Clarke, Cole and Hamilton – Under 12 WABL to 2 SBL/NBL1 West Championships

As part of the celebrations for our 50th year we are asking some past and present players what being a Hawk and playing for the club means to them. This story is testament to the club and a very special bond between 3 of our current NBL1 West players.

It would be very rare that an NBL1 West team could say they had 3 players who started at the Hawks playing WABL as Under 12’s in the development Squad,  to be still playing together in the same team in NBL1 West. Not only have Mitch Clarke, Cooper Hamilton and Bailey Cole achieved this, they have won 2 SBL/NBL1 West Championships together in 2018 and 2021 and a WABL D-League championship in 2017. They also were part of the 2020 Team that made it to the Grand Final of the West Coast Classic. What makes this story even more incredible is that their initial coach Travis Hayto, played as part of the D-League and 2018 SBL Championship team alongside them.

Clarke (23), Hamilton (24) and Cole (26) were all in different years as juniors however in their first year of WABL, Clarke and Hamilton were chosen to play above their age along with Cole. Little did they know then that this would be the start of an amazing friendship and long and successful playing careers together.

All three are decorated basketball players, representing Western Australia at state level on numerous occasions for BWA and School Sport WA, winning WABL All- Star awards and being chosen for numerous development squads. Hamilton is heading for his 150th game in a couple of weeks whilst Clarke has played 124 and Cole 130. Hamilton and Clarke also played all their domestic basketball under the Hawks banner for Subiaco and City Beach Junior clubs respectively.

The friendship and bond is evident to all that know them and as is a credit to the Hawks, this playing group, the club culture and the senior players that have guided them, particularly club legends Ben Purser and Robbie Cassir.  The boys spend a huge amount of time together and are very close both on and off the court. They have supported each other through injuries and the ups and downs that come with playing high level sport. They have a mutual respect, they know each others strengths and weaknesses and know how to find each other on court. They cheer each others successes like they are their own.

To go with the incredible highs, there has also been challenges and the lows. Hamilton missed nearly a whole SBL season with a broken ankle,  several weeks with a broken foot and playing out 2 NBL1 West seasons with fractured fingers. He also started season 2023 with a burst appendix. Cole missed huge chunks of two seasons with an ankle reconstruction and a PCL tear. Clarke has been lucky only missing the odd game with soreness however he has been a support as his team mates sat on the sidelines for extended periods and worked their way back through rehab.

Cooper Hamilton joined the SBL squad as a 17 year old and debuted on court in 2016. He is one of the few that has been a Hawk his whole junior and senior playing career. Hamilton, like Cole and Clarke is relatively young to have 2 SBL/NBL1 Championships under his belt. “The Hawks has and will always be a big part of my life, starting back in under 11s and now playing close to 150 games for the club. I’ve been blessed to come through the ranks and met the people that I have.  Nearly all my close mates were met through the Hawks, at both the junior and senior level, and its really cool to be able to continue here with a great bunch of blokes in the NBL1 squad. Winning championships is great but to do it with your closest mates makes it that much sweeter. Mitch and Bailey have obviously come through the juniors with me as well, so to be able play with them for a few years now and achieve two championships together is really special.  Hopefully we can do the same this year as well and make it three”.

Mitch Clarke has been with the Hawks his whole playing career apart from 2022 when he went East to play with the Bendigo Braves. Mitch debuted in 2017 and has nothing but praise for the Hawks and the lasting friendships made.” Growing up Perry Lakes stadium and the basketball club have been a second home for me. I started training with u12 development squads with my older brother which is where I first met and played alongside Coop and Bails. Throughout juniors I made a lot of long lasting friendships with team mates, some I still play alongside today, whilst others have moved on to other interests and hobbies. Playing in the Men’s team with Coop and Bails has been an awesome ride for the last 7 years and I’ve been so lucky to have played with these guys since 2017 when I first joined the Men’s team. These guys, as well as my other teammates, are some of my best friends and I am super lucky that we all get to catch up 3-4 times each week at basketball and even more importantly we get to share special memories and moments with each other away from the court”.

Bailey Cole first played SBL in 2015 and spent some of his junior career at Warwick (3 years) and Joondalup (3 years) before returning to the Hawks. Cole reflects on his time at the Hawks. “One of the best things that has come out of my time playing for the Hawks over the last 9 years is the close friendships that I have formed with the team. We have been lucky enough at Perry Lakes to have had a fairly consistent core playing group for the whole time that I have been here, which includes Ben, Rob, Cooper, Mitch and AJ. Going back even further than that, as a very young hawk junior, I played with Mitch and Cooper in my first ever WABL team.

Whilst I did not play my full junior career at Perry Lakes, I was drawn back to the club and its culture by the great CJ Jackson. Since then I have been lucky enough to win 1 SBL championship, 1 NBL1 West championship and 1 D League championship, all with the core group. Those championships are made even sweeter by playing with a group that is extremely close knit, and always looking out for each other. No matter how competitive training gets, or the upset that losses can cause, the group has always stuck together and supported each other during the tough patches, and it has made us closer.

Even though winning and playing is always the goal of competitive sport, the happiness that you can get out of the connections you make through sport is potentially just as good. Celebrating milestones together, going overseas together and enjoying time off together in the off season has made the tough trainings, games and preseasons well worth it. I am forever grateful for my teammates, playing at a highly competitive level is extremely hard both physically and mentally. I have had my fair share of hurdles that I have had to overcome, with injuries being the main one. The support of the team, and the desire to be back and trying to help the team, has always driven me to continue to come back and work hard so I don’t let down the people that have supported me. Finally a big thank you to Cooper and Mitch for putting up with the tall uncoordinated 11 year old all those years ago, you boys helped me fall in love with basketball and what a journey it has been.”

Head Coach Matt Parsons who has been with the boys since 2017 and see them mature not only as players but as teenagers who had just left school to young men finishing their degrees (Clarke) and in the case of Hamilton and Cole – out in the workforce. Parsons believes The Hawks have been a leader in the development of some of Perth’s best junior players. ” The 3 players (Mitch, Bailey and Cooper) are a great story of what having supportive coaches with a pathway of development and skills during the formative years of young athletes. All 3 players are now 2 x NBL1 Championship winners at the senior level, with all of them having had a major contribution during some very successful times our Men’s program has experienced over the last 8 years. Their impact on our club cannot be underestimated. They play an active role in the leadership space for our junior clubs even today, these men are extremely approachable and very respectful, excellent role models for those that aspire to one day follow in their footsteps. They are all a true representation of what a great community can produce when they look to nurture hardworking and willing kids. This is a small example of what impact the club has had in the lives of thousands of kids over the 50 years of this great club”.







Posted on Tuesday 16th May, 2023