Even-keeled Hawks coach Gordie McLeod isn’t one to get caught up in pre-game hype.
But when it comes to a traditional grudge match between long-time foes Wollongong and Sydney, McLeod can appreciate what the occasion means to supporters of both clubs.
The latest chapter of the Hawks v Kings rivalry will be played out tonight at WIN Entertainment Centre.
‘‘The Kings games always seem to generate that little bit more passion, that little bit more intensity, and there’s obviously that expectation from the fans about this game,’’ McLeod said.
After playing their past two matches on the road against Cairns and Adelaide, the Hawks are relishing being back on their home court.
Equal-last with Cairns, Wollongong (2-7) will soon run out of chances to stay in top-four contention if they don’t start winning.
Tonight’s clash is the first of four regular-season meetings with the third-placed Kings (5-4).
‘‘This is the start of a new series and that’s a really important factor for us,’’ McLeod said.
‘‘You want to put wins on the board and that breaks down into series against each team.’’
Returning for Wollongong after a four-week absence with an ankle injury is centre Larry Davidson.
Dave Gruber has played well as Davidson’s replacement and McLeod couldn’t confirm if Davidson would be inserted straight back into the starting five.
‘‘He’ll probably come off the bench, but that hasn’t been decided,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s not who starts the game. It’s who’s playing well throughout the game and who’s going to be able to help us finish it off.
‘‘It’s a team effort. We’ll need all their skill packages combined.’’
Starter or not, Davidson’s inclusion is a significant boost, particularly with Sydney boasting 210-centimetre A.J.Ogilvy in the middle.
‘‘Larry’s experience is an obvious plus,’’ McLeod said.
‘‘His understanding of the program is probably better than anyone in the group. Him and [guard] Rhys [Martin] are the guys that know it the best,’’ the coach said.
‘‘We’re hopeful of getting some minutes out of him. That brings that extra experience back into the group, but it also changes the team dynamics again. That’s always challenging, but it’s going to be a real positive for the group to have him back.’’
Wollongong played six of their first nine games away from home.
Last week, they gave second-placed Adelaide a scare but went down 82-81.
‘‘Near enough is not good enough,’’ McLeod said.
‘‘It’s a tough league and it’s a very fine line between winning and losing. It was a good effort to put ourselves in that position, but when you get there you have to go on and finish it off.
‘‘We can take a lot of positives out of it, but we have to be smarter and play consistently well for four quarters.’’