Like any good son, Nick Kay left all his Christmas shopping for his mother to do.
Lucky for the Illawarra Hawks forward that good ol’ Mum answered his last-minute call like she does every year and everything is set for Kay’s arrival at his parents’ Tamworth home just in time for Christmas.
“I sent Mum to do all my Christmas shopping and told her I’d pay her back when I got home,” Kay explained.
“I’ve been talking to my sister about the parents’ presents, so she’s organising that. I just sit back and come up with ideas and usually end up paying the bills.”
The Hawks are relishing the chance to take a few days off over Christmas before returning to work to start preparing for a New Year’s Eve showdown with reigning NBL champions Perth at WIN Entertainment Centre.
“We’re a pretty small, close family,” Kay said.
“We’ll head to the grandparents’ place for breakfast and visit my great grandparents who live 45 minutes. We just hang out and have a quiet day and typically dinner’s at our house.”
Americans Marvelle Harris and Mike Holyfield are accustomed to white Christmases and are looking forward to their first ‘hot’ Christmas at one of Wollongong’s many beaches.
The pair will both be in touch with family back home.
“When I think of Christmas I just think of giving,” Harris said.
“Me being in the position I am now to give back and help my family and others … I think of Christmas as giving and just celebrating each other.
“Growing up in the area I did, it was tough, and you weren’t always given a lot of things. You were just grateful for everything you had.
“This is definitely the first Christmas I’ll spend without my family. But family’s not only blood, family’s what you make it, and I have an extended family with the guys here. I’ve made some friends that I’m gonna talk to for a long time.”
Fellow Hawks import Rotnei Clarke will spend the day with his wife and one-year-old daughter at Jervis Bay on the picturesque NSW South Coast.
“I try not to get caught up in gifts and everything because as far as my wife and I are concerned, it’s Jesus’s birthday and obviously that’s my Saviour, so I look at that as being the meaning for the season,” Clarke said.
“We’ll stay by a beach at Jervis Bay [on the NSW South Coast] on Christmas Eve and get up and go to church on Christmas Day. We’ll just spend time with our daughter and open presents, and just have a good family day.
“Last year she obviously had no idea but this year she seems to be a little more cognitive of what’s going on. We gave her a gift the other day just to see how she’d react to it, and she opened it and was like ‘whoaaaa’, so it’ll be a fun time.
“One of the hardest things to grasp is the fact it’s hot outside, so for us it’s not like the true feeling of Christmas. I think it’s snowing back home right now, so my folks are enjoying the cold weather and we’re kind of rubbing it in their face while we’re getting a nice tan at the beach.”
Christmas 2016 will be the first Hawks guard Mitch Norton has not celebrated with his parents at their Townsville home.
“I think it’ll be a bit tough. We’re a very close family so it’s going to be a little different,” Norton said.
“We’ve got [girlfriend] Sasha’s parents down for Christmas and it’ll be good to spend some time with them. We’ll have brekky on the barbecue and head to the beach, then have some prawns and bugs and stuff like that, and just chill out all day.
“Christmas is all about family, which is probably why this one might be a bit tough.”
Hawks co-captains Rhys Martin and Oscar Forman agree.
“It’s always a time to spend with your family,” Martin said.
“It’s really good with [three-year-old daughter] Ella now. She’s getting a better understanding of the concept of Christmas and the present-giving. And with a new baby on the way, it’s a great way to celebrate and look forward to welcoming a new family member.”
Forman and his girlfriend are expecting their first child in June.
“We’ve got an early flight out in the morning after the Sydney game [on Friday night] and we’re going home to see my family in Adelaide,” Forman said.
“It’ll be our last Christmas before we have a little one running around so it’ll be a reasonably relaxed Christmas for us.”
Illawarra forward Cody Ellis’s parents are flying in from Perth to spend Christmas in Wollongong.
“Growing up, Christmas was always big in our family,” Ellis said.
“It was always me, my brother and Mum and Dad around the Christmas tree in the morning.
“They get in Friday morning and they’ll come up and watch the Sydney game. They’ll drive back with us and spend Christmas here. We’ll have a big feed and then kind of dag out, get off the feet and not do too much.
“A couple days away from the ball is good. We all spend so much time together so a bit of separation and freshen up is good for all of us.”
Hawks centre AJ Ogilvy is just hoping the illness that prevented him from training this week doesn’t carry over to Christmas Day, while guard Kevin White will head home to Manly to spend Christmas with his family, but not in their usual location.
“This year we’re doing something a bit different and jumping on a ferry and doing a pub crawl and spending it in Chinatown, so it should be fun,” White said.
“There’ll be about 20 of us and it’s just something different to break up the traditional Christmas at Gran’s or Mum and Dad’s.
“We don’t really do anything presents-wise. We’re a bit beyond that and we just do a secret Santa thing. It’s just important that you get home and spend time with family.
“Bevo’s [coach Rob Beveridge] pretty good at giving us time off and the club’s very supportive of everyone being with their families and friends. You’ve got a life off the court too and you’ve gotta find that balance. Having family and the people around you who support you are very important.
“Two or three days break is all we need. We’ve got Perth coming in on the 31st and with the way the league is so tight you can’t afford to take more time off, otherwise you get a bit complacent while every other team is working hard and you get a bit behind the eight-ball.”
After juggling basketball with full-time university studies for the past year, Hawks forward Tim Coenraad is looking forward to a quiet Christmas with wife Nelly.
“This year it’s just going to be not scheduling anything and just having time with me and my wife by ourselves, just relaxing and recharging some batteries,” Coenraad said.
“On Christmas Day we’ll take some shade for me to the beach. Nell’s a bit different – she’s a bit more olive than I am, but I need that shade to protect the moon tan.
“It’s good to get away from ball and each other for a few days. You need to. It refreshes you. You’re at it every day. But it’s also making sure you come back with the right mindset because sometimes you can bring that relaxation back onto the basketball court.
“We’ve got a lot of home games down the stretch and it’s crucial that we take care of our home court and come back with the right mindset after the break.”