Records aren’t kept for the most injuries to a professional sports team in one season, but the Wollongong Hawks might be setting a new standard.
Two-time Olympian Glen Saville became Wollongong’s latest player to join the casualty ward when he twisted his knee in the opening minutes of tonight’s 91-74 home loss to the New Zealand Breakers.
The Hawks have now had seven of their 11 contracted players miss game time through injury since the start of the season. Four of those have been knee injuries.
Saville had started the game strongly, making his first two shots, but he did not return after the first period and will undergo scans tomorrow.
It remains to be seen if the 19-season veteran plays in next week’s road double against Adelaide and Perth.
The Hawks never stopped trying against the reigning champions, but the Breakers played like they knew they had the home team’s measure.
Wollongong have lost seven games in a row and nine of their past 10.
Though they are still clinging to fourth spot with an 8-10 record, the Hawks appear to be fighting an uphill battle over the final 10 games of the regular season.
Wollongong’s Adris Deleon scored a game-high 24 points tonight, while NBL MVP frontrunner Cedric Jackson starred for New Zealand with 18 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
The Hawks were down 68-66 at three-quarter time but were out-classed in crunch time.
Wollongong finished with 19 turnovers to the Breakers’ 11 and were out-rebounded 41-27.
After initially expecting to have just one recognised guard in the lineup, coach Gordie McLeod received a boost when Tyson Demos shrugged off a knee injury to take his place in the starting five.
His mood brightened even more when new import Malcolm Grant was cleared to play hours before tipoff.
But Saville’s injury would have left McLeod wondering if the club is jinxed.
The Hawks got the perfect start they needed, charging to a 6-1 lead which soon swelled to 12-7.
Demos was a surprise starter, while Grant made his first appearance off the bench after five minutes.
Wollongong held a 15-10 lead before the Breakers responded with an 8-0 run, which included a pair of CJ Bruton threes.
Grant opened his NBL scoring account on a hard drive to the basket, but the visitors were up 22-19 at quarter-time.
Despite connecting on a blistering 67 per cent of their shots, the Hawks let themselves down with seven turnovers.
The Breakers quickly picked up where they left off, stretching the margin to 11 points before Demos broke the drought with a three-pointer.
That seemed to spark the Hawks into action, as Dan Jackson and Deleon scored to trim the deficit to three.
New Zealand surged ahead by eight, but the home team hit back again to be trailing 39-38 with just over two minutes remaining in the second period.
When the half-time siren sounded, the Breakers were ahead 49-43.
Deleon had 14 points, nailing 5/5 field goals and 2/2 free throws, while Grant had a positive impact with seven points and three assists.
The mercurial Jackson led New Zealand with 12 points, four assists and three rebounds and Bruton added nine points.
As usual, Wollongong struggled under the boards, falling behind 21-14 in the rebound count.
The Breakers maintained their double-digit buffer for most of the third period before Deleon inspired another Hawks fightback, bringing his side to within two points with a quarter to play.
Hopes for a much-needed victory soon evaporated, as New Zealand showed why they are red-hot favourites for a third consecutive title by out-scoring their opponents 16-1 over the first six-and-a-half minutes of the final period to set up their ninth successive win.