Following a stellar 2016/17 NBL season, during which Illawarra fell agonisingly close to its second NBL championship, Friday night saw the Novotel Northbeach Wollongong host the 2017 Hawks MVP Awards dinner.
The night was ultimately a coming together of community; players, staff, volunteers, sponsors and fans, each celebrating the achievements of their regions basketball team.
Hosted by Amy Duggan of WIN News, the night was a resounding success. Rob Beveridge, who had a touching tribute to his family and wife Sue Ellen, along with several of the playing unit were cameo speakers during the night, sharing stories and illustrating their personalities to those in attendance.
As is tradition Individual player sponsors were given the opportunity to sit with their sponsored star, sharing a drink and a yarn over their favourite moments of the year.
The night began with a rousing performance by the Hawks cheer squad, along with a season highlights package (available on the Hawks Facebook page). The three minute long, ‘winning’ themed piece had the crowd in raptures as they recapped the season, with the biggest cheers reserved for highlights of Kevin White and Rhys Martin niggling the best in the league.
The room was then in full swing as the ‘Illawarra’ chant, senominas with the season, rung out inside the Grand Ballroom at the conclusion of the video, all before an award or meal had been presented.
With the attendees on a high note, the awards began, with the 2017 coaches award beginning the formal proceedings. Kevin White, the heart and soul of the squad and deserving winner, accepted the award with obvious pride and honour.
The 2017 Peoplecare Members MVP was next. With Peoplecare CEO Michael Bassingthwaite announcing the winner was Rotnei Clarke for his consistent and untiring season. Sadly, he couldn’t be there on the night to accept the honour due to other commitments, but for those in attendance, Rotnei, along with Marvelle – who also flew home to be with family – left the crowd in stitches as they passed on their thanks for the season.
AJ Ogilvy was the deserved winner of the 2017 Community Player Award for his tireless effort in attending promotions, school visits and sharing the Hawks community message. Assistance Coach Matthew Flinn presented the award, saying AJ regularly drops what he is doing to attend events, as well as always being available to speak to media countrywide.
The 2017 Defensive Player of the year went to a new addition to the club, starting guard Mitch Norton. Statistically, Norton was credited with the equal fifth most steals by a Hawk, but it was his relentless pursuit and pressure of opposition guards that secured him the award.
The 2017 Club Person of the year, arguably the most important award of the night, was presented by General Manager Kim Welch. Matthew Flinn was the recipient for his industrious effort in all aspects of club life, from recruitment, training, community engagement, through to his work with the playing squad. In a touching moment, he called Hawks Life Member Phil Driscoll on stage to stand alongside him as a show of respect for his volunteer work not only for this season but the ones prior.
The final award presented was for the club MVP. Ultimately, it went to our star import, who averaged almost 28 minutes, 17 points, 3 assists and a steal per game, more often than not coming off the bench. Shooting 40% from behind the arc, most featuring in the season highlights, Rotnei Clarke took out the award.
With heads turning to the big screen, Rotnei thanked the Hawkheads for their support and continued love throughout the season. A huge bonus for Illawarra moving forward is that Rotnei will return for season 2017/18, eager to go one better.
Following the awards ceremony, those in attendance had the opportunity to acquire a piece of memorabilia as part of the club run silent auction. Signed player worn jerseys, balls and newspaper articles were some of the sensational pieces on offer, all going to good homes.
The last hour or so, seating plans were a thing of the past, as old friends shared stories as new friends were introduced. Players mingled with those that had supported them at games, online or in written word throughout the year; a fantastic way to finish the night.
2016/17 Illawarra Hawks Club Award Winners:
Most Valuable Player: Rotnei Clarke
Best Defensive Player: Mitch Norton
Coach’s Award: Kevin White
Community Player Award: AJ Ogilvy
Club Person of the Year: Matt Flinn
Peoplecare Members MVP: Rotnei Clarke