Basketball, Love and Family … What more could you ask for? Local couple Mat and Felicity Cook have achieved some massive goals together over the years. They have both signed up to play state league basketball for the Coffs Harbour Suns, which is an absolute WIN for the local team! Focus grabbed a ball and shot around with the family of three to find out more …
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
Felicity – Coffs Harbour has always been home and holds a special place in my heart.
I grew up and spent 18 years here, before moving to Newcastle for university. We made many trips up the coast in the holidays each year to visit family and friends. Mat had some family members move to the Coffs Coast over the years, and it was always a good chance to catch up with them too. Newcastle became my “home away from home”, and I was often asked if I would ever move back to Coffs. We talked about it at times, but we loved Newcastle and had lots of family and friends around us. I didn’t think it would ever really happen, but after 12 years, I secured a great job that was too good to refuse, and we made the move from one God’s country to the next … everything happens for a reason, they say!
Where and when did you both begin your basketball careers?
Mat – I began playing basketball in Newcastle. My family has always been involved with the sport. Both my parents played and coached, and my two brothers also played at a representative level in juniors. I can remember sitting on the sideline with my older brother watching Mum run up and down the hardwood. I started playing in U/10s socially as a seven year old, representative for Newcastle Hunters in U/12s as an eight year old; I thought I would finish my career with the Newcastle Hunters, but got the itch and decided to tie up the laces with the Coffs Harbour Suns this year.
Felicity – Right here in Coffs Harbour! I was always around the soccer fields watching my brother, Adam, play for the Coffs City Lions and then when I was old enough, I started playing netball for Westside Netball Club. A coach who saw a game asked me to come and give basketball a go! I played in a mixed team of boys and girls on a Saturday morning at the age of seven and loved the fact that you could go anywhere on the court, steal the ball out of players’ hands, and everyone could score!
I juggled both for a while, but then came decision time. I chose basketball. I played in the local Saturday school comp for Tyalla PS and then for Orara HS in the high school comp. I joined the Coffs Suns Rep program (I was VERY small) and played my entire junior rep career, starting as a bottom age U12 player, up to 18s for the Suns. Mum was team manager for a number of years and Dad was President of the Basketball Association at one stage.
How and when did you both meet?
Felicity – We met in 2004; I was 19 and had just moved to Newcastle at the start of the year.
I met Mat through my cousin and being around the basketball circle. My good friend pointed “Cookie” out while he was on the court playing for the Hunters, and we’ve been together ever since!
Although Mat likes to say I was stalking him wayyyy before that, as my mother in law coached me years earlier as an U14 player at Country Tour in Albury and I have a photo of him from an NBL game I was at of the Melbourne Tigers V West Sydney Razorbacks. I took a picture of legends Andrew Gaze and Leonard Copeland, and Mat is in the foreground warming up with the Razorbacks!
We were married in 2011 and welcomed our beautiful girl, Millie, in 2013.
Mat – We met through the basketball fraternity … that’s where everyone meets, isn’t it? I had seen Felis around the stadium a few times, but the day we were first introduced was my 22nd birthday. I was having some drinks at a mate’s place (who is now married to Felicity’s cousin) with some of the guys, and in walks Felis. I was pretty smitten straight away.
But as Felis said, we soon found out when going through some of her pictures that she had been stalking me for years!
What has been the biggest highlight of each of your careers?
Mat – Definitely was reaching my childhood dream of becoming a professional basketballer in the NBL, playing with the West Sydney Razorbacks and The Hunter Pirates. I had the opportunity of playing alongside and against some of the greats and was coached by some of Australia’s best.
My first ever shot in the NBL was against the Melbourne Tigers down in Melbourne. I came on the court and Andrew Gaze was marking me. I caught the ball on the three point line, he gave me space and told me to shoot it, and when Andrew Gaze tells you to shoot it – you shoot it. I like to think he was being nice and just let me shoot it, but I think it went more along the lines of, “OK, let’s see what this young buck has”! It missed!
In my first season with the Razorbacks, we made the NBL grand final against the Adelaide Lightning. Although I didn’t see much court time as a starry eyed 19 year old, it’s still a ride I will never forget.
Felicity – Mat is without doubt the higher achiever in the family!
I’ve represented Coffs Harbour Suns, North Coast, NSW Country, NSW Combined High Schools and Newcastle Hunters. I definitely have some wonderful memories of those times. We won many Country and State Titles and qualified for U14 Nationals with the Coffs Suns, which were all pretty special to be involved with! I am still good friends with teammates and coaches from those days, so they will always hold a special place in the memory bank.
As a senior, I played 11 years with the Newcastle Hunters Women’s Program, with some amazing players and friends. Over those years, I have played with and against former and current WNBL/Opal players, some that I looked up to as a kid. While I haven’t been as fortunate to win a title, the competition, training, fun and friendship this sport has continued to give me over the years has been something I wouldn’t change! After giving birth to Millie, I doubted my ability to commit to a team, to play at that level again physically and juggle everything with all the responsibilities that come with being a mum. In saying that, a personal highlight in my career has to be seeing my daughter on the sidelines with family and friends cheering us on at the last three Waratah Finals Weekends. Runners Up in two State League grand finals in 2014 and 2015 (to Coffs and Queanbeyan), awarded the Waratah League Best Defensive Player and All Star Five in 2015 and a semi-final loss to eventual winners Wagga in 2016 were huge feats in my playing career.
What is it like to juggle family, work and sport?
Felicity – It is busy that’s for sure, and at times it’s a little crazy! But, we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s important to have a good balance of “work and play” in life and make time for things that you enjoy doing and are important to you. We are lucky in a way that we both play, so we are pretty understanding of everything that comes with being active and just work out our weekly schedules in advance! We hope to be positive role models for Millie and trust she will have a good attitude towards exercise and sport after seeing us run around on the court.
Mat – I guess what has helped us through the years is that we both play basketball; we understand the time and commitment it takes. Most nights we would be training at different times, but come the weekend we would be playing the same venue, supporting each other. Family support has come to the forefront over the past three years with the birth of our little daughter, Millie. She loves coming to basketball with us, running around making new best friends. Her favourite player is NBA star Steph Curry from the Golden State Warriors … GO SUPER STEPH CURRY!
What is your favourite memory from playing basketball?
Felicity – After so many years of playing, it is impossible to pick a favourite memory! I’ve been part of many great teams – some that won big titles, and some that didn’t. Looking back and thinking of them all though, I’ve had a real laugh and can’t wipe the smile from my face when I realise I have been pretty lucky with the people I’ve met and the places I have been because of my continued love for this sport!
Mat – After looking back over the years, with all the achievements, that one main factor that sticks out is the people that you do it with and the lifelong friendships you make. I met my wife through basketball; my best mate who was the best man at our wedding I met through basketball in U/12s. The journey wouldn’t be anything unless I had these amazing people to share it with from day dot. Being able to sit back and watch my wife play the sport she loves with our young daughter on the sidelines as well is something pretty special.
Get down to Sportz Central and support the Suns teams at their next home games:
MEN – Saturday, April 22nd VS Manly Sea Eagles, tip off 6pm.
WOMEN – Saturday, June 17th VS Tamworth Thunderbolts, tip off 6pm.