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NBL: Can their derby success be a springboard for the Illawarra Hawks?
The Illawarra Hawks lost out in the NBL Grand Final last season as their long wait for another title continues. After just seven games of the new season, they are finally showing some signs of life and their eye-catching recent form coupled with their victory over rivals Sydney Kings could help them challenge at the right end of the table once again this year.
Many pundits may point to the fact that the Hawks have played a number of sides towards the bottom of the standings; however, the New South Wales outfit appear to be gathering momentum and have put together a decent run of results, which has seen them close in on the NBL playoff positions.
Rotnei Clarke has impressed so far and he bagged 29 points against their bitter rivals Sydney Kings during their recent 93-83 derby success. This result could be a significant turning point in their season and inspire a challenge at the right end of the table. Their previous meeting ended in overtime disappointment for the Hawks as their opponents somehow managed to salvage their only victory of the campaign so far.
Coach Andrew Gaze has so far failed to find a way to get his Sydney side firing on all cylinders and a number of damaging defeats including losses against the Adelaide 36ers and leaders NZ Breakers has seen them remain rooted to the foot of the table. However, their rivals have made a much better start and are enjoying life at The Sandpit.
Last season, a 87-75 success over Sydney Kings at the end of December helped spark a run of six wins from eight that aided them in their quest for a top-four finish, and fans will be hoping that this can produce another profitable run of form. It's two wins in a row for Rob Beveridge's men who thumped the Brisbane Bullets 112-81 just two days earlier and they will be hoping to build on that recent momentum.
The Hawks were not among the pre-season favourites for success with current champions Perth Wildcats unsurprisingly dominating the market alongside Melbourne United once again. Despite their recent upturn in fortunes, Illawarra Hawks are still only fifth-favourites to triumph with the majority of Australian online sportsbooks.
Those who are thinking of backing the Hawks for success this season and to replicate their passage to the Grand Final will be able to find bookmakers latest offers at Aussie Free Bets including $501 in free bets from Sportsbet and this bonus could be used to back the Wollongong outfit to triumph and put last season's disappointment firmly behind them.
They only just crept into the top four last season before unexpectedly seeing off the Adelaide 36ers at the semifinal stage and they'll be hoping to participate in the end of season showdown once again. Unfortunately, the Perth Wildcats proved just too strong in the final, with Bryce Cotton's superb solo performance once again stealing all of the headlines.
The two sides will meet again later this season and the Hawks will be hoping to continue their recent dominance in the fixture. They are a side who are playing with confidence and can start to look up the table as opposed to nervously glancing over their shoulders. The Illawarra Hawks should be able to use their successive victories as a springboard to challenge for a playoff position and they do appear to have enough talent in the side to continue their upward momentum.