Crocs’ call to arms

Townsville Bulletin - - Sport - by Andrew Aloia andrew. aloia@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

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

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