Date Time League Season
February 20, 2021 3:00 pm Women's Regular Season 2020-21

Chris Bunten concedes his embattled WBBL roster must face up to the painful reality that a campaign full of promise has failed to materialise.

The Newcastle Eagles playcaller accepts his pre-season dreams have been dashed and admits that — results-wise — his wafter thin roster has hit rock bottom.

But Bunten is refusing to throw in the towel as he plots a playoff push and progress in the WBBL Trophy.

“With four key players gone from the start of the season and everything that’s happened to us since September we’re rock bottom,” said Bunten.

“On paper we’ve gone from one of the league’s deepest squads to one of the WBBL’s shallowest rosters.

“And our results reflect that massive change in just a matter of months.

“It’s important that the players understand where we are right now and admit that there are better teams than ours in the WBBL.

“But if we can be honest with ourselves and accept the reality of the situation then we can move forward.

“I look at the players who are here and there’s plenty of talent and experience. I know what they’re capable of and I know they work well as a team.

“We’ve had a very positive week in practice and we’ve targeted eighth place in the league and a Trophy run.

“We can achieve both and I’m confident we will.”

The hard work starts this weekend with Newcastle’s stretched squad facing an energy-sapping double header.

Back-to-back fixtures could hardly have come at a worse time for a team desperate to haul itself into playoff contention.

And the news that wily veteran Ruth Thornley will miss both games is another blow to Bunten.

The Eagles head north of the border to face Caledonia Pride today [Saturday] before hosting title challenging BA London Lions at 4pm tomorrow.

“We have to focus on what’s next and that’s a winnable game in Edinburgh,” added Bunten.

“Now, more than ever, we can’t afford to look beyond our next game and everyone needs to be at their best against the Pride.

“Caledonia are a younger and fitter version of the Cardiff team we lost out to last weekend and so we’re expecting a very similar battle.

“We have to make our experience count and cut out the basic errors that have cost us victory in our last two league games.”

With better control of the basketball Bunten knows Newcastle could have turned back-to-back losses into successive wins.

And he added: “We spent a long time looking back at the video of the Cardiff defeat and we made at least 10 simple mistakes that tipped the balance in their favour.

“It’s so frustrating but I think it was quite enlightening as far as the players are concerned.

“They could see that they’re more than capable of winning matches if they focus on better game management.

“That’s what we’ve been working on all week and I think the message has got through.

“Everyone understands the significance of the Pride game and if going there to win means we’re on our last legs against London the next day then so be it.

“We’re at a point in the season where we need to make some difficult decisions.”

Bunten revealed that Rachael Bland should feature in both games after Newcastle’s co-captain returned from injury last weekend.

But he added: “She’s still far from fully match fit.

“With Rachael it’s just great to have her back in the mix and talking to her team-mates on and off the court.

“She’s such a key figure for us and particularly now. Rachael is the type of player and personality that you look to in the tough times.”

Newcastle tip-off against the Pride from 3pm today and fans can watch the action live on Caledonia’s YouTube channel.