17/04/2024

Micaela Cocks recently broke the record for most games played for the Townsville Fire. (Photo: WNBL)

Micaela Cocks recently broke the record for games played at Townsville Fire in the WNBL, highlighting a career of getting the best out of herself and those around her.

Three-time WNBL champion, Micaela Cocks broke the Townsville Fire’s games played record on Friday (230 games).

Cocks, who has only played for one club in the WNBL, played a couple of seasons with the Sandringham Sabres in the then SEABL (South Eastern Australian Basketball League) competition between 2011 and 2014, which is where I first met Cocks, and was fortunate enough to coach her. 

Halfway through the 2014 SEABL season, I was asked to take over the remaining 10 games of the senior women’s team at Sandringham. I was a long time coach at the club, and just came off winning a championship with the Youth League team. 

The women’s team had underperformed and had only won one game. The club decided to part ways with the head coach, giving me the opportunity to take over.

It was a roster full of strong personalities and known WNBL players such as Mikaela Dombkins, Hope Walker, and Cocks. We also had Dombkin’s partner, WNBA and Opals point guard Leilani Mitchell training with the team. 

In what was a questionable decision for any coach – to take over a losing team half way through a season – it was made easier with the leadership of Micaela Cocks. 

Micaela Cocks playing for the Sandringham Sabres in 2014.

Cocks, who started her career with Townsville in the 2011/12 season, was playing for Sandringham in Melbourne in the WNBL offseason. Such a consistent performer in the WNBL, she easily transferred her talents over to display at SEABL level. 

After agreeing to take over the team midway through the 2014 season, I attended a team meeting. The team had just been informed of the news that their coach was gone and that I was taking over.

The reception I received was slightly hostile to say the least. I was an unknown quantity to these girls and so I was immediately grilled with questions on why I thought we were losing, and what changes I was going to bring in. 

Although it was the ‘offseason’ for some of the players, it was important for them to be playing well and in a winning side to help secure their ongoing future in the WNBL. It was an intimidating environment to walk into as a new coach, especially with the talent and knowledge the players possessed. 

In the first session on court I watched them run a version of the triangle offence. I immediately wanted to change the structure.

Cocks could sense my hesitation to lead, and told me quietly, “it’s your team now”.

For those of you who know Cocks, she’s generally pretty quiet and rarely outspoken, but she wanted this team to have success. Although we didn’t know each other long, she wanted me to have success too. 

This first gesture she showed her new coach, spoke a lot about her character. She could have easily been frustrated and negative with the situation the team found itself in and could have given less effort because it was technically her ‘off season’, but that’s not how Cocks operates. 

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During the rest of that season I witnessed first hand the dedication and work ethic of the WNBL champion. She always trained at 100 per cent capacity, and valued every minute she had on the floor. 

When it came to game day she was the ultimate competitor. A combo guard, she could play the one and facilitate the offence or sit in the two spot and look to create – like the role we are seeing her fulfil in the later stages of her career. 

She had a great outside shot, loved the mid range game and could attack the lanes. She was a triple threat on offence.

And whilst consistent and damaging on offence, she was equally as impressive on defence. She had the ability to shut down players and put pressure on the ball – forcing teams out of their offence.

Again, this was a skill which was important to the three championships she won with Townsville in 2015, 2016 and 2018, and which saw her earn finals MVP in 2016. 

Cocks’ greatest strength is her basketball IQ, which she hasn’t lost in the 10 seasons in the WNBL. After spending a season away from WNBL due to having a baby, Cocks has returned this season coming off the bench to play an important role. 

A lot of what Cocks does will not show up on the stat sheet, but it’s the one percenters which are so important to a team’s success.

Plays like her ability to pick the angles of the offensive player and cut off the lane, or space the floor on offence creating open lanes for her teammates, are so important. If there was an all star five for smart players, she would be in it every year. 

In the 2014 SEABL season, we went on to win 50 per cent of the remaining games – finishing the season with some positive results and performances by the star players. I awarded Cocks with the clubs MVP award.

Cocks – not a person who was comfortable with public speaking, accepted her award and in front of the crowd endorsed me as coach – a young inexperienced coach who had steered the reins for just 10 games. A gesture she wasn’t obliged to do, but once again proved the type of unselfish person she is. 

Eight years on from that half a season in 2014, I reflect on my time with Micaela Cocks and how she had a profound impact on my coaching career – helping me believe in my ability.

The ultimate compliment in elite sport that anyone can give an athlete is that ‘you make people around you better’. Cocks has clearly done this throughout her career in the teams she has played in, and this is evident by the adoration she receives from her Townsville teammates. 

The Rachael Sporn medalist might not have the career stats of some of the all time great WNBL guards, but her impact has been profound.

Cocks will continue to be an important role player, veteran, and leader for Townsville for as long as she pulls on the black and orange jersey.

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