THE Perry Lakes Hawks haven’t quite shaken the injury troubles but bringing in the reigning MVP as an import replacement is hardly a bad result while coach Matt Parsons is delighted by the additions of Lochlan Cummings and Dan Thomas as they prepare for their return to Cockburn.
At no stage during the 2017 season in the Men’s SBL did Perry Lakes have its full squad available or fully fit in Parsons’s first season at the helm at the Hawks after he led the Cockburn Cougars to the 2016 SBL championship.
Despite that, the Hawks qualified for the playoffs from eighth position and then went agonisingly close to eliminating the minor premier Willetton Tigers in the quarter finals.
That didn’t quite happen, but it was a tremendous fight given by a Hawks team that showed strong heart and that provided Parsons with plenty of reasons over summer to be optimistic over what they could accomplish in 2018.
The majority of the core group was all committed to return as well including Ben Purser, Brian Carlwell, Ryan Smith and Rob Cassir along with a strong emerging cast led by Cooper Hamilton, Bailey Cole-Heath and Mitch Clarke.
What Parsons wanted to add was a couple of players to add to his back court to replace import guard Robert Waters who could add not only production, but leadership, feistiness, experience and ability to run the ship.
He only had to look to his old Cougars team and saw Perth Wildcats development player Lochlan Cummings and championship winning veteran Dan Thomas as the two obvious candidates.
Both of them were keen to join Parsons at the Hawks and have had tremendous starts to the season with the Hawks now improving to a 6-3 record on the season following Saturday night’s 99-82 victory against the Lakeside Lightning at Bendat Basketball Centre.
Now the Hawks head to Wally Hagan Stadium on Sunday giving Cummings and Thomas the first chance to play on their old home floor since joining Perry Lakes in 2018.
They did already play their former team back in Round 3 at Bendat Basketball Centre with the Hawks winning 114-78 Cummings delivering 19 points and Thomas 11.
It’s a different story heading back to their old home court, though, and Parsons knows all about that having it last year on an emotional night when he made his return in Perry Lakes colours on the night the Cougars raised the championship banner he guided them to.
But he couldn’t have been happier to have added Cummings to the Hawks in 2018 and not only wants him to help them to a successful season, but wants to help him embark further on an NBL career based on what he delivers.
“It was fantastic that we could sign him, he’s a great kid. He is probably the epitome of a student of the game and someone who learns, listens and adapts to things really quickly,” Parsons said.
“We think Lochy has a huge future and the NBL should be on his radar for the future. We are excited to give him the tools and resources to continue his development.
“We hope the by-product of that is that he has a great season and it can launch him to another level. Hopefully he can take us along with him.”
Thomas is now a grizzled veteran of the SBL but the 33-year-old 2016 championship winner is proving without a shadow of a doubt that he has plenty left in the tank with Perry Lakes in 2018.
He is enjoying the more minutes and increased role that Parsons has again entrusted him with after it wasn’t always the case with the Cougars with 2017.
But for Parsons, Thomas’ impact is even more significant than what he just provides in terms of production on game night.
“He is a little rugged old dog isn’t he. He has been really good for our program too and he brings that level-headedness and maturity,” he said.
“He is a winner and has been a performer, and knows what it takes so he’s able to challenge some of his teammates on areas that they might not have been before, but he brings that bit of grunt too. DT has had that chip on his shoulder his whole career and he does a really good job of playing physical and fast.
“We are really happy to have him on board and he gives us that nice little settler that we didn’t have. We look forward to what influence rubs off on the rest of the group. The greatest thing about DT is that he’s probably a smaller version of me and someone who can do things the way I want them done.
“We have a really good working relationship and we have done for a few years now going back to our Cockburn days. He has really brought an edge to the group and I think they have enjoyed that. Our trainings are more competitive now with a bit more chippiness so it’s a really great environment to be around.”
While the Hawks have started the season strongly now with a 6-3 record and things have turned out OK in the end personnel wise with them signing reigning SBL MVP Jacob Holmen to replace the injured Tyler Monroe, it isn’t ideal given the work over summer to get the squad together.
Parsons liked what Monroe was set to provide the Hawks, but they had no choice but to look for a replacement when he injured a hand in the opening round and when it turned out that former Goldfields Giants captain Holmen was available, they were crazy not to pursue him.
Parsons does hope they start to have a clearer injury run from here though.
“I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if we need to get a witch doctor in there or something but we have had some tough luck over the last 12 months,” he said.
“For this club, this is the third import in three seasons now who has had a hand issue or something along those lines.
“It’s not ideal but it does build adversity and memories are built from that and your ability to bond in tough times is what allows you to enjoy the good times as group. Hopefully it turns into something that we can enjoy and build something on.”
Reflecting on his first season with the Hawks in 2017, Parsons was proud of the way his group overcome plenty of hurdles along the way to firstly qualify for the playoffs.
But then when they put themselves in such a strong position to eliminate Willetton and advance, but just come up short largely on the back of some Ray Turner magic it did take a while to get over come the off-season and left them with plenty of motivation to enter 2018 with.
“We well and truly came away thinking it was a missed opportunity,” Parsons said.
“We probably were the better team for that whole series and we probably should have closed it out, but one of the things we can take away from it is that we got beaten by quality imports and quality players who made big shots.
“To be considered a top three or four team in the league, we need to be those guys making those shots. Unfortunately they didn’t drop last year and there’s been a lot to learn from that, and a lot of heartache over summer as a result.
“We built a lot of our preparations this year on what we need to do to be better in those circumstances. I think we’ve come away from it really well, we’ve added some really good pieces and we are happy with how we stand this year. But it does hurt to reflect back on it.”