ILLAWARRA coach Rob Beveridge says his side needs to find a much harder edge, suggesting the Hawks played too nice in a stunning two-point loss to Melbourne on Saturday night.
Playing on their home floor, the Hawks looked to be cruising to a fourth straight win when they led by 18 points in the third term only to gift United victory with a fourth-quarter capitulation.
They were ultimately out-scored 43-29 in the second half to slump to 8-10 for the season.
Beveridge described his side’s final five minutes as “absolute crap” in the post-match, and looked to be using more forceful language in the Hawks huddle.
“I was pissed off. They’re such a great group of guys and we played ‘nice’ down the stretch and just let them come and beat us,” Beveridge said.
“We’ve got to get some mongrel out there, as simple as that. If we do that, if we harden up, we’ll beat the Melbournes’, the Perths’, the New Zealands’.
“We can beat anybody on our day, but you can’t just roll over like we did and have no hardness. That’s what I’m disappointed about.
“[Melbourne] came out with this swagger with an expectation that they were going to win and all we did the last five minutes was protect the lead.
“We went to water, we were soft. We just didn’t execute down the stretch when it counted.”
Never one to mince words, Beveridge said his side can expect the same frankness at training this week as they debrief the defeat.
“I’m speaking emotionally, and I’m not apologising for that because this was a massive game for us,” Beveridge said.
“I’ll always pat our guys on the back when they deserve it and I’ll kick them up the arse when they deserve it. That’s just the respect we have within the group.
“There will be some hard truths spoken this week and that’s just the way it is.
“I thought we were the better team and we deserved to win but we didn’t put the foot on the throat when we should have.
“I’m hurting for the guys as well because they have worked so damn hard, the last six weeks in particular, to get on a roll.
“They’ve worked too hard, they’ve played too well, to just roll over at the end like we did. It is really, really disappointing.”
Among the hard truths that will inevitably be spoken in the aftermath, Beveridge was still able to find a silver lining ahead of two crucial clashes with New Zealand and Adelaide in the next fortnight.
“It’s very raw at the moment but we will definitely take away, when we go back and evaluate it all, how good we were at times,” Beveridge said.
“We showed how damn good we can be, we’re playing some good basketball at the moment, it was a hell of a game and we controlled most of it.
“There’s no doubt we were very, very good except for when it counted. It’s a big hiccup because, right now, this league is so close that, if you drop games like that, it can really, really hurt.”