Campbell’s bold vision for Hawks long term future

The Illawarra Hawks celebrated 40 years in the NBL last season and club legend Mat Campbell is determined to see them here for forty more.

AT THE HELM: New Hawks GM Mat Campbell. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

AT THE HELM: New Hawks GM Mat Campbell. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

It might seem like a bold statement given the club’s turbulent history, but it’s one the Hawks’ newly appointed general manager says with the utmost conviction.

And you believe him.

Campbell has witnessed first hand what the tumultuous times have looked like in the past.

He played a central role in the ‘Save Our Hawks’ campaign in 2009 and suited up for 524 NBL games in a storied 17-year career at the club. If anyone understands the plight of the league’s last remaining foundation club, it’s Campbell.

It’s why when owner Simon Stratford approached him to take the reigns from predecessor Kim Welch, he was happy to answer the call.

And while he knows there will be challenges ahead, the former swingman is excited by the prospect of returning to the assist the club which shaped his NBL career.

“From my end it is one of the greatest sporting clubs in Australia,” Campbell, who had been working in the mining sector, said.

"I am focused on making something that is a little bit more long-term so we are not in this situation every four of five years. We have been able to outlast all these clubs that have come and gone. We have been all through the tough times here and there and been able to come out the other side.

"It is about trying to make that model a bit simpler so that it is not like, one minute you are on top of the world and next minute you are down the bottom.”

Campbell was quick to quash rumours of a move to Melbourne to link up with the AFL’s Hawthorn Hawks and is understanding of the changing climate at the club following the departure of majority owner James Spenceley at the end of last season.

He stressed the importance of re-engaging the community on all levels in a wide-ranging chat with The Illawarra Mercury. From grassroots basketball to fan engagement, he wants to utilise the Illawarra’s greatest assets.

"I want to reconnect with the volunteer base and knowledge base that we have in the Illawarra because we have been here 40 years now,” he said.

"The plan is to make it self sustaining so the Hawks are here for another 40 years. We want to have a consistent model from the Illawarra point of view so we remain a national team who is based here."

As for making a model that works, Campbell knows it won’t be an easy task.

"I will be looking at doing something a little bit out of the square," he said.

"Our traditional model you rely on members and your sponsors. They are still very, very important and we definitely are looking to grow that.

"But we have to look at different avenues for funding. Looking at things like Local, State or Federal Government support. Is there something that the Hawks can provide in the region that can allow us to get funding which might not normally be successful from a club point of view. There is a plenty of options but it takes time."

One of Campbell’s first jobs in charge will be helping assemble the Hawks roster for next season. Free agency opens in less than a week, with every player bar AJ Ogilvy hitting the open market.