11 May 2023

Geoff Adams is determined to see the Roller Hawks fly

| Kellie O'Brien
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man with basketball

Geoff Adams, the man who helped save the Roller Hawks, will do anything to keep the players on the court. Photo: Chad Steele.

When Geoff Adams joined the committee for Illawarra’s wheelchair basketball team the Roller Hawks, it was on its knees.

However, Geoff was prepared to do whatever it took to keep the players on the court, including taking on the role of president.

Now, with four straight national titles, players plying their craft internationally and a strong financial position, the Roller Hawks are back on a roll and ready to compete in a new-look competition for 2023.

Geoff first linked with the Roller Hawks in 2015, joining as a media manager to look after social media, the website and photography.

“I’ve been a basketball fan all my life,” he said. “I was a teenager in the ’90s and grew up during the heyday of basketball.

“I saw the Roller Hawks do a demonstration during half time of an Illawarra Hawks NBL game. I was in the crowd and I thought, ‘That’s interesting’. I went to catch a few games and didn’t think much else of it.”

But an email seeking a media manager piqued his interest.

“Initially, I got involved because I was looking for more things to go and shoot and edit,’’ the WIN News cameraman said. “Any opportunity to run around with a camera, particularly back then, was great for experience.”

At the time, there was a well-run committee made up of long-serving members.

“I was just the guy running around taking photos,” Geoff said. “And then over the next couple of years, people who had been around for a long time gradually drifted away.”

By 2017, the club was under-resourced, had little financial support and had to call on retired members to return to help run it effectively.

“I remember one meeting at Shellharbour where there were only three of us trying to work out the plan for the next month,” Geoff said.

A GoFundMe campaign and sponsorship drive were initiated to keep the Roller Hawks rolling, along with reaching out for help from past members.

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Former coach Jim Williams became president and Geoff landed the role of secretary. The crew recruited new sponsors and began turning the club around.

Then, in 2020, Jim retired and the club needed a president.

“We looked around the room and everyone looked at me, and I became the president,” Geoff said, laughing.

While Geoff would have been happy to continue as the media guy, he knew he needed to do whatever was necessary to help.

“If it means I’ve got to go find sponsors, if it means I’ve got to MC an event, I want to help. Because ultimately, I’m a fan of the game,” he said, admitting to still sitting and enjoying games or jumping in a wheelchair to play with the development team.

“As the president, my goal is whatever I can do to help keep the guys on the court, I’m happy to do. These guys don’t make much money out of it, but they dedicate the time to pursue this as a career.”

The club has gone on to win four straight National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL) titles. It won three in a row from 2017 before COVID halted games in 2020 and interrupted the 2021 season.

“We finally got a full season last year. So we count that as four in a row,” Geoff said.

This year, the national league will be reduced to a tournament format, due to the high costs involved in community-level clubs transporting wheelchairs and equipment and seeking wheelchair-accessible accommodation.

The view is to encourage the return of other states that have fallen away over the past couple of years.

“The Roller Hawks are in a good position with more support from a corporate level than we’ve ever had,” Geoff said.

However, other clubs aren’t as fortunate and are unable to commit to a full season.

“The focus for anybody in our club who does use a wheelchair or does have a disability is always on what you can do and not what you can’t,” Geoff said.

“So that’s been my little mantra this year when it comes to what a national league will look like. “Let’s not worry about the fact we don’t have the same number of games we normally do. Let’s focus on what we do have and what else we can do.”

Opportunities will include looking at the state league, which started last season, and tournaments around the country that previously clashed with the national league. There will also be a focus on growing the club from a junior level, with able-bodied players also welcomed.

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