HOOPLA: Hawks adapt for road trip

Gordie McLeod has hinted his under-manned Hawks will rely on more points in the paint to cover the loss of starting backcourt duo Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle.

"We're going to have change the style of play we play a little bit," McLeod said ahead of Wollongong's daunting road double against league-leading New Zealand (Thursday) and Townsville (Saturday).

"We're obviously going to have to readjust how we're going to play and what people's different roles are."

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Martin requires a full knee reconstruction after rupturing a knee ligament against Cairns while Hurdle is set to be sidelined for several weeks.

The Hawks remain on the hunt for a replacement - or two - for the injured duo.

The club has been in talks with former Adelaide 36ers guard CJ Massingale as a short-term replacement but nothing had been finalised by late last night.

Despite the injury curse spreading through the Hawks roster, relying more on their big men to put up solid numbers at the offensive end won't be all bad news.

Larry Davidson and Tim Coenraad have returned from injury in recent weeks to bolster the Hawks' inside presence, while Dan Jackson is close to a comeback to continue what has been a breakout season.

Martin also urged the Hawks to bring a more patient approach with ball in hand as Adris Deleon and Tyson Demos prepare to be thrust into the starting five.

"We can't just come down and start blazing away quickly," he said.

"We're pretty solid with our big guys and that's got to be a focus for us offensively to take pressure off Tyson and Adris to score.

"If we can get easy points in the paint and if we win the rebounding count, it takes a lot of pressure off them."

McLeod admitted the prospect of his under-manned squad travelling to New Zealand to face the reigning NBL champions and league leaders was one they had to quickly adjust to.

"Different weeks bring different challenges and this one is a very big one," he said. "Not too often do you have to go through a situation where you lose two starters and don't have them for the next [game].

"It's going to be very challenging."

Ice cold in overtime as jinx strikes

Larry Davidson has brushed off suggestions Aaron Grabau’s bizarre eight-point possession was the sole reason for the Hawks’ fourth-quarter capitulation against Cairns, leading to their third overtime defeat in four matches.

Wollongong bungled an 11-point buffer at three-quarter time against the Snakes, a margin that was almost wiped out in one Cairns possession.

Hawks veteran Glen Saville fouled Grabau in the process of taking a three-pointer and was  slapped with a technical foul for disputing the call.

Grabau added salt to the widening wound when connecting with all five free throws, before landing a long-range bomb for Cairns to take an unlikely fourth-quarter lead.

‘‘Before that we had a couple of possessions coming down where we didn’t execute at all,’’ Davidson said.

 ‘‘We gave bad shots and it got them going in defensive transition and had us on the back foot.

‘‘You can look at it from both ways and say it was bad, but we had plenty of opportunities before that to extend the lead and after that as well.’’

Grabau acknowledged the possession gave Cairns the belief to quieten a raucous Sandpit crowd.

‘‘It was a big turning point,’’ he said.

 ‘‘It’s happened to us a lot and it just happened to be Wollongong’s turn.’’

After the fit-again Davidson tied the game with seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Hawks were ice cold in overtime,  failing to register a single field goal from seven attempts. They scored just two points in the extra period en route to a 13-point defeat.

It continued a worrying trend for Gordie McLeod’s men, who succumbed to Melbourne by eight points in overtime on New Year’s Eve, a fortnight after arch rivals Sydney powered to a seven-point victory after the scores were level at the end of four quarters.

Club pencilling in Australia Day regular

They've already made a storming success of their annual New Year’s Eve fixture, and now Wollongong Hawks boss Mili Simic wants to make Australia Day a permanent date on the club’s NBL calendar.

‘‘We want to build the Australia Day game up as one of the marquee events every year in Wollongong,’’ Simic said.

‘‘Just like New Year’s Eve, this is a great night for Wollongong to come out, enjoy great basketball and entertainment action on one of the most festive dates of the year.’’

Despite the slumping Hawks being more concerned with Thursday’s trip across the Tasman to take on New Zealand, the front office staff have already moved to make the first Australia Day NBL fixture for years a sure-fire success.

It might be the only time Hawks fans will be forgiven for decking out in green and gold, or red, white and blue with the club encouraging supporters to head to the WEC from Belmore Basin.

Tip-off has been moved to a family-friendly 5pm to allow for Australia Day celebrations at the harbour.

‘‘We’re hoping that hosting a game on Australia Day will open the door for a greater audience to consider attending a Hawks game,’’ Simic said. ‘‘It’s one of the biggest community days in Wollongong so it was only fitting for our community-owned club to work towards scheduling a game that can enhance Wollongong’s festivities on the day.’’

Tickets are already on sale from $15 for children, $20 for adults and $55 for a family of four.

Milestones mount 

The cake cutter will be out in full force, now all the Wollongong Hawks need is a couple of road wins to celebrate what looms as a week of milestones for the foundation club.

Apart from Hawks veteran Glen Saville hoping for a timely victory when he celebrates his 37th birthday on Thursday – the same day the Hawks battle New Zealand – there is other cause for celebration in the camp.

Captain Oscar Forman will celebrate his 31st birthday tomorrow while Larry Davidson celebrates his 30th playing against the   Crocodiles on Saturday. 

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