Hawks playing the long game on regional push

HOME FRONT: Hawks fans at the WEC. Picture: AAP
HOME FRONT: Hawks fans at the WEC. Picture: AAP

HAWKS general manager Mat Campbell says the club is taking its cue from other sports in considering a push to take games to regional areas, but talks are in the “very preliminary” stage.

It comes after Basketball ACT chief executive Michael Haynes told Fairfax Media on Wednesday that he was “quite confident” the Hawks could bring an NBL game to Canberra as early as next season.

Campbell made no secret of talks with Basketball ACT but stressed no plans are yet in place to take any games away from Wollongong.

“The main reason for me getting involved with the Hawks right now is to try and find a way of being sustainable long-term,” Campbell said.

“A big part of that is growing the business and we have an opportunity where we’re looking at utilising the growth in participation in the ACT, which has been growing at 10 per cent over the last few years.

“It’s in the very early stages but we’re in preliminary talks with Basketball ACT about taking a pre-season game down there.

“Obviously after that we’ll the explore the possibility of potentially taking a regular season game down there, but the initial part is to try and get a pre-season game down there.

“It’s a chance to broaden our membership base and to link in with the junior base that they’ve got and perhaps one day get kids out of their junior program to join the Hawks.”

Both the AFL and NRL have made concerted pushes into regional areas over the last decade.

Last year the Penrith Panthers extended their agreement with Bathurst Regional Council to play one game per year in Bathurst until 2028, while St George Illawarra will take next Sunday’s clash with Canberra to Mudgee.

In 2015 Hawthorn signed and agreement with the Tasmanian government to take four games a year to Launceston until the end of 2021.

Campbell said the NBL has encouraged its clubs to explore similar opportunities to expand the league’s footprint. 

“We’ve seen the NRL playing in Bathurst, the AFL taking games to Tasmania looking to broaden their reach out into those areas,” he said.

“It’s all about participation and expanding the brand from the NBL point of view. They’ve worked very hard and it’s gone from strength to strength in the last few years as a national sporting code.

“The natural progression is to try and get it to as many people as possible and part of that is trying to get out to regional locations and locations that don’t have an NBL team.”

On the home front, Campbell said he’s happy with how the club is navigating a chaotic free agency period as it looks to add players to a list that currently includes veterans AJ Ogilvy and Tim Coenraad, and new recruit Emmett Naar.

“We obviously got hit square between the eyes as far as the start of free agency with the two Boomers guys [Nick Kay and Mitch Norton] making the choice to move on,” Campbell said.

“That put us on the back foot a bit but we’ve been very active behind the scenes to try and establish a competitive team for next season.

“That’s always the focus but a big part of it is making sure people are the right fit for our program. We’re active and we’re hoping to announce some new signings in the next week or so.”

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