With a short turnaround and extra kilometres under the belt, the Illawarra Hawks are in Perth preparing for the start of their first NBL Grand Final series since 2009/10.
Starting guard and star defender Mitch Norton was kind enough to offer his time to speak to Hawks media this morning ahead of a historic game one on Sunday.
Mitch, thanks for your time. Firstly, how difficult has it been to go from the high of Thursday to preparing for a whole new challenge on Sunday?
“It has been pretty good. Obviously it was a pretty big achievement, but we don’t want to finish there. There’s only one more goal to tick off, and we’re over the moon that we made the finals, but we’re not satisfied yet. It was good to have a day to travel and let it all sink in and now today we start preparations for Perth.”
Just a quick one on Adelaide, what did it mean to the players to see messages of support on the walls and a big group of traveling fans in the arena?
“It was massive. It really showed that everyone is behind the Hawks right now. We looked around and read the words on the wall and it obviously meant a lot to the town as much as the players. If we take care of business here we’re hopefully heading back to a sell out crowd.”
You broke the drought in Perth this year, what does that win do for the group’s confidence?
“It means a lot, however it’s finals basketball now and anything can happen. It was good to get that monkey off our backs, but we’re focused on one game at a time right now and I think if we do that we’re going to have a good shot. It’s going to be a hostile arena and Perth are playing some really good basketball at this stage.”
So to return home 1-0 up in the series, what does the team need to do specifically?
“It’s going to come down to how we play our system and if we do that well I think we’ll have a good shot. Containing their two imports is going to go a long way. They use the middle on-ball pretty well so it’s definitely more defence for us which allows us to get out and run. They really like to slow the pace down so it’s up to us to stick to our guns and play our style.”
How is big AJ fairing?
“From what I saw yesterday he was moving all right and I think we’ll know more today. He has been doing all the right things, icing and getting physio treatment as much as he can. They’re doing everything they can to give him the best shot and I think he’ll be fine.”
We opened up twitter last night for fan questions. Our pick of the bunch was from James Falleiro, who asked: How is it different playing/shooting at Perth Arena due to the size of the stadium and noise of crowd?
“When that bigger arena is empty, it’s a little different because of the size, so the depth perception is a little different. But once it’s full of all the red jerseys it doesn’t make that much of a difference. All of us have played on big stages before and in big stadiums so we’re not too worried about it.”
The morale is obviously high within the unit. When we asked for questions, just as many players as fans responded. Take me through a few of these; AJ wants to know why you eat all of the dessert at team dinners, Rotnei asked if your favourite nickname was Carl Norton Jr, and Kev had an interesting one of your undies selection for each game.
“I think the time the tweet went out a lot of us were on our phones as we had all just finished dinner. To answer AJ’s question, I didn’t actually have any dessert last night (laughing), and I think Rotty calls me Cal Norton Jr as his own kind of joke he has going on. Morale wise, everything is going well and we’re feeling really well and feeling good about this shot over here in Perth.”
Don’t forget Game 1 is live from Perth tomorrow (Sunday 26th March) night, Tip Off is at 7pm.
Game 2 is on Wednesday March 1, at the WIN Entertainment Centre. Don’t miss out on your tickets, secure them here before we sell out!