'Tight-knit' bunch key to success: Gruber

BASKETBALL

Bruising forward Dave Gruber believes the Hawks' greatest asset was their camaraderie and respect for each other.

While some NBL teams are prone to being undermined by petty jealousies and off-court issues, Wollongong were a harmonious unit, even when losing 13 of their first 19 games, he said.

Coach Gordie McLeod blasted his side at training at various stages of the season, but there was no sulking or complaining. The players knew he just wanted to bring out their best.

Last week the Hawks stayed in Perth for seven days to prepare for their semi-final clash with the Wildcats.

When road trips last that long, teammates tend to get on each other's nerves. But that was never the case with the tight-knit Hawks.

"It's a great group of guys in the locker room. Being away in Perth together was a pleasure," Gruber said.

"With some teams, you stay a few days and it's a bit of a struggle, but with that group of guys it was a pleasure.

"We've been a close group all season and that's one of the main reasons we were able to hang tough when the chips were down and turn our season around."

The Hawks climbed a few mountains to get as far as they did.

Conquering minor premiers Perth in the semi-final series proved too great a challenge.

"Everyone has championship aspirations but there's things that you have to do before you can get there, and we definitely feel like we accomplished a lot of our goals," Gruber said, after Perth swept the Hawks 2-0 in the best of three series.

"We played hard and we hope we represented Wollongong and these fans the right way."

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