Date Time League Season
March 19, 2023 5:00 pm Men's Championship 2022-23

Newcastle have reached the ‘finals countdown’ in their bid to punch a ticket for the post-season party.

That’s the verdict of Darius Defoe as the BBL’s most decorated player prepares for this afternoon’s pivotal showdown with friend and former team-mate Rahmon Fletcher.

The Eagles have 10 games to salvage a disappointing campaign as Marc Steutel’s men battle to make up ground on the top eight — starting with a tough trip to Manchester Giants.

But gutsy performances against top-three rivals London, Leicester and Bristol have persuaded Defoe that making this season’s playoffs is more than a mere pipe dream.

“If you look at our form we’re one of the most effective teams in the country right now,” insisted the seasoned veteran.


“We’ve gone toe to toe with the top three and taken every game to the wire.

“We’ve got 10 finals between now and the end of the regular season. That’s our mindset.”

Defoe rolled back the years with a vintage display against champions-elect London Lions on Friday night.

But not for the first time in his celebrated career, the powerful forward fell foul of the officials before exiting a crunch game prematurely.

And Defoe was unable to celebrate a landmark 570th league appearance after the league leaders edged a Vertu Motors Arena thriller at the death.

“At the end of the day I can’t fault the guys for that performance against London,” he added, after moving clear of Yorick Williams to sit second in the overall BBL appearance rankings behind mentor and former coach Fabulous Flournoy.

“They all put a shift in and played hard. The result just didn’t go our way.

Your Eagles put in a gritty performance in their last game against the London Lions (Photo: Gary Forster)

“When I look at my teammates after a game like that I can’t have any complaints. Everyone did their job.

“I don’t know what made the difference in the end. I wish I could say. I do have an idea but I’m going to keep my opinion to myself. I don’t want to get into trouble.”

Defoe was alluding to a series of questionable calls on a night when the officials, as much as the never-say-die Lions, made Newcastle work for every point.

But for now the league’s most legendary disruptor is focusing on passing a late fitness test ahead of the Giants clash.

Defoe was left nursing a sore ankle after Hasahn French landed on his unsuspecting team-mate during Friday night’s intense battle under the offensive glass.

But he insisted: “I’ll be fine for Manchester. I’ll be iced up and strapped up and ready to go.

“My ankle’s in pain but the whole body was in pain after the Lions game. It was a physical match against a talented team.

“We have to play exactly the same way against the Giants. Keep playing hard, be there for each other and keep working together as a team.

“The Giants are a tough side. From one to five they can all score double figures so we have to concentrate on limiting that threat.”

This afternoon’s clash tips off at 5 pm with the action live and free via the BBL’s YouTube channel.