HE was a largely unheralded arrival in Wollongong but the Hawks newest workhorse Justin Simon provided the star turn in his side's 90-84 season-opening win over Brisbane on Saturday night.
After a tumultuous build-up that's seen them on the road since Boxing Day, Brian Goorjian's team locked the scores at quarter-time and led at every break from there to notch the club's first win in 11 NBL outings.
Simon showed all the blue-collar attributes he's prided himself on, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists and a telling five steals in an outstanding first outing in the league.
Beyond that, it was a pair of returning Hawks that came up trumps for Goorjian, with Sam Froling making the most of his first career start with a game-high 19 points, while Emmett Naar had 17 points, five boards and five assists.
Import Tyler Harvey also finished with 16 points in an impressive first-up victory for the Hawks ahead of a quick return to Cairns to take on the Taipans on Monday.
"It was great to get a win, especially on the road," Simon said.
"We just wanted to come here, play hard execute, see where we were at, and we got the w tonight. I'm a versatile defender and [versatile] player, period. Whatever my assignment is, I'm going to go out there and play hard.
"It was defence, play hard, compete, be a scrappy team. We're a new-look Hawks right now so we want to keep this thing going."
Import Vic Law was the standout for the Bullets with 17 points and 10 rebounds in a double-double, while Nathan Sobey had 19 points tempered by five turnovers. Jason Cadee had 12 points and five rebounds, while Harry Froling had a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double.
The hosts started faster, with Cadee nailing his first attempt from long range and Sobey tossing up the alley-oop assist for Law. Sobey stayed in the thick of it with a pair of buckets as the Bullets shot to an 11-4 lead.
Naar put a quick dent in the margin with back to back threes from the bench, while Harvey also got going with his first long bomb from well beyond the arc to level back up at 13 apiece.
The Bullets went 6-0 out of Goorjian's first timeout before Simon's injection from the bench proved telling, with the DPOY candidate nailing a three and producing a steal and slam to lock the scores again at 21-all.
A three from Froling gave the Hawks their first lead, and a 5-7 tally from deep, before Sobey again levelled things on the buzzer with the scores locked at 23-23 at quarter-time.
Harry Froling had back to back buckets to start the second term, while Cadee had his side's second three from 13 attempts for the half to make the early running.
Again it was Simon who turned the tempo, with a steal and lay-up and deep three to re-take the lead at 33-32 midway through the quarter. Simon had a another steal to go one of two from the line while a tough three from Isaac White and a couple from the line from Naar gave the Hawks a three-point cushion at the main break.
Law had five points on a 9-2 run to start the third as the hosts re-took a five-point lead, with Sobey nailing what was just the third triple from 18 attempts for the Bullets.
Once again it was the second unit that turned the tempo, with Naar dropping his third triple, while Deng Deng, Froling and White all grabbed buckets on 9-0 run that spurred the Hawks to a three-point lead at the final break.
Cadee had two more from deep early in the fourth as the Bullets got back within two early in the final quarter, but Froling provided the clincher with six points as the Hawks grabbed a seven-point buffer with just over three minutes to play.
Sobey did all he could to give his side a chance down the stretch, nailing a three, drawing an offensive foul and producing an and-one play, but a key put-back offensive board from Harvey sealed the deal for the visitors.