It’s been a difficult first half of the season for the Illawarra side. The Kittyhawks lost Renae Garlepp, Rachel Lisch, Katina Mandylaris, and Courtney Dean from last season’s team which made the grand final, leaving massive holes in the lineup. With an experienced duo of Lauren Sparks and Olivia White leading a team with a large amount of Youth League players, a slip down the table was always expected in 2017.
However, extended player absences have seen Illawarra’s performances suffer markedly. Lauren Sparks has played just three of the team’s eight games, and Olivia White has played just five. With those two players both out of the side, the Kittyhawks lost their most winnable game of the season to this point, going down 63-51 away to Hills. With a full team on the court, Illawarra did go agonisingly close to defeating Newcastle in the weeks before Suzy Batkovic arrived for the Hunters, going down 67-65.
Safe to say, it hasn’t been a good first half of the season results-wise for Illawarra. However, it would be extremely myopic to simply look at the win-loss column and toss this season away. Tiarna Porter has excelled during a tough stretch to average over 9 points per game, whilst Youth League stars Eleri Morris and Paige Phillips have stepped up for the team at times. Morris is shooting 45% from the field to lead the team in that category, and has finished three games in double figures for points. Phillips is averaging 7.3 points per game, and has also finished in double figures three times. With many Youth League players receiving extended runs in the side, this season could prove to be of massive benefit going forward in the long-term for Illawarra, especially with the potential return of Katherine and Liisa Ups from college in mid-2018.
Looking to the remainder of 2017, the outlook is far more promising for Illawarra, and it stems from the return of Georgia Ohrdorf, who is back from college in the US for the next few months. Ohrdorf dropped 28 points in the team’s 73-64 loss to Sutherland last weekend despite stepping off a plane just eight hours earlier to lead the league in scoring for the week. Sydney Uni Flames guard and spiritual leader of the team Lauren Sparks has also returned to the side to run the offence from the point guard spot. Whilst finals are out of the question this season, the Hawks could yet steal a couple of wins as the season progresses. The June 3rd fixture away to Comets and the home game against Hills on the final day of the season shape to be the team’s best chances to grab that elusive victory, with the team facing a tough road to end the season. It would certainly be fun from a neutral standpoint to see the unfancied Kittyhawks spring an upset or two and put the cat amongst the pigeons in the finals race though!