Hawks to change game start to avoid clash

The Wollongong Hawks are preparing to avoid a scheduling showdown with St George Illawarra, by shifting their tip-off time to create a sporting double-header in March.

Last week's release of the NRL draw resulted in a conflict between the region's two elite teams, but there is now a resolution in sight.

Hawks general manager Mili Simic met with WIN Sports and Entertainment Centre general manager Stuart Barnes and Dragons chief operating officer Michael McDonald yesterday.

All parties are still facing some significant logistical issues by having the NBL and NRL played next door to each other on Friday, March 15.

But the Mercury understands the Hawks are likely to move the start of their WIN Entertainment Centre blockbuster against arch-rivals Sydney to 6pm, allowing enough time for fans of both clubs to move to WIN Stadium for an 8.10pm kick-off between St George Illawarra and Brisbane.

The double-header is set to be announced next week, after further talks. While the Hawks are eight weeks into the NBL season and have had their schedule out for months, Simic said he was hoping to reach a better outcome for supporters.

"The Hawks, Dragons and venue have had positive discussions today on how to find a way to fix the current schedule conflict," he said. "The main thing to come out of it so far is that all organisations are looking at what is best for the Illawarra and city of Wollongong.

"Ideally you would not want both games being played at the same time, the Hawks are looking at how we can find a solution on that and we hope we can finalise that shortly."

Following the scheduling bungle, the Dragons and WIN entertainment precinct officials are expected to join forces with the Hawks to launch a public relations offensive to promote the night.

The conflict arose after the specific date of the Hawks' March 15 game was left off a list of venue commitments at WIN Entertainment Centre next year.

The Dragons were unable to play a home game in Wollongong in round five because of the Nitro Circus freestyle motocross event.

The NRL then went ahead with putting the Dragons-Broncos clash in round two, with Channel Nine selecting the game to broadcast.

But it left St George Illawarra kicking off 40 minutes after the Hawks-Kings game, which sparked a backlash from furious members of both Wollongong-based teams.

The Hawks game will be telecast on Channel Ten on delay.

The Mercury understands the Dragons are fuming as the NRL left them a matter of hours to lock in their home venue commitments after the draw was finalised last Thursday.

It was among a number of issues raised by NRL clubs at yesterday's meeting, but the NRL says it was never made aware of the clash.

Hawks general manager Mili Simic.

Hawks general manager Mili Simic.

Dragons officials and WIN Sports and Entertainment Centre general manager Stuart Barnes did not return the Mercury's calls yesterday.


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