They're about to embark on a frequent-flying binge but Glen Saville says it’s the ability to cope with New Zealand’s high-octane defensive press and not the travel that will determine the Hawks’ immediate fate.
Jetting out of the country yesterday on a gruelling road double against the Breakers and then Townsville (on Saturday) that will cover more than 7000kilometres, a weary Wollongong have the hardest task in the NBL tonight.
Spearheaded by MVP-in-waiting Cedric Jackson and a slew of support acts, the Breakers have stormed to the top of the standings in search of a championship three-peat.
And they have home court advantage against a Hawks side lacking last week’s starting backcourt, Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle, who both require season-ending knee reconstructions.
Saville, who celebrates a 37th birthday today on the occasion when he will be crowned as the Hawks’ all-time games leader (525), said nullifying the Breakers’ up-tempo full court press would be crucial.
‘‘What makes things difficult is they press up the floor and disrupt you so well and the fact we’ve lost two guards, it does make things very difficult for us,’’ he said. ‘‘The reason they’ve won three titles in a row is their ability to disrupt teams defensively, and they put pressure on the ring with their shooters as well.
‘‘I think the key is being able to beat that pressure for a start.’’
It’s something Wollongong, like few other teams, have managed to do in the past.
Only this time the ball-handling responsibility will fall to back-up guards Adris Deleon and Tyson Demos instead of Martin, who has slayed the Breakers in the past.
Despite being savaged with injuries that have almost ground their season to a standstill, the Hawks need look no further than last season for inspiration on how to beat their rivals in Auckland.
In what proved to be a 2011-12 season of frustration for the Hawks, their highlight undoubtedly came in a Martin-inspired 18-point drubbing of the Breakers in New Zealand.
Coach Gordie McLeod knows this task is very different as the Hawks (8-7) threaten to slip to a .500 mark for the first time this campaign.
‘‘That’s just the unpredictability of professional sport and the unpredictability of life,’’ the 2009-10 coach of the year said of the side’s crippling injury toll.
‘‘It’s a reality check, you just don’t know what’s around the corner. It’s obviously very disappointing and disheartening, but the reality is we have to play some games this week,’’ he said.
‘‘You’ve got to try to regroup and have a plan for that.’’