Depleted Hawks suit Crocs fine

BASKETBALL 

Unapologetic Townsville coach Paul Woolpert has promised to "take advantage" of a wounded and travel-weary Hawks, eyeing off Wollongong's tenuous grip on a top-four NBL spot.

Having been mired in a 0-10 start to the season, Woolpert and star import Gary Ervin, who was named the league's MVP when wearing a Hawks uniform two years ago, have inspired a season-saving turnaround.

The pair swept December's NBL coach of the month and player of the month awards respectively, for a period in which the Crocodiles launched a five-game winning streak.

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While admitting he felt sorry for the Hawks' backcourt duo Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle, who are sidelined with season-ending knee injuries, Woolpert admitted his Crocodiles (5-11) would further apply the blowtorch to Gordie McLeod's under-manned roster.

The Hawks (8-8) will complete the second leg of a 7000-kilometre road double at The Swamp tonight, two days after a one-point backs-to-the-wall loss in New Zealand.

"You have to look back and we were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak and no-one felt bad for us," Woolpert said. "We had to turn it around on our own.

"You never want to see players not be able to play - this is their livelihood and profession and you just don't want to see it.

"That being said we have to take advantage of the situation. It's a home game against a team that beat us comprehensively the first time we played them and we feel we need to turn the tides and get a much-needed win."

Townsville can plunge Wollongong to below the .500 mark for the first time this season with victory, which would also give hope to Melbourne, Adelaide and Cairns, who are circling fourth spot.

But Woolpert remains wary of McLeod's ability to produce well-drilled sides under adversity.

"I guarantee you the Wollongong Hawks will come in here and they'll be prepared," he said.

"Gordie will have them running their offence just as efficiently and they'll be a very dangerous basketball team."

Much of Townsville's success can be put down to Ervin and enforcer Luke Nevill.

The latter poured in 20 points in last weekend's nail-biting four-point loss to two-time defending champions New Zealand - the first time the Crocodiles had lost since Nevill arrived in north Queensland.

"The arrival of Luke Nevill has been a turning point for us. It's kind of inserted some much-needed energy into our team and we've really responded well with him here," Woolpert said.

"We knew it was just a matter of time and to the players' credit they came to work every day. They never got down, they never complained, they were very professional and now we've turned it around."

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