PERRY Lakes Hawks guard Lauren Jeffers has settled into a job at a law firm, has gone back to study and has a new puppy meaning that the only thing now missing from what she set out to achieve is an SBL championship with that chance presenting in Friday night’s Grand Final.
The experienced point guard is now in her third season with the Lady Hawks and after being part of the team that lost in the quarter finals to the Willetton Tigers in 2015 and the Joondalup Wolves in the semi finals last year, they have continued to improve making the 2017 Grand Final.
Perry Lakes finished the regular season in top spot with a 20-2 record before beating the Cockburn Cougars and Willetton Tigers through the first two rounds of the playoffs without dropping a game setting up Friday night’s Grand Final against the Mandurah Magic at Bendat Basketball Centre.
Jeffers has been a significant part of the Lady Hawks making the Grand Final and it’s the culmination of a journey to the SBL Grand Final that began back in 2012 with the Stirling Senators when she made the move west coming off time in the WNBL with the Bulleen Boomers.
The season with the Senators led to Jeffers spending another season in the WNBL with the West Coast Waves before her SBL journey took her to the South West Slammers for two years before the travel got too much and she joined Perry Lakes in 2015.
The three-year stint with the Hawks now has led to the Grand Final and after winning a championship in the SEABL back in 2006 as a teenager with the Bendigo Braves, she has another chance 11 years later.
While not quite wanting to think what it would now feel like to win a championship as a 29-year-old, Jeffers is excited to be in the Grand Final.
“I am just kind of focusing on getting the job done and I don’t want to get ahead of myself on thinking about what it would be like to win, but I imagine it would be a pretty good feeling,” Jeffers said.
“I think we were all just very excited once we won on Saturday night. We put in so much work and our mentality was always to hopefully get to the Grand Final, but we took every week as it came.
“It all started with a tough pre-season for us and it’s kind of gone on during the year doing fitness work during training as well. It just feels like our hard work has paid off and we’ve been able to get there now at the end of the season to the big game.”
Having lost to the Tigers back in 2015 in the quarter finals and knowing they were the defending champions coming into this year’s semi-final series, Jeffers and the Hawks were delighted to get past them in two games to book a spot in the club’s first Grand Final since 2010.
“We were stoked to beat them and we knew they’d be tough especially after they came back from losing Game 1 against Stirling and got the next two games in the quarters,” she said.
“We definitely knew that we had a task on our hands and with Kate out that obviously impacted their team, but we still had a job to do and had to play well to beat them and we take a lot of confidence out of having to do that.”
When Jeffers first arrived at Perry Lakes three years ago to play under CJ Jackson as coach, it wasn’t just convenience to avoid the travel to and from Bunbury she wanted.
She wanted to be part of building the Hawks into a championship threat again and now that they are into this year’s Grand Final, she couldn’t be happier with the progress made.
“My first year at the club we made the quarters and got knocked out, then last year we pushed the Wolves to Game 3 in the semis so we were right there and it’s just been the development of the group as a whole,” Jeffers said.
“In the first year I came in the group was quite young and it was a new generation of the Hawks coming through from the juniors so the work CJ put in and focused on developing everyone’s skills to a certain level was great.
“And now Doccy’s basketball knowledge has added a whole nother element to the group. In my three years I’ve definitely seen the progress and how we’ve developed as a group with the same core group pretty much with a few little tweaks.”
After getting the chance to play alongside Deanna Smith the past two years, Jeffers has now enjoyed the experience of having her as a coach for the first time in 2017.
Smith certainly challenges Jeffers and they might have the odd run-in, but sometimes that’s how the best player-coach relationships are formed. It has been working well with Jeffers’ form outstanding and her enjoying her basketball as much as she can remember in a long time.
“Especially with the group we’ve got it’s such a tight-knit bunch off the court that it’s great to be able to get it all together and execute on the court. From doing that it becomes a lot of fun and then Doccy’s attention to detail and all those little things translates into the game and a fun environment. Getting wins on the board helps to keep it fun as well,” she said.
“She was so good to play with and I think she could see the game three plays ahead of anyone else at times. Sometimes that can be difficult to keep up with as her teammate, but she is just such a natural leader and having her on the court with you to teach you with her firsthand experience you can’t beat that.
“Now to have her transition into a coaching role, although she might not believe me, is something I’ve really enjoyed. I think it’s brought a bit of a spark back to my game and the fun back. Even just her showing us her tricks and what she used to do in games and teaching us how to apply it has been great.”
Going back to that decision ahead of the 2015 season, Jeffers was looking for a new club after two years with the Slammers closer to Perth and when Jackson showed interest in her joining the Hawks, it quickly appeared the perfect fit.
“A strong part of the motives was that I had been playing at Slammers for two years but I was based in Perth, so after two years of that travel I needed something close to home,” Jeffers said.
“I had been meeting up with CJ a little bit just to discuss the options and he obviously discussed the plans they had in progress of developing the group to become a contender. Back then that was the goal but we knew it was going to be a bit of a process and it could take some time.
“We went into it knowing it would take a few years but you’re willing to do that hard work and also there is a lot of support behind the scenes at the club and it’s a good family environment.”
And before that back at the end of the 2011/12 WNBL season, Jeffers was after a change of lifestyle after living in Melbourne and Perth soon became the destination of choice as she began her SBL journey with the Senators.
“I initially got contacted by Vlad to come across and play for Stirling after I had just finished up with uni,” she said.
“I was looking for a change so it came at a good time for me and then I was hopeful that a Waves opportunity would come up, which it did so I spent a season there after I had done two years before that at Bulleen.”
While the basketball is going well at the Hawks for Jeffers, life has been pretty hectic off the court but she’s managing it well with her work as a legal assistant at Mills Oakley on top of her continued studies and needing to spend as much time as possible with her new puppy.
Perth is certainly home for the foreseeable future though.
“This year has been absolutely crazy for sure and at times the basketball was lacking in performance because of it, but it’s also such a good outlet for me with everything else I have going on which can get pretty stressful. I just like to use basketball as the chance to get away from everything else and just enjoy it, it comes back to that fun element and that’s why I play,” Jeffers said.
“At this point I can’t see it changing, the weather is too good. I definitely was taking it as a one-year plan at the start and then after that, I thought I’d go one more year and I’ve settled in ever since. I’ve got work opportunities here and I went back to do some more study this year so I have settled in. I’ve even got myself a puppy so that’s an indication of settling.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)