HE could go out and make good money and even potentially be part of more team success elsewhere, but Cockburn Cougars captain Gavin Field continues to demand respect for his loyalty, continued outstanding play and his dedication to ensure his club’s competitiveness against the odds.
Field could very well be the most respected player across the SBL and that’s only because of what he can deliver as a player.
He can put up big numbers, score huge points, take the big shots and then be just as effective distributing, creating for his teammates, defending, rebounding and whatever else is possible.
It’s hard to imagine a more complete player in the SBL and he is back to his very best in 2018 again at Cockburn after a horror elbow injury suffered in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
But it’s more than just what Field can produce on the court for the Cougars. He is proud of the fact he doesn’t get paid to play for the club that means everything to him and his family, and that he is the leader of the club that has nothing like the resources of teams it competes against.
It’s not as though Field couldn’t go elsewhere. Year after year, he turns down good money offers to play elsewhere where his bank account and potentially even championship ring collection could benefit. But that would mean going against everything that means the world to him.
Field has dedicated his basketball life to Cockburn and the results are that he’s been part of championships in 2012 and 2016 along with a college career at West Georgia and also a stint as Perth Wildcats NBL development player.
Along the way, he has now played 223 games for the Cougars, scoring 3922 points (17.6 per game), collecting 1549 rebounds (6.9), dishing out 760 assists (3.4), blocking 259 shots (1.2) and pulling off 257 (1.2) steals in what is already a remarkable SBL career for the 28-year-old.
Field grew up wanting to play with the Cougars and now wants nothing more than to complete his basketball career at Cockburn, and because of the way they are fighting out of their weight division it makes any success they achieve mean that much more.
“I’ve been part of two championships so far in my career and both of them we can be very proud of how we did it,” Field said.
“In 2012, we had one non-Cockburn player and that was Luke Callier who came over from South Australia and then in 2016, it was Travis Hayto who was a role player off the bench.
“Other than imports obviously, but everyone else was a Cockburn junior through and through, and that’s what I was most proud about with those two titles.
“We don’t spend any money. Brandon (Sebirumbi) gets some through running camps and things like that as an import, but no one gets paid to play at this club and that is a definite source of pride for all of us here.
“People often mention to me I should take up good offers to play elsewhere, but Cockburn is my home and I’m always going to fight for Cockburn. I don’t care about money, I want to play for my club and I want to be known as the best Australian Cockburn player in history.
“That’s not from just what I do on the court either, that’s from what I can do off the court by helping the young guys as much as I can including in the D-League and WABL. I went and coached a domestic game a few weeks ago as a fill-in. I just want to be known as that and everyone else takes pride in the blue and gold that we wear.”
While other clubs spend more money on their players and might have a greater ability to compete for a championship year after year, Field would never play anywhere other than Cockburn and would never want the Cougars to change how they operate.
“It doesn’t bother me what other clubs do, we just worry about going out to play and representing our colours and the Cougars the best we can. We have coined ourselves the Cougar Family this year and we make sure we represent that. That’s all it’s about,” Field said.
“I just want to play with my mates, I grew up with Stevie Van Lit and we were groomsmen at each other’s wedding and stuff like that. Jaarod Holmes, Seva and guys like that are guys I’ve grown up with. We just have such a fun atmosphere amongst each other and that’s the type of basketball club I want to be part of.”
Field is right back to his best in 2018 as well after a 2017 season where he did play well, but he was still hampered at least in terms of confidence in his shot by his right arm elbow injury from the previous year that at one point did threaten his career.
But his 2018 form has been brilliant and he’s averaging 24.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting 47.1 per cent from the floor, 38.2 per cent from three-point range and 85.1 per cent from the foul line.
That’s all while averaging 38.3 of the 40 minutes a game and taking 18.3 shots. He wouldn’t want it any other way than being the focal point of his team.
“It just comes down to confidence. Last year I got cleared three weeks before the start of the season and I hadn’t shot the ball with my right arm for seven months and I was thinking of switching to being left-handed if I had to,” he said.
“But my confidence slowly came back and now this year because we’ve gone a lot younger, there’s added responsibility on me and I like that.
