THERE are few certainties in life apart from death, taxes and the Illawarra Hawks being written off ahead of another NBL campaign.
The latter occurred in coach Rob Beveridge’s first season in Wollongong as the club came out of voluntary administration. That hastily assembled roster reached the semi-finals with Kevin Lisch crowned league MVP.
It happened again last season following the departure of Lisch and Kiwi great Kirk Penney. That time the Hawks went one better, reaching the grand final series before ultimately falling to Perth.
Despite keeping nine of the 11-man roster that reached the championship decider, and bolstering their import stocks, the same pundits are again tipping them to fall away this season.
It’s predictable, but star big-man AJ Ogilvy says it’s more than just fuel for the fire – it’s tantamount to disrespect.
“There’s only so many times people can doubt you before it becomes disrespectful,” Ogilvy said.
“We know how good we are, we’ve shown we can beat sides in the preseason. We played one bad [preseason] game against Melbourne at the Blitz and that was pretty much it.
“I don’t know how people can base those judgements on pieces of paper but we’ll just do what we have to do, we’ll win our games and we’ll see what happens at the end of the season.”
Ogilvy produced an outstanding first season in Illawarra colours, polling highly in MVP voting and earning All-NBL first team honours.
He backed it up last season to again be crowned the league’s best centre but the 29-year-old insists he draws more confidence out of this team’s performance than his own.
“I don’t take a lot of pleasure in personal stuff but, as a team, we made the grand final, we gave it a push, we ran into a Perth team that was red-hot,” he said.
There’s only so many times people can doubt you before it becomes disrespectful.- AJ Ogilvy
“As far as I’m concerned that’s pretty good season, especially from where we were at the start of it. We were 1-4 in the first few weeks so to go on and reach the grand final was a fantastic effort.”
With the bulk of the roster returning – and with the addition of imports Demetrius Conger and Delvon Johnson – Ogilvy is confident his side has both the personnel, and the motivation, to go a step further in his third Hawks campaign.
“We’re hungry to win a championship and that’s been our mantra all preseason,” Ogilvy said.
“Going into preseason everyone had the same level of excitement. You could see it in the way the guys were working, not just in the first week but two months in.
“It makes it a bit easier easy keeping most of the same guys and then adding two important pieces [in Conger and Johnson] that are really going to contribute for us.
“I think DJ’s going to be a huge point of difference for us this season and Meech is incredible in the open court which is perfect for our style of play. We’ve put in the work and now it’s time to show what we can do on the court.”