BEVO’S PLAYBOOK: Frustrating season comes to an end

STICK TOGETHER: The Illawarra Hawks squad stand in a huddle around coach Rob Beveridge during their New Year's Eve clash against Brisbane. Picture: Sylvia Liber.
STICK TOGETHER: The Illawarra Hawks squad stand in a huddle around coach Rob Beveridge during their New Year's Eve clash against Brisbane. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

This is a better squad than the one we had last season.

It might be hard for some people to believe that right now given our position on the ladder heading into the final round, but it’s something I truly believe.

Fully fit, we were stronger across the board.

We’ve got most of the same weapons we had last season and improved on our import spots, bringing in seasoned veterans like Demitrius Conger and Delvon Johnson.

However, things just haven’t fallen into place as well as they did twelve months ago when we got within a whisker of the NBL title.

That’s been due to a number of factors. The biggest of those has been injuries, which has been frustrating.

We don’t want to use it as an excuse, but it is difficult to compete in a competition as tight as this one when you’re missing personnel. 

We’ve had a number of key guys suffer extended stints on the sidelines this season. 

AJ Ogilvy, Mitch Norton and Oscar Forman have all missed important parts of the campaign. 

AJ has undoubtedly been a big loss.

He’s an all-star centre in this league and technically has been a franchise player in recent seasons.

For whatever reason, he just hasn’t been able to go for the second half of the campaign.

Then there’s Norto. His long absence with a thumb injury has probably been the hardest to deal with. Take the starting point guard out of any team, particularly a defensive leader of his calibre, and you are going to find it tough. 

Add in the struggles of Ozzie – who I believe to be the greatest stretch four in the NBL’s history – and you can see why it was difficult for the squad to gain momentum when we needed to.

We’ve also dropped a few games that we know we shouldn’t have.

That’s something you just can’t do when the race for the finals is as close as it is in the NBL.

Change those results it could have been a very different story for us heading into round 19.

With that said, I am pretty proud with how these guys have conducted themselves despite the fact we won’t be playing finals this season. 

There will always be people out there on social media and things like that who will be extremely critical of us, but the boys have stayed together over the course of the season. Obviously we are all very disappointed and frustrated because we had a belief that this squad could go a long way had the cards fallen our way. Unfortunately that’s not the way it has gone.

We have to regroup and make sure we come back stronger next season.

Before then though we want to finish the season on a high note with two difficult matches against New Zealand and Melbourne United this weekend.

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