Crocs’ call to arms
CROCODILES skipper Russell Hinder yesterday sounded the battle cry of the decade in readiness for T o wns v i l l e ’ s s h o wdown wi t h Perth.
Hinder said the match-up with the second-placed Wildcats could only be compared to the Crocs’ 2001 grand final loss to Wollongong at The Swamp.
‘‘ I don’t want to overstate it, but this might be the biggest game for this club in 10 years,’’ he said.
‘‘ If we can handle our business this weekend against Perth and get our noses back in front, we can get a home-court advantage for the semi-finals for the first time in a long while.’’
And it’s a meeting that could determine their grand final fate.
With minor premiers New Zealand faltering recently, National Basketball League observers are tipping the Breakers to bow out in the first round of the finals, leaving the team that finishes runner-up in the regular season to take a homecourt advantage in the three-game championship showdown.
Only twice in 10 years has the top seed failed to make it through to the decider, with Townsville earning hosting rights in 2001 from second place and Adelaide going on to win the championship with the edge they got by finishing third ahead of West Sydney in 2002.
Of more concern to Hinder, however, is that only one team in eight years that has finished outside the top two has managed to feature in the grand final, with West Sydney coming from third to unsuccessfully challenge t he Sydney Kings for the crown in 2004.
‘‘ New Zealand aren’t our concern any more, what New Zealand get up to is their business,’’ Hinder said. ‘‘ This is a play-off between us and Perth.’’
It’s a grudge-match that has so far left Townsville scarred this season, with the Wildcats beating the Crocs both at home and away in their three meetings to date.
Perth are the only side Townsville are yet to beat and the only visiting side which has emerged from The Swamp triumphant.
‘‘ We owe them, and don’t think we haven’t spoken of it and that it doesn’t piss us off,’’ Hinder said.
‘‘ We are coming out and we are going to have a chip on our shoulder because, ( a), we don’t like losing; ( b), we don’t like losing to Perth; and ( c), we don’t like losing to Perth by 52 total points.’’
But if the Cats touch down in Townsville tonight thinking they have the Crocs’ measure, Hinder has a stern warning for them.
‘‘ We are a different team now to what we were two weeks ago, let alone six weeks ago or 12 weeks ago,’’ he said.
‘‘ We feel that we are travelling better. We got a nice little wake up call on our last road trip to address our intensity and make sure that we know how hard we have to play to compete in this league.’’
RESOLVE: Russell Hinder says the game against Perth might be the biggest in 10 years