IMPROVED team chemistry has the Hawks within striking distance of equalling their 2011-12 season wins total as they prepare to face Melbourne Tigers at WIN Entertainment Centre in Monday night's New Year's Eve clash.
The Hawks won just nine games to finish towards the bottom of the premiership ladder last season but the revamped side have already claimed eight wins from their opening 12 games.
Skipper Oscar Forman said the team had come together better this year, highlighting the impact of imports Adris Deleon and Lance Hurdle.
''Everyone is pushing in the right direction,'' Forman said. ''The chemistry wasn't right with our imports and that impacted us. I feel, this year, we've got the right fit.''
The Hawks have battled on despite an injury-riddled season with guard Tyson Demos (knee) and centre Larry Davidson (rib) missing a handful of games, while Tim Coenraad (foot) is yet to play.
Demos is expected to play on Monday with Davidson an outside chance. Coenraad is still at least another week away.
''At the start of the year, if someone said we would be eight and four, we would have taken it,'' Forman said. ''We've dropped games we should have won and we've probably won games we should have lost but I think where we are placed is a good indication of the work we've put in the preseason and some of the great scouting we've done.
''Now it's about managing our bodies and pushing forward.''
The Hawks head into the final match of the year in third spot, with the Tigers second to last.
Wollongong had success beating Melbourne 74-66 when the teams last met on November 25.
''They are a real danger team and have a lot of guys that can catch fire,'' Forman said. ''We have to be on with our defence and they are a team that can crash the board.
''They hit the boards hard so we have to make sure we box them out and grab the rebounds and make sure everyone is wise with their fouls.''
A kind schedule allowed a lot of the Hawks players to rest during the Christmas period, having not played since a three-point win against Perth on December 14.
While some of his teammates enjoyed a break, Forman was part of the revived NBL concept, featuring in the losing North All Stars team.
''It was great to be able to socialise with a few players from other teams and it's good to have a bit of a friendly rivalry now,'' he said.