If the Hawks can go from no basketballs for their players to the top of the NBL ladder in six months, imagine what the franchise can do with the Illawarra community’s support.
The remarkable rise of the Hawks has been the story of the season so far, with the foundation club and last year’s bottom-placed side starting their 2021 campaign with three straight wins.
The team’s success has prompted coach Brian Goorjian to passionately call for “Illawarra” to be reinstated in the franchise’s name.
Goorjian made his feelings clear on the campaign for the Hawks to reclaim the club’s original name after his team’s win over Brisbane on Thursday night.
“We want to come back, we want them to fill that stadium and we want to hear ‘Illawarra, Illawarra’,” Goorjian said.
“I‘ve been around Chuck Harmison, Greg Hubbard, Glen Saville, Mat Campbell and these guys have earned that right. They’re Illawarra, we’re Illawarra. It’s time.”
Hawks president and co-owner Dorry Kordahi couldn’t agree with Goorjian more, but he stressed the club needed more community support to reclaim the Illawarra name.
The club could have folded back in May when it went into voluntary administration after it was revealed it hadn’t turned a profit in four years.
Thankfully, the NBL stepped in and helped to find new owners, but the job isn’t done from a long-term security perspective according to Kordahi.
“We should be Illawarra without a doubt, but we need you to get out and support your team,” Kordahi said.
“We have lifted the bar in what we are doing on and off the court, including bringing in the best coach in the country in Goorj.
“Now it’s on the community to buy their tickets, memberships, and corporate support their team so we can get the Illawarra name back.
“We have more good news coming soon regarding corporate, which is great.”
NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger stressed the league’s stance on reinstating the “Illawarra” name hadn’t changed, placing the emphasis back on the Wollongong community.
“As the new owners have also indicated, the club needs to build a long-term and sustainable future,” Loeliger said.
“They have set a bold membership target as part of their ‘Illawarra Proud’ campaign and are working closely with the local business community to get behind the foundation club.
“We fully support their efforts and encourage everyone across the Illawarra region to support the Hawks.
“We will continue to monitor the club’s progress and work closely with the Hawks ownership to ensure their long-term viability and success.”
Kordahi has been buoyed by the Hawks’ remarkable start to the NBL season, especially when you consider where the rebuild started, just weeks after the club had been placed into voluntary administration for the second time since 1979.
“We started in June with players having to bring their own ball to training because we didn’t have any,” Kordahi revealed.
“I had to call the NBL to send me some basketballs because we didn’t have any.
“That is the start of what we had – absolutely nothing – and now look what we’ve built in six months.”
Like everyone in the Wollongong region, Kordahi desperately wants to see the Illawarra name return, but he also knows the club requires more than just a name change to secure its long-term future.
He points out that the corporate reality of running a successful club means there are multiple standards that must be upheld, on and off the court.
“So even if we get this name back, we are not saved,” he said.
“This is an ongoing moving target.
“If we are still lingering around 3000 members in a few years time, then we won’t be here because we are not here to lose $3 million a year.
“So, the fans need to support their team.”
The Hawks made a huge step in the right direction on Friday when the club welcomed Multi Civil & Rail (MCR) back on-board as a major partner for the NBL 2020-21 season.
Multi Civil & Rail will take pride of place on the back of the new-look Hawks playing strip.
MCR is owned by former Hawks boss Tory Lavalle, who previously bid for the franchise prior to Kordahi signing on.
Kordahi believes Lavalle’s commitment is further proof of the franchise’s united front.
“I’ve been working closely with Tory for the last couple of months for him to come back as a sponsor,” he said.
“This highlights that there isn’t any angst between Tory or myself – we are in this together to drive our community engagement.
“But we also need the community to get out and support their team – that is vital for our long-term success.”