Patricia Cockrem recalls what got her started in basketball. “I was a kid growing up in Ayr North Queensland. Ayr has a population of about 10,000. We were lucky enough to have a team of American basketball players come with Ian Watson to play an exhibition match. Ian Watson was still playing for Australia at that time. He was billeted with us. Ian later became Director of Basketball in Queensland. He visited Ayr on numerous occasions most times either staying or visiting my family. Ian told many stories about the Olympics and put that seed in my head to play at the Olympics. He also fostered my basketball and introduced me to Bill Palmer who later coached St Kilda and invited me to play with St. Kilda. So between them both they got me to Melbourne to go to University and play for St Kilda. These two men, plus my dad and my coach in Ayr, Patsy Nielsen were the biggest influences in my basketball career.”

5 feet 6 inch (167cm) Guard

1984 Olympic Games

Patricia Cockrem recalls what got her started in basketball. “I was a kid growing up in Ayr North Queensland. Ayr has a population of about 10,000.  We were lucky enough to have a team of American basketball players come with Ian Watson to play an exhibition match.  Ian Watson was still playing for Australia at that time.  He was billeted with us.  Ian later became Director of Basketball in Queensland. He visited Ayr on numerous occasions most times either staying or visiting my family. Ian told many stories about the Olympics and put that seed in my head to play at the Olympics.  He also fostered my basketball and introduced me to Bill Palmer who later coached St Kilda and invited me to play with St. Kilda.  So between them both they got me to Melbourne to go to University and play for St Kilda.  These two men, plus my dad and my coach in Ayr, Patsy Nielsen were the biggest influences in my basketball career.”

Patricia Cockrem was born on the 17th of May, 1961 in Ayr, Queensland. Her primary education was at East Ayr State Primary School where she excelled at sports and was School Captain. At Ayr High School she was school Vice Captain and Captain of her sports house. An excellent all round sportsperson she played golf, netball, athletics, basketball, hockey, vigoro and backyard cricket.

After her secondary education she attended Burwood University in Melbourne, gained a Diploma of Education, followed by a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Perth.

Patricia’s association with basketball started when her father Myles, who played and coached basketball with the Rockets Club, got his daughters involved when junior basketball was started in Ayr. She soon adapted to the game. Her earliest successes were in local Club basketball and then when her team Celtics won the A Grade competition in Townsville. Her talent was soon recognised and she was selected on the North Queensland Under 16 and Under 18 girls teams and won Queensland’s first ever women’s Australian Championships title. During this period Patricia received excellent coaching from her father Myles, Patsy Nielsen, Vince Flynn, Pam Hamilton Smith and Harry Spencer.

In 1978 Trisha was a member of the Queensland Women’s Basketball Team that toured to Canada.

As she has explained, Trisha came to the attention of Olympian Ian Watson who was the Queensland Director of Coaching. He advised St Kilda Melbourne’s Coach Bill Palmer “to have a look” at Trisha as he believed she had great potential. At this stage Melbourne was the centre of basketball in Australia and gave Patricia and other Queensland girls the opportunity to play in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) when it commenced in 1981.

Coach Palmer recruited Trisha and Tammy Wood (from Mackay) to Melbourne in 1979 to play for the St Kilda Saints. In 1981 and 1982 Patricia played for the Saints when they won the Women’s National Basketball League titles.

Trish Cockrem with the 2000 Olympic Torch (T. Cockrem)

Trish Cockrem in action against Michele Timms in the WNBL
(T. Cockrem)

In one year the Saints, with Trisha as a major force, won the Victorian State Championship, the Australian Club Championship and the WNBL…a rare feat.

Trisha first represented Australia in the 1982 Oceania Championships. Her dynamic play in the WNBL and for Australia saw her selected to play for the Australian Women’s Basketball Team in the 1983 World Championships in Sao Paulo Brazil where the team came ninth. That year the first ever Commonwealth Basketball Championships were held in New Zealand and Trisha was a member of the Australian Team that won the Gold Medal.

Only 5 feet 6 inches (167cms) in height Trish was a dynamic guard with explosive speed. She was strong and an excellent defender. She was a fierce competitor and excellent team player. Her leadership was a very important part of her success.

In 1984 Trisha played with the Australian Women’s Team on a tour to China and was then selected to the Australian Team to play in the 1984 Olympic Qualification Tournament in Cuba.

Trisha and the Australian Team played exceptionally well in Cuba and only bad luck and some inspired play from the opposition prevented them from qualifying for the Olympic Games. Back home in Australia Trisha’s disappointment vanished when due to a Soviet boycott the Australian Team was elevated to play in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Trisha and her team-mates were now members of the first ever Australian Women’s Olympic Basketball Team.

The 1984 LA Olympic Women’s Basketball was a tough competition and limited to six teams only. The Australian Team battled against bigger and more experienced opponents. In their final game of the tournament they caused a huge upset and defeated Yugoslavia to take 5th position.

 “My favourite memory of LA is walking out of the tunnel onto the arena at the 1984 Olympics,” Trisha recalls. She adds, “For a sports buff the Olympics were heaven. I could watch and talk to my heroes.”

In 1985 she was a member of the Australian Women’s Team that won the Gold Medal at the first Australia Games in Melbourne when they defeated China in the final. She also toured with the Australian Team to Poland, Bulgaria, Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1985.

In Australian domestic basketball Trisha moved back to Queensland in 1984 and played with the Lady Bullets in the WNBL until 1988.

In 1986 Trisha retired from international basketball.

Unfortunately she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in 1988 and decided to retire from the Lady Bullets and the WNBL.

She did continue to play Club basketball after she retired from WNBL basketball and gave back to the game by coaching. “Basketball will always be important to me. It runs in my blood,” Trisha commented upon her retirement from playing the game.

In 1999 she coached her ABA team to the Queensland and Australian titles and was named by Basketball Australia as Australian Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year.

In 2005 her ABA team won the Queensland title and played in the Australian ABA Championships in Geelong.

She coached at Ormiston College and coached the Ipswich Queensland Basketball League team.

Patricia says, “I advise everyone that no matter who you are or where you come from, if you set yourself goals and work hard to achieve them whether in sport or personal life, you will be a better you.”

She adds, “The Olympics were the highlight of my career. It was the first time that I really thought I had achieved something special.  Everyone treated you special for that short time period.  No-one can take the fact that you are an Olympian away from you.”

Patricia Cockrem was a trailblazer for women’s representative basketball in Queensland and as a member of the first Australian Women’s Team to play in an Olympic competition. She reserves a special place in Australian basketball history.