THE Hawks have all but accepted the fact the club won't play - or practice - on their home floor until the end of March at the earliest, with the league's rolling schedule for the first five rounds to steer clear of NSW prior to February's month-long NBL Cup in Melbourne.
The Illawarra franchise is temporarily based in Albury, where it will now remain until Sunday, before departing for Queensland ahead of their January 15 league-opener against Cairns. It's part of a redrawn schedule for the opening two rounds released on Wednesday that will see the Hawks play a second match against the Taipans and another road game against Brisbane in week two.
The squad is expected to remain based in Queensland for the following three rounds - for which a schedule is yet to be officially released - ahead of the league-wide shift to Melbourne for the Cup starting February 20.
Games against South East Melbourne and Melbourne United in Wollongong have officially been scrapped, while planned games against Perth and New Zealand at the WEC are set to follow as the rolling schedule is released.
Hawks president and co-owner Dorry Kordahi remains committed to playing 14 games in Wollongong this season, but said the team has accepted the reality of its time on the road stretching to three months.
"From a team perspective, we're looking at being on the road up until the end of the NBL Cup," Kordahi said.
"That's the mindset we have to be in right now. If we get games back in Wollongong [before then] and we can do that, that's great, but our mindset is being away until after the NBL Cup.
"The league has always said that they want to give every team 14 home games. We're still earmarked to have 14 home games and we still believe we'll have those games [in Wollongong].
"We could have a lot of home games post-March 20 and have a good run towards the end of the season, but we just don't know. If borders change and we have restrictions in NSW and Victoria it might not happen.
"We're just treating this like it's a normal season as much as we can. But we are in a pandemic, so we're ready to adapt and to manoeuvre with whatever obstacles get thrown in our way."
It's far from ideal circumstances for a new ownership group but Kordahi urged Illawarra fans to keep the faith ahead of what could be a stacked back end of the season in Wollongong.
"For us we need the support of the Hawks fans and members more than ever," Kordahi said.
"We've always believed that Illawarra's got the fans behind it and we've invested very heavily here, we've got an unbelievable team, we've got the Boomers coach. We've always believed in the community and we're excited to embrace the fans when we get here back in March, or hopefully February.
"We're putting all the right pieces in place, we've got some really exciting news to reveal next week at our season launch. We were very close to starting here in six days time but, unfortunately, we're going to have to wait a little bit longer to see this team that we've assembled together on the court.
"We're excited to get these guys back home and show the Hawks fans what we've put together, but we need everyone on board."
The original schedule had the Hawks playing three road games in Queensland over the opening five rounds. Its now been condensed to the opening fortnight, but Kordahi said it's not too arduous a task for Brian Goorjian's young outfit.
"For us we're seeing it as three games on the road like we'd have in any other season," Kordahi said.
"We've been in Albury for a couple of weeks now so for us being on the road is not new. It's good that we've had that momentum being away from our home court and from Wollongong, it gives the guys time to build that unity as a team.
"We're just glad we're starting a season right now. It's a credit to the league for working through this and finding a path for our team to start the season. We're excited to get the ball rolling and the team's ready to go."