Five down, five to go for the Wollongong Hawks.
A week after adding free agent Brad Hill to the playing roster, the Hawks have re-signed Dave Gruber on a one-year contract.
Wollongong now have half of their 10-man team filled for the 2014-15 NBL season, while negotiations are continuing with free agent guards Rhys Martin and Tyson Demos.
Gruber will be entering his sixth season with the Hawks and has racked up 132 games with the club.
‘‘I’m very excited to be back in a Hawks uniform,’’ he said.
‘‘To have the club going in the direction that it is with the new ownership and the same core group of players and coaches, it’s definitely a place I’m excited as ever about being a part of.
‘‘We really want to build on our culture and what we’ve been accomplishing. The club does look to be moving forward. We’re extremely thrilled that a guy like [owner] James [Spenceley] has put up his hand and come in. There’s definitely a good vibe around the place.’’
Gruber had generally been a back-up forward or centre throughout his NBL career, but last season he became a full-time starter at the centre position.
The 110kg enforcer was one of his team’s most consistent and reliable performers, putting together arguably the best season of his career.
He is comfortable in Wollongong with wife Kara and their toddler daughter Grace.
‘‘I’ve started a family here and we’re going to continue that tradition with another little one on the way in two weeks,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m still enjoying myself and having a lot of fun out there. I still think I can play at a high level. I’m comfortable in [coach] Gordie’s [McLeod] system, I’m comfortable with the boys I have around me. Our bigs work well together and with that versatility and strength we have inside, we have a complement of bigs that can compete with anybody.’’
After a couple of frustrating injury-interrupted seasons, Gruber proved last year that he is anything but washed up at 32.
‘‘I’m really excited about giving it another crack,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a lot different to when I was starting out. As you get older, you understand there’s important things like the nutrition and how to take care of your body. All the maintenance stuff like the icing of the knees, the taping of the ankles, the extra stretching and making sure I get my sleep.
‘‘I still have a lot to give for this team, I’m still trying to improve every day, and I’m still enjoying myself, so as long as that continues I’m happy to be a Hawk and I hope they’re happy to have me.’’