Mother's love motivating Tianna Hawkins towards title success

Townsville Fire import Tianna Hawkins has an extra special kind of motivation to win the WNBL championship.

The 32-year-old centre has produced a brilliant campaign in the Fire's 14-game winning streak to the Grand Final series, her form even more impressive given she has been separated from the love of her life, her seven-year-old son, since December.

Emanuel joined Hawkins in Australia in pre-season but when he returned home to Washington for Christmas with his father, his mother had to make one of the hardest decisions of her life.

"My family and I are very adamant about school, education is important. He was missing too much school and kind of falling behind the pace in America," Hawkins told ESPN.

"When he was out here in Australia and starting to struggle a little bit we were on the road so it wasn't going to work out. I had to make a tough decision that he had to stay home with my mum. She's been doing a great job, I don't know what I'd do without her. He gets to see his dad on weekends and he's with mum during the week, she gets him to and from school and taekwondo

"This has been the longest and the furthest I've been away from him. I'm a mum first and I've got to do whatever it takes to provide for our family and this happens to be the sacrifice I have to make to make a living for myself and Emanuel.

"It's been very challenging, for him too - he's been struggling but now that he knows I'm coming home soon he's a lot better. He doesn't know exactly when I'm coming home, I'm going to pop up and surprise him."

It's always been mum and her son.

They've travelled all over the globe together, the pinnacle - a WNBA championship with Washington Mystics in 2019.

"He's been travelling with me since he was six months old. He took his first steps in France so all he knows is mommy plays basketball and he's always with Mommy," Hawkins said.

"It's a shock to him and he doesn't understand that I can't just put him on a plane he's like 'you got my plane ticket yet? Am I coming out there yet?'

"He always calls me after he watches the game. He watches the game with my mum when he wakes up in the morning then he calls me.

"He's keeping me going, this is all for him."

Hawkins averages 17 points and 8 rebounds a game and is a workhorse for coach Shannon Seebohm. She rarely comes to the bench and was on court for all 80 minutes of the Fire's 2-0 Semi-Final series sweep of Perth.

For Hawkins, the equation is simple.

"I have a goal and with this championship coming up, I got 80 minutes to play maybe 120.

"I'm taking it a minute at a time."

Hawkins has loved her time in north Queensland and has embraced the club and community like it's opened its arms to her.

"It's been great and I'm not just saying that because we have been winning but this is the first time I've played overseas where everyone has been this close and got along this well, you don't really come across that too much," she explains.

"I had that in DC when we won the WNBA championship in 2019 but when you talk about teams overseas it's rare.

"We're really close and we spend a lot of time together whether it's eating together, playing video games together, we had the opportunity to see the Great Barrier Reef which was amazing. They'll be the many memories I'll have with me of this time here in Townsville.

"They've welcomed me with open arms, they've loved E, he loves them, every time I talk to him and I'm with the girls he wants to see them and says 'tell your teammates I miss them'.

"It's the close-knit club Shannon has created, a very professional and healthy environment. It's a genuine culture and I just love it.

"It's made my time here, as hard as it's been, a lot easier."

So, with the trophy now within reach and the countdown on until she is reunited with her son, what would the ultimate glory mean to Hawkins?

"Man, it would be amazing.

"I think right now Emanuel doesn't fully understand what it means to win and all the work you need to put in to become a champion. As he gets older these are the memories he can learn to appreciate, look back on and just think about how he's been surrounded by so many beautiful women, it's tough for women who are athletes when you've been told you can't be a mum playing sport or women aren't as good as men.

"He's going to have a special appreciation for women and that's what I want for my boy who will be a man one day."

One thing is for sure, that boy, and later man, will have a special appreciation for his mum.