IT was one of the best wins of his 242-game career, but Hawks swingman Tim Coenraad says his side’s last-start victory over Perth will mean little if they can’t back it up against Cairns on Thursday.
The Hawks performed CPR on their finals hopes with the 12-point win over the then league leaders, with this week’s round 12 clashes providing a golden opportunity for a quick climb up the ladder.
Illawarra currently sit two wins adrift of the Taipans and fourth-placed Adelaide, and just one victory behind Brisbane who they host on New Year’s Eve.
If they can win both matches, and other results fall their way, the Hawks could find themselves back in the top four on New Year’s Day.
It would be a dramatic turnaround, but Coenraad has seen enough to know how quickly any team can end up back on the scrapheap.
“For this season it was probably our most important win,” Coenraad said.
“We’d lost a few on the trot, we were coming up against a good side and, had we lost, it’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole. That win hopefully turned around a lot of things for us in terms of our focus defensively and knowing what we’re capable of.
“But what’s done is done, you can’t have one game and go right back to where we were. This team in the past has gone on to have a few wins in a row and then we get comfortable and we lose that desperation that we had.
“One thing I’ve found in my time is that every game is important. You always have a bunch of games you look back on and wonder ‘what if we’d got that one’.
“It’ll be the same this year, we’ve lost a few early that we should have won, but we’ve got to keep moving forward and make sure the next game isn’t one of those.
“If we can start building momentum from [the Perth] win and take care of home court from now on, we just need to chink a few away and we’re right back in the mix.”
The Taipans have proven somewhat of a bogey side for the Hawks in recent times, having won six of their past seven clashes, including both games so far this season.
Thursday’s match will be their first trip Wollongong this season, but they’ll do so high confidence after claiming the points on nine of their last 13 visits to the Sandpit.
The showdown is shaping as a clash of styles and Coenraad said controlling the tempo will be the key to victory.
“Cairns are a quality side, they seem to get written off a bit like us but, they’re a team that know exactly what they need to do on offence and defence,” Coenraad said.
“They’re very well drilled and they trust in the system they have. They don’t get it done through flash, they get it done because they’re a solid defensive team and, offensively, they’re all on the same page.
“They’re great at slowing teams down and we like to get out and run. That’s when we’re at our best, they like to slow it down, so it’s going be about who can make it their style of game.”
The Hawks will be boosted by the return of Oscar Forman, who will make a belated 500th NBL appearance after overcoming a calf injury, but star big man AJ Ogilvy is facing another fortnight on the pine as he battles an ongoing hip complaint.
Illawarra will also pay tribute to the city’s industrial roots when they don a special Steel City strip with grey, acknowledging the steel works, and black representing the coal industry.