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The Stanley Family – 50 Years of the Cougar Family

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When you think of families who have had a significant contribution to the Cockburn Basketball Association, few have had a longer and more long-lasting impact than the Stanley family.

Whether it’s the ever present face of the hard-working Pete on the bench with the Cougars, the famous meals cooked up by Heather or indeed the 220-game playing career of their son Ben and the ever smiling face of daughter Lisa, what an impact at Cockburn the Stanley family has had.

Let’s leave it to Pete, Heather and Ben to sum up their journey and what Cockburn means to them and their family.

Cockburn has been one of the biggest parts of my life. I used to play at Perry Lakes and then I came down here because we bought a house in this part of the world. I became a Fremantle person and it’s just been a huge part of my life ever since. You don’t stick around the club for 46 bloody years if you don’t like the place. It’s all the players, coaches and team effort over the years. I’ve had a great bunch of players pretty much the whole time and the young ones keep this old bloke young when they keep coming through.

I started playing at Cockburn in the domestic comp in 1974. That was back in the days of being out at Bakers Square over the warmer months being bombed by the zillion midges the lights attracted and then playing during winter in McFarland Pavilion on courts at times decorated in the cow dung. Fun times and I really mean that. Pete originally played for Roosters and then he swapped to Spearwood Hawks. The club used to do 10-hour basketball marathon fundraising events each year. That’s where we first met and that would have been in 1976. Everybody who played for Spearwood Hawks took part in that no matter what grade they played from A to E. Each team had a mixture of all levels of players and males and females who came together on one day and play for the 10 hours. He proposed on our second date and he reckons I might have been the right one and given we’ve been married for 43 years he might be right.

Cockburn has been a big part of life ever since for us as a family. When we both started to play with Cockburn in what was the district competition, we were either playing or training almost every day of the week one way or another. We used to do fundraising for Cockburn itself right from the get go and if there was a cake stall I would be baking the cakes or cookies or we would be cleaning up on a busy bee. That was the start of our lives together and it all started because of basketball.

BEN – Cougar land gives me a sense of pride and family. There’s no other gym in the league that I would rather call home. It’s not even up for debate to say we have the best court to play on. We have the best bar to spend time reflecting with team mates after a game where we also eat the best post game meals that are offered anywhere. All of this possible because of the volunteers and supporters that come together to make the community machine work.

I used to play domestic basketball here and as Bert has said, we started over at Bakers Square and I used to play for Spearwood Hawks. We had a pretty good team there and won a few grand finals. I was playing at Perry Lakes and then Jeff McPherson asked me down to play with Cockburn and I’ve been here ever since.

It’s absolutely fantastic. There are a lot of people today who for many reasons don’t have the opportunity to share the same activity, especially sport and that was something that was really important to us. Unfortunately when Ben started to play as a junior in under-10s I actually missed a lot of his games because I worked on a Friday nights and Saturday mornings when he was playing. Sadly I missed the first couple of years of seeing him play because of that and then when I was finally able to get to watch his games, it would make my heart swell just to see him running around and playing.

Lisa has always loved being basketball so I tried to see if we could get her to play, but with not many the programs around for people with disabilities when she was younger they were either at Perry Lakes around 3.30pm start when she was still going to school so we couldn’t get there in time. Then Kalamunda had a great program up in the hills but I just simply couldn’t drive that far in the time constraints of when the timeslots were. So on a Tuesday night, Cockburn had a ladies open competition where ladies turned up and however many there are, you split into two teams and just play. So I took Lisa along on a couple of Tuesday nights to see if she would try. Surprisingly she would run up and down the court with us, often dodging the ball because she was frightened to catch it. However, if she was given the ball near the bucket we would all say shoot it Lisa and she did have a shot. Often if she missed the shot someone would give the ball back to have another go. It was very special the amount of encouragement she was give. In particular one night Kahlia Morgan was refereeing and not only did she flick the ball to Lisa multiple times along with the players. She also deterred others from trying to take the ball from her by suggesting they may receive a foul. Lisa was so proud of herself when she scored I thought wow, this is the start of dream. She was having a such a good time doing that for a few more weeks, then one rainy night when I said to her it was time to get ready, there was no way she was going out in the wet. I haven’t been able to get her back since, the little (well not so little now) sausage. But that was fun and super special to both see her participating and to be able to run up and down the court with her as a team mate a few times.

