NBL 2015/16: New-look Hawks loom as competition dark horse

Just two months ago, the Wollongong Hawks went into voluntary administration and their place in the 2015/16 NBL season was under a rather large cloud.

The club had endured a tough season in 2014/15, where they seemingly fell off the pace as the teams around them bolstered their rosters with overseas and local talent.

The Hawks finished last by three wins in an otherwise tight competition, highlighting their lack of talent at the top end compared to their rivals.

Gary Ervin had an up-and-down season and fellow import Jahii Carson was largely a flop, while the rest of their roster was serviceable without being brilliant.

The Hawks needed a fresh start, and that is exactly what has happened.

Once their place in the competition had been secured, they became the Illawarra Hawks, as to encompass the greater community around Wollongong.

The franchise then parted ways with long-time servant and Head Coach Gordie McLeod, ushering in well-travelled Rob Beveridge as his replacement.

While McLeod will be remembered as one of the greats of the league when all is said and done, change was needed, and the appointment of Beveridge is exactly what the Hawks need to make a move back up to the top.

However, the most important aspect of their rebirth was always going to be the playing roster, and so far it is shaping up very nicely indeed.

To date, the Hawks have confirmed two signings, and big ones at that.

Club stalwart and Boomer Rhys Martin was the first to put pen to paper, before Beveridge’s influence was felt for the first time with the signing of superstar big man AJ Ogilvy.

With both signings being star local players, the Hawks roster is suddenly in very good shape with two import spots available to be filled.

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One of those import slots is expected to be filled in the coming week, with former Wildcats star Kevin Lisch reportedly on his way back down under in another big coup for the club.

Factor in the likes of Oscar Forman and Tim Coenraad, among others, who the Hawks will aim to re-sign, and a potential second import, and suddenly Illawarra is looking quite formidable.

In a key difference to recent seasons, the Hawks are taking a pro-active approach to their roster and are going after proven stars rather than relative unknowns, with the pull of Beveridge a key factor in securing the services of big name players.

Once Lisch is secured, the Hawks will have to make the remaining members of their 2014/15 roster a priority, building their roster piece by piece, before adding another star to finalise things.

That final piece may be a second import or a home-grown talent, but regardless, if they manage to nab another genuine star, the Hawks will be on everyone’s radar.

For now, they remain a dark horse; the unknown of what the rest of their roster will look like getting fans excited on big potential rather than actual fact just yet.

The rest of the competition is growing stronger as well, which means there must be a lid kept on the Hawks for now until their roster, as well as that of the other seven NBL sides, are finalised prior to the 2015/16 season commencing.

Either way, the Hawks have turned things around brilliantly from their six-win campaign in 2014/15, and with Beveridge, Ogilvy and Martin already on board, Lisch to follow, and plenty more to come after that, Illawarra, if nothing else at this stage, is making the rest of the league take notice.