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Time off or time now? Hawks face a challenge

HAS the FIBA break and wait on the "play-in tournament - a.k.a the top six eliminations - taken the edge off regular season champion Melbourne as it prepares for tonight's opening salvo of its semi final series against Justin Robinson and the surging Illawarra Hawks? 

Can Robinson even play as well again as he did in sealing Illawarra's 88-85 win over New Zealand to keep the Hawks active in a playoff series few dreamt of early this season?

That's probably a more pertinent question because well-rested and raring to go, niggling injuries laid to rest, United will explode like a a cannon shot at close range when the game tips off at John Cain Arena.

It's become an annual, if not age-old debate - what's better, having an enforced rest or continuing to play?

Surely the answer is simply how many niggling injuries did your team need to mask toward the end of its regular season quest?

Anyone who expects a roster such as Matthew Dellavedova, Chris Goulding, Luke Travers, Ian Clark, Jo Lual-Acuil, Shea Ili, Ariel Hukporti, Tanner Krebs, Kyle Bowen, Flynn Cameron, Brad Newley or coach Dean Vickerman to come in soft, complacent, rusty, or out-of-sync, hasn't paid a lot of attention to Season 2023-24.

They might take a minute to find their groove, but this is what they play for and frankly, most, if not all of them, will be chomping at the bit to get this party started.

Vickerman may have been voted Coach of the Year but his greatest challenger was Justin Tatum, whose resurrection of the Hawks is a story to be sung around campfires for years to come in the Illawarra.

Sam Froling will need Mason Peatling, against his former club, to step it up and for Lachie Olbrich to not let the glare of the bright lights blind him to what he can bring his team.

Gary Clark must be fully able "to go" and Tyler Harvey to bring the smart version of himself. Will "Davo" Hickey has been a find but Tatum also has extracted some great ball this season from Wani Swaka Lo Buluk, Todd Blanchfield and Hyunjung Lee.

Returning to Wollongong for Sunday's Game 2 with a 1-0 lead would be sensational for Illawarra. But United must start favourite, and with very good reason. 










 Game 1 Tonight: 730pm John Cain Arena

 Game 2 Sunday: 3pm, WIN Ent. Centre

 Game 3 (If nec) Wed: 730pm John Cain Arena

(*All times in AEDT)



Mar 7

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