As for Pete, he really enjoyed the chance to play basketball with Ben too. Ben started to play in the men’s domestic comp for Spearwood Hawks when he was 13. He played in the senior men’s A-grade team and that tickled Pete’s fancy being able to play basketball on the same team as his son. A super time of bonding that’s for sure. It was great for me to be able to watch them too. However, when I was pregnant with Ben, Pete broke his scaphoid bone in his right hand/wrist and when I was pregnant with Lisa, he did his knee in so that was it, and we decided there’d be no more kids too dangerous for the big fella.

Prior to me starting to play basketball, I never played a sport after I finished school. I lived out at Jandakot which back in those days it was in the sticks and transport was not easy to come by. My dad was very much a taskmaster where if it wasn’t work, you didn’t go. If you couldn’t walk or ride your bike you didn’t go so basically there wasn’t a lot of sporting things for me to take part in. The only local one was tennis and I was hopeless at that really hopeless. My eye and hand co-ordination wasn’t that grand. Rod Baker used to come into my parent’s lunch bar daily for sustenance and ice-cream, lots of it. He suggested I give basketball a try, and that’s what first got me down to Cockburn. I was able to drive myself there and back so I didn’t have to worry about dad saying no to it. So that’s how I first got involved in basketball to try and get my eye-hand co-ordination going, and after however many years, it’s still a bit of a problem now and needs more polishing haha.

BEN – Being born into the club I’m sure my first experience came long before I was sentient, but when I think back to my youngest days I immediately remember Kelly and Al’s coaching clinics that would run on the school holidays. Being able to play the game I loved with my friends while being taught by my heroes cemented a core memory for me. It would also be a sin to not shout out the SHJBC that I represented all the way into my senior years fresh out of mini ball and became a Life Member of the club. Message from Mum – Ben was nine days old when he attended the 1984 District Grand final and like the good fella he is slept the whole time during the game and enormous volume of noise that was created. =o)

The championships that we’ve won I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in three of them, player 1984 district comp, close spectator in 1992, and the manager in two of them 2012, 2016 and those are the things that stick out the most. I remember back when we won with Grant Davey and Sheldon McIntyre up there with the trophy and they asked for Pete Stanley to come up and be part of this. That was just sensational that they thought so much of me and those sort of things really do bring a tear to your eye. It’s just absolutely fantastic.

We had a lot of really fabulous times. In the domestic comp, we sometimes had as many as 80 or 90 club members of Spearwood Hawks back in the day when there were a lot less other playing venues than now. We’d have an almighty wind up at the end of the season and that was fantastic. There are so many people that you meet over the years who we are still good friends with now even from those early days. There’s a heck of a lot of good memories. Even watching our son Ben play and seeing him get his life membership for playing his 200th game with the Cougars was grand. There are so many fond memories too many pick from. Playing district basketball with Cockburn, were the days when all games were played on Friday nights with the games played at 6 o’clock, 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock. There were some of those games where you might not finish until 1 o’clock in the morning and people whinge these days about the times games might finish now, but those were the days. It was very social as well as being competitive on the basketball court with one another and a lot of our best friends came through basketball with us.
One other memory that always makes me smile is when Brain Caldwell came to play for the Cougars. The big guy, a mountain of a man who needed room to move. We didn’t have uniforms big enough to fit him and not enough time to perhaps order some. So out with the scissors, sewing machine and two sets of uniforms to cut up, tweak and sew together to give him the room he needed to move. A crazy time but great memory.

The other side of the coin though away from the sporting aspect is volunteering time to give back to a community that has provided our family with a terrific amount of enjoyment, knowledge, many opportunities to test our skills and to allow you to see people in a different light, not just smelly and looking a bit ragged after a game but how incredibly talented, creative and clever people are when presented with problem solving and coming together as one.
We as a family were very humbled and honoured to have the volunteer of the year trophy named after The Stanley family in 2018. It was a pleasure to present it to Peter Garbellini the first year.

