HOOPLA: Beveridge facing some tough off-season calls

KEY MAN: Nick Kay will be a major signing priority for the Hawks in what's set to be a hectic NBL off-season. Picture: AAP

KEY MAN: Nick Kay will be a major signing priority for the Hawks in what's set to be a hectic NBL off-season. Picture: AAP

WITH Illawarra limping towards the finish line, thoughts naturally turn to next season and just what the Hawks roster will look like.

AJ Ogilvy is the only player currently under contract, but that is with an option in his favour.

The rest of the roster will all be free agents, leaving Beveridge with a big task. It’s something he  acknowledged following his side’s loss to Adelaide on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a big off-season there’s no question about that,” he said.

“When you look at the other teams as well, the free agency [period] is going to be huge.  We’ll  sit down with all the players and work out what they do want to do with their futures. 

“There may have to be some tough decisions that have to be made, there’s no doubt about that. Unfortunately that’s what happens in professional sport.

“When you look at it, I still think this team this year was better [than our ladder position]. I was happy with the team that we had and I’m still very, very proud of the guys and their efforts.

“Obviously when you do finish down the bottom of the ladder, your management have expectations as well, you meet with them and we’ll see what their thoughts are.”

There’ll be a number of things Beveridge, and new owner Simon Stratford, will need to consider.

It’s a given that Boomers pair Nick Kay and vice-captain Mitch Norton will be top priority. Beveridge has said often, and loudly, that he’s building the club’s future around the pair.

As Boomers, and now several seasons into their careers, they are entitled to seek upgrades on their current deals and will no doubt attract interest elsewhere.

Demitrius Conger is hurtling towards MVP honours at season’s end and the club faces an uphill battle to retain his services.

He’ll have no shortage of options internationally and, even if he were to stay in the NBL, rival clubs will throw huge dollars to lure the 27-year-old away from Wollongong.

Delvon Johnson’s contribution, particularly given AJ Ogilvy’s injury woes, has been greatly underrated this season but where he ends up is anyone’s guess.

The Hawks stand a better chance of keeping Rotnei Clarke, who’s settled in Wollongong, but he’ll also have options in Europe.

That leaves the final, and perhaps most pressing, concern for Beveridge – an ageing roster. 

It’s something that became very apparent as the Hawks began the season with nine of 12 games on the road. It was tough stretch for any team, but it was that little bit tougher with an older roster.

Ogilvy will turn 30 midway through next season. He’s been All-NBL first team in two of three years with the club. An injury-riddled season was a not a true indication of his abilities, but it won’t have added to his market value.

Skipper Kevin White, no doubt the club’s spiritual leader, will be 31 when next season tips off.

Rhys Martin will be 32 and Tim Coenraad will be 33. Both have stated a desire a play on and are well settled in Wollongong with interests outside of basketball.

Oscar Forman has said he’ll leave the decision as to whether he’ll play on until the end of the season. Were he to continue, he would turn 37 midway through his 17th NBL season.

Like longtime teammates Martin and Coenraad, he’s also well-rooted in Wollongong and is unlikely to look elsewhere to play on. 

All have shown touches of their veteran class at different stages this season and still have plenty to offer the NBL. However, Beveridge will have to consider whether he wants, or can afford, to have half his roster over the age of 30.

It’s most likely what he was alluding to when he said “tough decisions” will need to be made.

That leaves Cody Ellis. He has shown his worth with his all-round skill set since returning to the rotation and will attract interest as a role-player.

He remains close with Beveridge, but management showed little regard for his abilities this season. Whether that prompts him to seek a gig elsewhere remains to be seen.


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