HOOPLA: Hawks need to find hard edge against Wildcats

MANNING UP: Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge says his side need to develop a harder edge after being out-muscled by Melbourne United last week. The Hawks take on Perth in Wollongong on Sunday. Picture: AAP Image/ Hamish Blair
MANNING UP: Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge says his side need to develop a harder edge after being out-muscled by Melbourne United last week. The Hawks take on Perth in Wollongong on Sunday. Picture: AAP Image/ Hamish Blair

THERE were a lot of lessons to come out of our loss to Melbourne on Monday.

One, was that we have a very committed and resilient group. Certainly the scoreline blew out but I thought we fought hard without two of our key cogs in AJ Ogilvy and Demitrius Conger.

I thought we executed well in that first half and to be within four points at halftime was pleasing. 

It was reminder of the resilience we have, but it was nothing we didn’t already know. We’ve had some great comeback wins this year and I know our guys won’t ever give up.

What we really need to take away from the Melbourne game was the lesson they gave us in physicality.

You only need to look at the stat-sheet to see the evidence of that. We got hammered on the glass and you’re never going to win a game where you give up 54 rebounds.

The biggest indicator of a side’s mentality comes in the way they attack the boards and we quite simply got out-muscled in the paint. That’s not hard to fix.

What was perhaps more subtle, but just as telling, was the work United did off the ball to take us out of our rhythm. We didn’t catch the ball where we wanted it they dictated the game particularly in that third quarter.

It’s a style Brian Goorjian-coached teams always had, you push, you hold, you shove, you get a body on guys and make them fight for every possession.

That’s how I want us to play. It’s the nature of the game that there will always be some inconsistency in the way referees officiate so we need to be consistent in the way we play.

Play timid and you’ll still get called for soft fouls. Play hard and you’ll give up some fouls but, nine times out of 10, it’s the more physical team that gets less fouls.

I know we always fight hard but, if we’re going to make the play-offs, we need to go to another level, physically and mentally. 

When you watch the top teams in the league, there’s a real hard edge to them. New Zealand are doing a great job of playing tough and Perth, who we play this week, are the best at it. 

Damian Martin is arguably the best defensive player this league’s ever seen. He’s the nicest bloke you will ever meet but when he crosses that white line, he flicks the switch.

For guys like that it’s a mental thing. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play tough, but it’s got to be a whole-team mentality when we cross that stripe.

That’s where the Wildcats present a big challenge for us this week. They had a great start at home before losing a couple on the road but they’ve won their last three road games convincingly.

They’ve got that steely look in their eye and they’re going to come out and push all our buttons. We have to use them as our new benchmark.