BEN – It’s hard to not immediately think of winning the championship in 2012. The club song just hits a little bit different when there are cut nets around your neck and a golden cup in the middle of the circle. The opportunities that I was able to take advantage of such as touring for tournaments on the east coast and overseas also play back in my mind. If you ask my wife though, the greatest memory was the first game she ever came to watch me play where I received MVP for dropping 34 points against the Senators because the import hadn’t landed in the country yet. She doesn’t let me ever forget it.

My son played here and he played over 200 games with Cockburn SBL and he being part of it was really special. Then Heather has done a lot of the catering and that sort of stuff for a long time, and she’s been a big part of Cockburn. Lisa also always loves coming to see all the boys and saying hello to everybody. It’s been a really big part of our lives and if I have a mental blank on who wore a particular number uniform in the previous year she can always tell me.

BEN – To have my family so involved with the club was a recipe to make sure I would forever call it home. With dad as team manager and mum coming along on road trips to cook for the team there wasn’t as much separation from family as others might have on the road. But the flip side of that coin is as often as they were around on game day they might not be around at other times. Not in an abandoned child kind of way, more like while growing up looking around the stadium it was easier to point out something my dad hadn’t done than it was to list things he had. Like walking into the stadium the light came through the panels he spent weekends drilling to the walls. Claiming a drink ticket from the bar he made in front of the fridge he built. Sitting across from the sponsors boxes that stopped mum from parking her car in the garage for weeks while we were drilling chairs into rails and clamping joinery. Or on game days mum would be cutting up salads and whipping up a storm in the kitchen because the sponsors, women and men’s teams had to eat. There was always a little something that needed to be done and often mum and dad would have a hat in the ring because that’s what they loved.

It’s like a second home to us and over the Christmas holidays one year I helped build the changerooms, just as an example of what it means. It’s meant to be holidays and spent at home, but I just love this place. You have to give it to Heather because she understands how much I love this place and allows me to spend the amount of time down here that I do. That was the only time I could get it done and this place is my second home for sure, in fact I don’t think there is much in this place that I haven’t made or screwed to the wall.
There has been a new roof put on the stadium I remember when it would rain and the roof would start leaking so I would put another bucket up to catch the water so games could still go on. When the council came to reroof the building I had to take the 84 buckets down before they could start but nobody got hurt from slipping on the floor.

BEN – If someone wasn’t at home and they weren’t at work or school then it’s more than certain they were at the stadium. Either playing, training, coaching, cooking, reffing or building something, there would always be a reason to be at Wally Hagan instead. They say home is where the heart is so it’s no wonder that it would be a second home.

Everyone coins the phrase that it’s like a second home and it really is. There have been plenty of times where if we’re not home we are at basketball playing or at the stadium doing all sorts of things. It might be a busy bee cleaning up or it might be anything from watching, scoring, coaching, doing fundraising, providing the catering or whatever it is. There’s not much in that stadium that Pete hasn’t built or had some hand in renovating or putting together. Over the time I’ve been his TA for a lot of that. There are a lot of times where I would be there helping him out with putting signage up or down, when he made the sponsor boxes I was his lackey. We are a great team

It’s just been absolutely enormous in our lives and I don’t know what word to use to explain just how big of a part it’s been, but it has been just so important. It’s something that we’ve all enjoyed together as a family and even though Lisa didn’t play for too long, she loves going to watch. During SBL or now NBL1 nights, she will sit just behind the player bench and she gets really into it. There’s times where if the floor wipers are being a bit slow, she’ll grab a clean towel and run straight onto the floor and give it a bit of a rub up too. That can create a bit of panic worrying about her getting bowled over, but she just loves it as much as we all love our involvement. Pete often hung up the player numbers up on the scoreboard and Lisa would also be over there like a shot out of a gun to be the job foreman and hand the numbers to him or to help him pull the rope to hoist the numbers in place. If it wasn’t Pete seeing to the job she would still be there supervising. She’s always enjoyed helping out doing bits and pieces there too and really tries hard to take all of the uniforms off the line and keep the shorts and shirts matched even if they haven’t had time to dry. You can only imagine the joy it gives Pete when hanging them out again.