“Even though I’ve always said I want the next person coming through so I’m not the best Australian on our team, I like that responsibility and I’m still going to fight tooth and nail for that position. I won’t just let them take that off me.
“I’ve probably had one of my better seasons this year and it’s about people putting me in the right spots and allowing me to play in my best position, and do what I can do. The team trusts me and that’s what I appreciate.”
Coming off a strong last three years that saw the Cougars have a better than expected 2015 before losing in the quarter finals to the Rockingham Flames, winning the 2016 championship having also won the regular season title and then pushing the Joondalup Wolves to three games in last year’s quarter finals, the odds were always against Cockburn in 2018.
They lost Jalen Billups, Lochlan Cummings and Dan Thomas from last year’s team while gaining import Brandon Sebirumbi and welcoming back Julian Pesava.
The Cougars have continued to be competitive and with three games remaining, playoffs aren’t totally out of the question at 9-14 if they can get on a roll over the last three rounds against the Slammers, Magic and Flames.
But for Field, he is just proud if his team continues to fight hard and give their all, and make themselves hard to beat.
“Obviously we go out to win every game, but our aim is to make sure we are at least competitive and we set goals as a group. A few weeks ago, my goal for everyone was that even if we lost, let’s make sure we do so by as small a margin as possible and be as competitive as we can be,” Field said.
“Everyone agreed with that so as long as we are fighting all the way through, we are proud of our effort levels. Everyone works as hard as they can at this club, but sometimes superior talent wins out.
“Honestly I’ve approached this whole year in a sense of just trying to make us a competitive team without any expectations. We are very young, take out me, Brandon and Steve, and everyone is pretty much under 23.
“We have just been going out there to play the best we can and I’ve been saying to the guys over the past few weeks that I don’t doubt everyone is working hard, but it’s now about working smarter. That’s going to come with experience.”
Even though the Cougars did reach the playoffs last year and did well to push the Wolves to three games on the back of a dominant Game 2 win on their home floor, Field feels better about the future coming towards the end of this year.
Field has liked the way the likes of Jake Knight, Jaarod Holmes, Seva Chan and even the returning Pesava have all improved and that has him feeling good about the future.
“I can see the growth in the younger guys coming through and Jake Knight was playing awesomely well for a guy who has only really played basketball for about five years. He was playing his role before unfortunately going down with an ankle injury that put him out for the season,” Field said.
“Jules is coming into his own again in the SBL and starting to play that smarter basketball where he’s worrying about more than just scoring. Seva has become more of a true point guard and it’s just stuff like that which has seen us grow. Jake Harris is another one and we have some D-League guys who have improved to now be in the squad.
“If you asked me who the strongest guy in the league is pound for pound, it would be Jaarod Holmes. Because I go against him all the time in training, if he hits you he hits you hard and that’s what he uses to his advantage. Also his outside shot has improved dramatically over the last two years and he has come on in leaps and bounds. He’s loved the added responsibility of being a leader as well.”
Field has also seen great development in ex-teammate Adam Nener as head coach over the past two years and hopes he is able to stick around for the long haul with the Cougars.
“He has developed greatly. He puts a lot of trust in me on the court to call things and change what we’re doing which I appreciate,” he said.
“Even though he is a first time head coach, he has played in the league forever and so have I, so we have that natural understanding there. I’ve seen his improvements in terms of the in-game adjustments we’ve been making and it’s little things like a set here or there to get us a quick bucket when we need it.
“His control of the team in games and in training has become a lot better, and he is putting a lot of effort into our juniors too so he’s putting in that effort behind the scenes that in a couple of years’ time will show. Hopefully he will be still around to deal in that success and I think he wants to be.”
Away from basketball, Field has no complaints either in terms of married life with Audrey and he’s also enjoying his first year of teaching full-time.
“I love my teaching. It’s my first year doing it and obviously there’s the struggles with the workload and stuff like that, but I’m loving it,” Field said.
“Married life is great too and even though my wife isn’t a huge basketball fan, she still lets me play my basketball. She comes down every now and then, but life is great and I couldn’t be happier. I’m moving into the next phase of my life now pretty much and that’s about it.”