History will be made when the Wollongong Hawks become the NBL’s first 1000-game club this Saturday at WIN Entertainment Centre.
The Hawks are planning a big party celebration for the round-three clash with Townsville – the club’s first home game of the 2013-14 season.
‘‘It’s an unbelievable effort, especially when you think of the pride and the passion of the many different people who kept it going through all the years,’’ Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod said.
Of the 10 foundation clubs that formed the NBL when it started in 1979, the Hawks are the last still standing.
Despite nearly always operating on a shoestring budget, they won the 2001 championship and were grand finalists in 2005 and 2010.
In their 34-year existence, the Hawks have produced two MVPs – Mike Jones (1981) and Gary Ervin (2011).
McLeod was a member of the original ’79 team and was the Hawks’ first Olympian (1980).
Four players have had their jerseys retired by the club, including McLeod, Mat Campbell, Glen Saville and Chuck Harmison.
Formerly known as the Illawarra Hawks (1979-98), the club has endured no shortage of financial adversity to stay alive, including coming back from the dead just four years ago.
However, a new battle may be on the horizon, given the uncertainty surrounding the Hawks’ naming rights sponsor beyond this season.
‘‘A thousand games is a fantastic milestone for the club and it’s going to be a time to reflect, enjoy and celebrate a really special occasion, but the challenge is to keep it going,’’ McLeod said.
‘‘The only way that happens is by a contribution of the people of the area. It’s whether in the end the area wants a national team that brings so much to it.
‘‘The most important thing for me is that it’s more about the next generation - having the right goals for people and the right pathway for them to follow. That’s the big thing.’’
The last-placed Hawks (0-2) returned to Wollongong yesterday after Saturday night’s 97-91 road-loss to Adelaide.
Townsville were widely tipped to finish last, but the Crocodiles caused a boilover with Friday night’s home-win over title holders New Zealand and will arrive in Wollongong with added confidence.