You can’t take anything seriously really around the boys and I appreciate the way that they all bring me into everything and make me feel part of the team. It really does mean a lot.

BEN – To paraphrase Coach Charlie when we won the championship in 2012 he said; “achieving a goal like this is something that not everyone will ever be able to experience in their life and the fact that you have done it gives you a bond that nobody can take from you.” And that’s is something that has resonated with me ever since. The player group was a brotherhood where you will make a thousand acquaintances and hundreds of friends and of all that there are ones that will last a lifetime

It’s a big blur to be honest with you. Players come and go, and you get some imports who come in and some of them are very good, and some come back and stay for years. Others just come and go. But really, so much about the club and the stadium is the same as when I first came down here, at least by being around the boys. The stadium could do with an upgrade and hopefully that can happen one day, but we do what we can to keep it looking the best it can and give it a bit of a rebrand, and we just keep playing on.

BEN – The biggest part of the last 30 years for me is more than just basketball. In reflection I’ve had a lot of great times and accomplishments and hit milestones, but the biggest part I can take away from it is learning to be the man I am today by watching my father. He gives all of himself to those he loves and his love for this club is endless. He would do anything for anyone if he knew how to do it and if he didn’t, he would work it out on the way. Being able to spend so much quality time with him as he would coach my junior Spearwood Hawks teams or when I became old enough to play by his side in the senior competition, then as he was the cougars team manager and I finally got my contract I became witness to all the stories of his greatness on the road, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope he knows that me and the boys would go to war for him and we would bleed yellow and blue just to come home and hear a reading of wisdom from the book is Pete.

I’m really proud that we’ve been involved at the club for so long now. It’s one of the only stadiums where the council owns it but the association actually runs it, and that’s so good because it’s our stadium and the council supports us with submissions.

Well, I am getting a bit older and things aren’t always as easy as they used to be, but really there is no reason I can’t remain involved. The only reason I can see is if somebody says they don’t want me here anymore, but hopefully I’m able to leave on my own terms and I can say I’ve had enough and walk off into the sunset. When you lose some games sometimes you might think the end is a bit closer, but then you get reinvigorated when you start winning and at this stage, I see no end in sight and I have just signed up for another year.

BEN – The biggest part of the last 30 years for me is more than just basketball. In reflection I’ve had a lot of great times and accomplishments and hit milestones, but the biggest part I can take away from it is learning to be the man I am today by watching my father. He gives all of himself to those he loves and his love for this club is endless. He would do anything for anyone if he knew how to do it and if he didn’t, he would work it out on the way. Being able to spend so much quality time with him as he would coach my junior Spearwood Hawks teams or when I became old enough to play by his side in the senior competition, then as he was the cougars team manager and I finally got my contract I became witness to all the stories of his greatness on the road, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope he knows that me and the boys would go to war for him and we would bleed yellow and blue just to come home and hear a reading of wisdom from the book is Pete.

Absolutely. There’s been some basketball associations that have come and gone over the years but to have a 50-year history in this day and age where there’s so many different venues to play or different options of sport to play, for Cockburn to still be thriving is absolutely fantastic. That comes with the people that have over the years given their all to run/oversee the many aspects of what needs to be done to those who are running it now and everyone who are supporting it. You can see people sometimes who you haven’t seen for a long time and then they’ll be back to do something else. Some of them it might be because they’ve got kids or grandkids or they just miss their involvement. People just keep coming back and it’s like a bit of a magnet really. It’s great to catch up with those you haven’t seen for a while however last year a real bummer was for me when COVID/long Covid wiped me out. I was not able to get to the stadium once and having normally been there every week running around doing the catering and whatever I could help with, to not being able to do anything too much was really tough. I couldn’t leave the house some days so to miss out on being able to go to Cockburn stadium was one of the hardest things to miss. It even took until the last few games of the season until I could look that the screen for more than 10 minutes at a time to watch the games on the live stream. To finally get to watch some of the games again via that were so good, but it’s not the same as actually being there at the stadium. It’s taking a big part of my life away not being able to go and that was really tough but now I’m looking forward to getting back again this year as much as I can and very much looking forward to the gala night and would like to take the opportunity to thank each and every person who has been involved in bring this to fruition.

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