Hawks set for testing schedule

Injuries forced them to limp into the Christmas break but the Wollongong Hawks remain strongly placed for a top four finish.

The Hawks return to the training court this week to prepare for their New Year's Eve stoush with Melbourne at WIN Entertainment Centre.

Guard Tyson Demos is likely to be back on deck against the Tigers after overcoming a knee injury, while forward Tim Coenraad (foot) will probably make his comeback a week later and centre Larry Davidson (broken rib) is expected to miss the next few games.

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Wollongong face a testing schedule over the next five weeks, with games against Melbourne (home), New Zealand (home), Cairns (home), New Zealand (away), Townsville (away), New Zealand (home), Adelaide (away) and Perth (away).

But the Hawks are embracing the challenges ahead.

And why wouldn't they?

Despite the injury toll, they continued to defy the odds in their most recent games against Perth and Sydney.

After coming from 16 down to beat the Wildcats by three on December 14, the Hawks erased an 11-point deficit the following night against the Kings in Sydney.

They eventually lost by seven in overtime but would have been celebrating victory if guard Adris Deleon had converted both of his free-throw attempts with two seconds to play in regulation.

Wollongong have won eight of 12 games and are sandwiched with Perth (8-4) between league-leading New Zealand (9-3) and fourth-placed Sydney (9-5).

As the closest team outside the top four, Adelaide have managed just five wins.

Wollongong guard Lance Hurdle said his team's confidence and morale hadn't wavered.

"We just want to keep our heads high and take advantage of this break, and work on the things we need to work on to get ready for the 31st [of December]," Hurdle said.

"The thing I love about this team is that we just keep playing. We never look at the score. We just play for four quarters.

"I praise my coaching staff. They never get down on us. They always encourage us to the end, and that's where we get our confidence from as players. To have a coach [Gordie McLeod] that keeps encouraging us, that's why we're able to get back into games when we get behind."

McLeod believes the Hawks have grown stronger through dealing with the recent adversity.

"We're trying to be the best we can be - that's all we can ask."

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