There has been a lot said and written about the decision to remove "Illawarra" from the name of the region's National Basketball League side, the Hawks, and the subsequent campaign to have it put back.
Firstly, let's be clear, the decision to remove the name was the decision of the NBL and its owner Larry Kestelman. This was not a decision of the new owners. Anyone who took on the licence would have been subjected to the same condition.
The new owners have now asked for the name back, knowing what we already knew - people wouldn't support the club without it. Larry Kestelman rarely concedes ground so agreeing to give it back conditionally is quite a concession.
Secondly, there is also a myth being perpetuated the name removal has something to do with legal implications of the collapse of the previous ownership. Not true. The league owns the rights to the club, team logos and trademarks.
What people often don't understand is the league owns the brands and NBL team owners (mostly) license those brands and pay for the privilege of losing money on various scales. Sad, but true. What is also sad and true is fans don't care about rich blokes getting less rich. Fans care about being made to feel part of something, about their club doing the right thing, about the club looking after its players and staff. We should care though, lest we find ourselves begging the league for our name back.
Some commentators have said to me recently, given the history of failed ownerships, maybe the "business model" just doesn't work in the Illawarra. Well it's the only model that's survived 43 years in the NBL. If you were using failed NBL club ownerships as a guide you wouldn't have teams in Melbourne. Or Sydney. Or Brisbane etc etc.
Life is about choice and chance. You have a choice to support a club or not. The new owners (particularly with COVID) will lose a significant amount in year one. They deserve a chance. The choice on that chance now rests in the hands of you, the fans of the ILLAWARRA Hawks.
- Julian O'Brien is the editor of the Mercury and a passionate Hawkhead.
LETTER FROM ILLAWARRA HAWKS LEGEND CHUCK HARMISON AND HAWKS LIFE MEMBERS
Forty years ago - 1979. Where were you? There's a chance you witnessed history in the making when the Illawarra Hawks took the court against the mighty St Kilda Saints and came away with a memorable victory in the fledgling National Basketball League.
Over these past 40 years, Wollongong has been witness to some incredible basketball, first at the historic Snakepit, and more recently at the WEC, known as the Sandpit.
Who can forget the emotional last game at the Snakepit when the Hawks pulled out a victory against Townsville. There was barely a dry eye in the crowd as the lights dimmed for the last time after a Hawks game at the home of basketball in the Illawarra.
Likewise, the sight of three Damon Lowery free throws bouncing around the rim, but each sweetly falling through the net to propel the Hawks past Adelaide in the NBL semi-final to achieve the ultimate prize, a coveted NBL Championship.
Being the lone founding member of the NBL is a remarkable achievement for any team, much less the Hawks, a team from a regional city. It speaks volumes about the dedication, passion, love, commitment and desire of so many people who have been instrumental in the Hawks' longevity in the NBL.
From those early pioneers who saw the potential of the newly formed NBL, to the front office people, many of whom offered their time and effort for free, to the players who poured their hearts and souls, their sweat and effort into making a team that Wollongong can be proud of, to the owners of the team over the years, who made significant financial commitments to ensure the Hawks survived and continued to be a source of pride for the 'Gong.
But most of all its you fans who have been the constant in the Hawks' 40-year journey. Many of you have been cheering on the Hawks for the entire time, others have come on board more recently, but whatever the case, you are why the Hawks exist.
The players play for you. Your voices lift them to greater heights, your cheers have pulled out many a memorable victory.
As the Hawks prepare for their 43rd season we welcome a new ownership group headed by Dorry Kordahi, and arguably Australian basketball's most successful coach, Brian Goorjian. "Goorj" has put together an exciting playing roster and we are anxious to see them hit the court when the season tips off in January 2021.
As life members of the Illawarra Hawks, we would like to invite you to continue on this great journey with the Hawks by renewing your season membership.
Your support will ensure that the Hawks continue to represent the region and continue to claim that we are the ONLY team still in the NBL who can very proudly say we have been here for all 42 seasons, and will be here for another 40 more!
Chuck Harmison and Hawks Life Members