Perth trip a mental test for Hawks

UP FOR THE FIGHT: Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge says his team will need to scrap on every play to beat the Wildcats in Perth on Friday. Picture: Adam McLean
UP FOR THE FIGHT: Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge says his team will need to scrap on every play to beat the Wildcats in Perth on Friday. Picture: Adam McLean

IF our loss to Cairns last week was an illustration of anything, it’s that basketball – and professional sport in general – is a mental game.

We so often see teams or individuals blessed with talent and athleticism get beaten by teams with less of those physical gifts but who possess those intangibles. 

In a league as close and as tightly contested as ours, mental strength is more often than not the difference. The team that makes the least about of mistakes will generally win the game. 

Against the Taipans we were better in virtually every statistical category. We had 10 more rebounds, we shot at a better clip from three-point range, we had more assists.

We were the better side for 30 minutes and we had five-point lead with four minutes left. It came down to discipline and mental application, we had five turnovers in the last quarter.

We lost the game because we had mental breakdowns at the crucial time in the game. 

We’ve got talent in our line-up, but for us to win in this league we need every member of the group to play at a good level, we can’t have anyone not turn up.

You have to be there for 40 minutes. You can’t be there for a a minute less. That’s been the theme of our preparation this week, being mentally switched on for the whole 24 seconds of every possession. 

That’s hard to do but it’s what separates the good from the great. We’re a good team, we’ve got a bit to do to become a great team.

There have been times where we’ve shown plenty of mental fortitude. Coming from 1-0 down to beat Adelaide in three in last year’s semi-finals is a case in point – but we’re yet to really make it a habit.

I know we can get there but we need all 11 players turn up to work. Unfortunately some of our guys didn’t against Cairns which meant we lost by a point. 

We knew heading into the season that playing seven of our first nine games on the road was going to be a challenge. We simply didn’t meet that in Cairns.

What’s great about our group is that I didn’t have to say a whole lot. They have the maturity to know where we went wrong and they inevitably respond.

You obviously never want that sort of result to happen but if there’s a time for that to happen, it’s in round one.

We’ve got 27 more games to go, but we need to learn that lesson quickly because this week we’re playing a Perth side that is the benchmark when it comes to mental toughness. 

They’re the best team in the league because they’ve been there and done it. They’ve got the same group with a few upgrades so it’s the ultimate test for us.

To beat Perth in Perth we need all players switched on mentally to compete on every possession.

That mental battle is about more than just what happens on the floor, it’s a long flight, it’s a time difference, it’s a huge and hostile crowd. 

It’s a tough task but, at he same time, this group knows they can beat Perth in Perth. 

They did it last season and I head over there with so much confidence we can cause an upset.