EVER since I first picked up a basketball at the age of seven, I've been a devoted Illawarra Hawks fan.
As a youngster growing up in the area and playing representative basketball, I actually dreamed of one day playing for the club.
I was at the Snakepit when the Hawks defeated the Townsville Crocodiles 104-101 in game one of the 2000-2001 NBL finals series - which they went on to win for what remains their one and only championship.
I was also there for what seemed like the club's final home game when they beat Adelaide 102-95 before Indian businessman Arun Jagatramka came to their financial rescue at the last minute.
Like plenty of other Hawks diehards, I've celebrated the highs and loyally endured the lows over the past 20 years.
Unfortunately, there's been a lot more of the latter the past few seasons, though I applauded the decision to ditch the 'Wollongong Hawks' brand and return to the foundation name of Illawarra (more on that later).
I know we had some strong seasons under supercoach Rob Beveridge, including a grand final appearance in 2016-17, but by and large, as a self-appointed 'Hawk-Head', it's been tough supporting this club the past few years.
The biggest problem I've had has stemmed from the top with ownership.
Both James Spenceley and Simon Stratford were by and large 'token' owners.
Neither had a close affiliation with the club or area for that matter. They just wanted to own the team for what appeared to be a status symbol.
If you want proof of this anarchy, look no further than when proud Illawarra product Xavier Cooks, who like me grew up adoring the Hawks (his father Eric is on the staff after all), decided to sign with our main rivals the Sydney Kings - a move I fully supported.
These dysfunctional ownerships were epitomised when they both let the Hawks go into voluntary administration during their tenures.
Obviously the latest one left the Hawks in limbo for the second time in five years, with numerous consortiums being rumoured to take over the NBL's last remaining foundation club.
Although the ownership bid by prominent Illawarra businessman Tory Lavalle and LaMelo Ball drew out the pessimists, I actually supported it.
From Lavalle's local knowledge to the feel-good story of future NBA player Ball, who was electrifying during his short tenure, supporting the club that springboarded his career, it appeared like a match made in heaven.
Unfortunately, the NBL didn't agree and rejected their big offer on Wednesday morning.
Instead, NBL owner Larry Kestelman and his team decided to go with a syndicate that includes Australian entrepreneur and former co-owner of the Sydney Kings, Dorry Kordahi, prominent former NBA executive Bryan Colangelo and US businessman and basketball influencer Michael Proctor.
Sure, it seems great at first glance to have three well-respected basketball personalities taking over the club.
But the catch is they want to drop the Illawarra name and be known as purely the 'Hawks'.
This, by and large, is a gut punch to all people of the Illawarra.
Yes, they've come out and said they have no plans to relocate the team, but it seems certain the Hawks will take home games to regional markets to places like Canberra and Newcastle.
"The decision that the NBL made, they proposed to us what that they wanted with the new franchise, removing the name Illawarra," Kordahi told Australian Community Media.
"But it's still a Wollongong-based team, that's the heartland and we want to maintain that, we just want to look at it with fresh eyes.
"We want to increase our footprint to the greater region of NSW, but the majority of games will still be played at the WIN Entertainment Centre.
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"So we'll wait and see, if we're producing a great product and packing the place out, we might have every reason to keep our games in Wollongong."
But from the outside looking in, it appears Kordahi, who wants to keep the Hawks name alive to honour greats such as Mat Campbell and Glen Saville, and his partners are interested in taking the team away from the Illawarra and expanding their reach.
Which in a way is merging numerous markets into one and we all know they have a checkered history at best.
Merging didn't work for the NBL's Sydney Spirit, it didn't work for the Northern Eagles (RIP the North Sydney Bears) and it's barely working for either the St George Illawarra Dragons or Wests Tigers (just ask any of their fans, especially those of the Steelers).
I realise that the NBL wants to promote basketball by taking the game to other venues around the country but do they need to tread carefully.
Taking games to Canberra hasn't sat well with Hawks fans in the past and I can't imagine it will in the future.
And from a Canberra perspective, are they really going to support this regional 'Hawks' team?
I have my doubts.
With only nine current franchises, plus a 10th in Tasmania joining in 2021-22, the NBL is better off expanding its teams to become an actual national league, rather than sitting on the fence with the current model.
To be a serious national league, you need to have at least 12, but probably 14 or 16 teams competing - with Canberra and even Newcastle potentially being well-positioned to hold one of those licences.
But until then, don't try and make us Illawarra fans share our beloved Hawks with other regions.
Because if you do, people will start to switch off and you will burn a basketball bridge that will take a long time to rebuild.
I hope I'm wrong and this is the start of an exciting new Hawks' future but I have my doubts.