Hawks confident ahead of Melbourne clash

Battles lines have been drawn for tonight's crucial round 18 duel between Wollongong and Melbourne at WIN Entertainment Centre.

The fourth-placed Hawks (9-11) have their noses in front of fifth-placed Melbourne (8-10) by the narrowest of margins and are braced for a fiery encounter.

"Looking at how close the ladder is, you can pretty much guarantee it'll have the intensity of a final," Wollongong forward Dan Jackson said.

"If we lose this game they'll take over us, so we're definitely going to treat it like a do-or-die game. We have to treat every game like that."

The Hawks have lost nine of their past 11 games and were held to an NBL record low 14 points in the second half of last week's thrashing from Perth.

But optimism is high in the Wollongong camp.

The Hawks have a relatively soft run home compared to some of their rivals and believe their run of injuries and bad luck is behind them.

"We lost to Perth but we beat Adelaide on Friday, so we have to be happy with a split because it's always a very tough road double," Jackson said.

"The Perth game was the end of a long road trip and we just weren't prepared for that physicality in the second half. We played really well in the first half and we did a bit of a number on Adelaide, so we know we can play basketball. It's just a matter of putting it together for four quarters every game.

Dan Jackson hams it up for the camera at Hawks training. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Dan Jackson hams it up for the camera at Hawks training. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

"We're starting to show some improvement and we're getting back to where we need to be to make the play-offs, and hopefully also make some noise in the play-offs and do some damage.

"We've briefly discussed the run to the play-offs. There's still a lot of teams we've got series with - like Melbourne, Townsville and Sydney. Those series are all up for grabs, so they'll all be big games.

"Everyone's going to come out fired up looking for that win. Being back on our home court after a couple of games away will be good for us too.

"If we can win those series, we'll put ourselves in a good position. Fourteen wins should get you in, but maybe even 13 wins.

"Right now, it's all about going out and performing against Melbourne."

Jackson and teammate Tim Coenraad have been asked to shoulder a heavier workload and greater responsibility since last week's retirement of long-serving forward Glen Saville.

"The reality of Sav's injury has hit home to everyone, that you never know when it could be your last game," Jackson said.

"Sav has obviously left big shoes to fill. Not only on the court, but just with what he meant to the club and his leadership and influence in the locker room.

"Tim and I are different players to Sav and we aren't the ball-handler Sav was, so that's something we've had to address at practice."


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