Coach Gordie plays it straight

BASKETBALL

He was a handy cricketer in his time and Gordie McLeod still knows how to play a straight bat.

While some coaches opt for headline-grabbing speeches about must-win games, McLeod talks more of preparation and processes.

And while the Wollongong Hawks coach is a tolerant man, he is always slightly amused by the theory that players or teams can "step up" for big games.

"You gotta have a play-off mindset all year round. You can't just turn the dial up when it comes to play-off time if you haven't already been playing at a high level," McLeod said before Monday's training session.

"It's not about going out and all of a sudden being able to do something which is all that different to what you've done before. It's about making those incremental improvements along the way. That's what we've tried to do.

"That's what we challenge our players to do. That's the only way you can improve and that's what we're endeavouring to do."

Improve is exactly what the Hawks have done during the past two months.

Last Friday's 94-85 road win over Townsville was Wollongong's sixth in their past seven games.

On Friday the Hawks (12-14) host NSW rivals Sydney (12-14) in a winner-take-all battle for fourth spot.

"We've got another week to get some things done, and we need to do that," McLeod said.

"At this time of the year everyone's trying to make the play-offs and finish the season the best way that they can. When you get to the last weekend of the season, there's not too many games to do that, so this becomes more vital."

McLeod hopes to see a sea of Hawks red in the stands on Friday at WIN Entertainment Centre.

"That definitely always helps when you're playing at home, having a supporting crowd that's going to help you through the tough times and enjoy the good times, so that would be fantastic if that happened."

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