Hawks ‘free agents’ to attract rival NBL interest

Friday, June 21, 2019

Tim Coenraad and Oscar Forman hope Hawks management can resolve the crisis which has hit the club. Picture: KIRK GILMOURWorried Wollongong players are unlikely to sit by and wait on the club’s fate if rival NBL teams start making offers.

The Hawks were placed into voluntary administration on Monday and have 28 days to find a new major sponsor.

Players have received permission from management to speak to other clubs, though the free agency period doesn’t officially start until two weeks after the grand final series.

Forwards Tim Coenraad, Oscar Forman and Brad Hill were under contract for next season, while Rhys Martin, Tyson Demos and Larry Davidson are effectively free agents.

Even if the Hawks defy the odds and the club carries on next season, the playing roster will probably have to be built from scratch.

“I’d love to see the club get some more sponsorship and continue, but in those 28 days a lot of the guys will be thinking about their families and their livelihood, and they have to do what they have to do to keep playing,” 2014-15 club MVP Coenraad said.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now and if you wait too long you might not be included. It’s definitely something you have to consider and you know you might have to make a decision if another team comes along, and it’s going to be a very hard decision.

“I’d love to stay in Wollongong. [Wife] Nelly and I have called it home for six years and we’ve got roots here. I don’t want to go anywhere. But you have to think about your welfare and the time that you get to play basketball, because we don’t get to do this for a very long time.”

Coenraad is counting on Wollongong companies to pitch in to help the Hawks survive.

“I’d like to get a call of action out to the Illawarra if you’re a big business, save your Hawks and put your hand up if you can,” he said.

“It’s devastating to think I might have to move away or possibly not even have a basketball career anymore. I want to try and keep the Hawks alive. For the time being we’re going to need businesses to put their hand up. If you can be involved, please do so.”

Martin has blossomed into one of the NBL’s top point guards and doesn’t want the Hawks to die. But he also doesn’t want to be a player without a team next season.

“From a playing group’s perspective, if you can get a job you take it,” he said.

“It’s pretty hard to run the risk of hanging around in the hope of Wollongong being back in. It might not even be resolved after the 28-day period. They might extend it to 45 days and it could be over for you if you try to wait it out.”

The Hawks have pulled through two well documented fights for survival over the past decade and Martin believes they can do it again.

“It’s a tough situation for everyone and [club owner] James [Spenceley] is trying to make a smart business move and keep this brand going, and what needs to happen is that local businesses need to get together,” he said.

“We’re not talking about the fish and chip shops. It’s the big local businesses, the guys who earn big bucks. If five of them get together and say, ‘hey, we love the Hawks, we love supporting an NBL team from Wollongong and we want to keep them around’, the club would survive.

“If they want to keep something going in this community, then they need to get behind it, because that’s really the only thing that’s going to save the club.”

Forman has just completed his fifth season with the Hawks and hopes he hasn’t played his final game in red and white.

“If this is the direction the club has to take to have a chance of surviving and coming out the other side, then I’m with it,” he said.

“I want to 100 per cent stay with the Hawks, but I don’t know if there’s going to be a Hawks. I love it here and I think there should be a basketball team here. If it’s not going to work, you have to deal with reality and move on or you’re starting to jeopardise your own future, but I’m going to try and stay positive that something will work out.”

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