Hard-nosed Hawks forward Dave Gruber knows how threadbare the Wollongong Hawks’ stocks are – which is why he’s dreading the possibility of a trans-Tasman mercy dash to see the birth of his first child.
An injury-cursed Hawks, clinging to their spot on the cusp of the NBL top four, will limp into Auckland’s North Shore Events Centre to take on the near-unstoppable Breakers tonight.
Gordie McLeod’s men need all the fit bodies in their fast-diminishing roster on deck, but it won’t sway Gruber if he gets the phone call from back home.
His wife Kara is due with their first child within the fortnight.
‘‘It’s due on the 29th of January so it’s a little interesting this weekend going to New Zealand and then Townsville,’’ he said. ‘‘The Hawks are a big priority of mine, but family’s first. That’s been that way with everybody. If I get the call over there I’m straight on a plane and straight back. That’s just how it is,’’ he added.
‘‘Fingers crossed nothing happens when I’m gone,’’ he said.
There’s also fingers crossed the star-studded Breakers have an off night against a side that has traditionally troubled them.
While Gruber has pledged to be by his wife’s side when she goes into labour, he has also thrown down the gauntlet to New Zealand’s tall timber on the court.
The Breakers boast a distinct height advantage inside with Alex Pledger (215 centimetres) and Will Hudson (206 centimetres), but Gruber said the wounded Hawks won’t shy away from confrontation under the rim.
‘‘We’re going to go in there and throw some punches and see what happens,’’ Gruber said. ‘‘They’re the league leaders, they’ve got weapons all over the court from inside and outside and we’re a little wounded at the moment.
‘‘That’s something we were working on [on Tuesday] – just getting the bigs some more touches and utilising our strengths inside.
‘‘If we can get going that will help take the load off the guards. It’s about everybody contributing in their own special way, playing to our strengths. If we do that, we can beat anybody,’’ he added.
The Hawks may have had limited time to prepare for their season-defining road double after last Friday’s dramatic overtime loss to Cairns, but Gruber is well and truly ready for the impending challenges off the court.
‘‘We’ve obviously had a little bit of time to prepare the last nine months and it gets exciting down the stretch,’’ he said.
‘‘We don’t know what we’re having yet so we’re kind of running the gauntlet there. It’s exciting times."