Most have already written off the Illawarra Hawks’ playoff chances in 2019, but coach Rob Beveridge is adamant that will work to his squad’s advantage as they look to pull off a late season finals charge.
With eight matches remaining, Illawarra sit in sixth on the NBL ladder after boosting their record to 9-11 on Sunday afternoon on the back of a 12-point victory over rivals Sydney Kings.
The result breathed some life into the Hawks’ roller coaster campaign, however the foundation club are still locked in a desperate battle to take part in the post-season.
Illawarra currently trail the fourth placed Brisbane Bullets (11-9) by two wins.
Sydney (13-7), Melbourne United (12-7) and Perth Wildcats (12-8) currently occupy the three remaining top-four positions.
The Hawks will get the opportunity to close the gap on Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth in matches against the trio over the final six weeks of the campaign and will also have to rely on results elsewhere.
It’s a difficult predicament for Beveridge’s men, but the coach doesn’t plan on taking a backward step throughout the crucial end of season stretch.
“We are going to hunt teams now. We are going after them, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
“There is no expectation for us whatsoever to make the playoffs. Every single commentator in this league will write us off, which is fine. I don’t have an issue with that.
“But that actually takes a little bit of pressure off us.
“There is no expectation for us to do it so we are going to be the hunter.
“We hunted Sydney and they are the number one team.
“When we play Brisbane, who I think are the best team in the league right now, so when we play them we are going to go after them because there is no pressure on us.”
Illawarra will look to further bolster their finals claims this week when they host New Zealand Breakers at WIN Entertainment Centre.
They face off against the Breakers – who sit second last on the ladder – three times on the run home while also meeting the struggling Cairns Taipans twice.
All five matches shape as must-win contests if the Illawarra want to finish in the top-four.
Illawarra will go into Friday’s showdown with the Breakers high on confidence after putting in one of their most commanding displays of the season in their win over the Kings.
“We have to back it up against New Zealand,” Beveridge said.
“We have to go after them.
“They kicked our arse over there.”