obvious was with our teammates for myself and Alyce, but also it helped Katie forge her pathway through umpiring.

“You always have fond memories walking into the stadium and it’s nice to be able to reflect back on those Tuesday nights and it’s really good to see that girls comp continue to grow. That’s really pleasing to witness and hopefully a lot of girls understand how important it is to play sport, the benefits it can provide and being a part of a community.

“I think that might be the biggest advantage that we had growing up was being able to do that for so long and in so many capacities – playing, coaching, umpiring. With my parents, dad was involved in coaching as soon as we started playing and has been a servant of the club for many, many years coaching,” she added.

“His dedication to the club has been super impressive through our junior and senior careers, and mum also committed to team managing all the WABL teams we played in and then the state league team as well as spending time managing the WA state teams as well.

“For my family, it was an opportunity to spend time together to be able to discuss common interests and to feel supported in the community.”

First and foremost, having the common interest of basketball has helped Nicole and her sisters continue to have a close bond with their parents even now well into adulthood.

Having that experience of having the support and common bond with her parents is something that Nicole will forever cherish.

“It’s been the best to have their support and I can probably the count on my hands the number of times they’ve missed a game since under-12s,” Nicole said.

“That’s something that is really special to both Alyce and I to not just get the opportunity to share our love and interest in basketball with them, but to also have their support throughout all that time.

“They are our biggest supporters and obviously came to all our games, but it’s also the incidental time you get to spend together. There were the road trips to Bunbury and mum and dad would come to support us when we would coach the WABL kids, and offer advice all throughout our time.

“I consider myself very lucky that they maintained that level of involvement and commitment, and dedication to us. That is something that is super special for all of us, with mum and dad getting to as many of Katies’ games as well. Alyce had a pretty difficult time at juniors in terms of her injuries and things like that, so they provided us a lot of support through all our good times but when times were a little bit tough too.”

Having a twin sister to go through all of the good and tough times on and off the basketball court is something that Nicole will always hold dear to hear heart as well.

They started playing basketball together before they were even teenagers and continued to do so at SBL level right up until Alyce finished up at the end of 2017.

That bond with basketball has continued beyond playing and stretched into coaching and other areas too, but ultimately the twins remain best friends and Nicole wouldn’t have it any other way.

“People always ask who’s the better twin or whatever and we always have the same response that we are both better at different things. I think that’s a nice summary of how we complement each other on our team,” Nicole said.

“Alyce is my best friend so obviously getting to share the amount of time that I did with her on the court is something I feel very lucky for, and we provided a good level of good level of understanding and support.

“We are competitive people but not competitive against each other which is also quite special because it allowed us to celebrate each other’s individual success as well as share in our team successes.

“We won a couple of WABL Grand Finals, a couple of D-League Grand Finals and we coached together in WABL and went to national champs. I can’t really summarise it appropriately, she has been a massive part of all my time at Cockburn.”

While Katie might have not got to play together at the Cougars with Nicole and Alyce, she has become quite the success story in her own right with the referee shirt on.

She is one of the top WA basketball referees and has achieved an enormous amount in her career. Nicole couldn’t be prouder of everything she has done especially with the challenges she’s had to overcome to do so.

“I think she found out very early that being involved in basketball was something she wanted to commit to and she had a natural knack for refereeing. She’s very good at what she does and it was definitely tough I think for her growing up in the WABL when she would have to ref our games sometimes,” Nicole said.

“That came with a lot of different perspectives from people which was definitely unwarranted, but she found her feet reffing at Cockburn. Whenever she comes back to Cockburn she’s welcomed back with open arms and I really enjoy any chance I get to watch her in a match.

“It’s really impressive that she’s been able to maintain such a high standard and has got to ref in the WNBL, the NBL1 Women’s Grand Final and those are things she should be proud of. I hope she understands how much we love and support her even though it wasn’t always easy while we were playing and she was refereeing.”

As for her own career, Nicole decided that at the end of the 2022 season it was time for her to retire following 18 seasons and 330 appearances for the Cougars.

She feels comfortable with the decision that the time was right to retire as she looks to move on to the next chapter in her life.

“I guess I feel good about my decision which obviously is why I’ve made it even though it was very difficult after being part of the team for 18 years,” she said.

“I’m super grateful to have had such a long time of involvement with the team but for me it felt like the right time to think about what else I wanted to do with my week and weekends.

“Ideally I wanted to win a championship before retiring, but that’s not something I’m solely I’m in control and this was just the right time for me to focus my attention on other things that are happening in my life. I’m excited to be able to spend more time doing those things now.”

The immediate future for Nicole has her looking forward to a break from basketball in 2023 to find out just what life can be like without all those commitments that take up such a significant part of your weekly schedule.

However, she has far too much to still offer the Cougars and the game of basketball to be lost forever, and with the coaching experience in the WABL she’s already racked up, it’s only a natural she’ll be back involved at Wally Hagan Stadium before too long.

“I’ll definitely be having a total break next year first of all. I’ve never actually had a significant amount of time away from basketball,” Nicole said.

“The off seasons are always good because it’s during summer, but I do love being part of the basketball community and I won’t be lost to it forever. I’ve always enjoyed coaching and I’m a teacher by trade so helping people and nurturing them to be able to achieve their goals is in my nature.

“I don’t actually know what my future holds in terms of basketball, but what I do know there’s always going to be a place for me at Cockburn so the opportunity will be there to maintain some level of involvement so I’m thankful for that.”