Newcastle Eagles can bring the X Factor to the WBBL this season thanks to one of the strongest starting fives in the country.
That’s the bullish verdict of head coach Chris Bunten ahead of this weekend’s double header test against two of the league’s title contenders.
Manchester Mystics and Sheffield Hatters both bagged top four finishes last season and both teams look set fair to chase silverware again.
But Bunten insisted: “We have a starting five that’s capable of competing with anyone.
“I think we could shock a few people this weekend and we could continue to shock people all season.
“The margin of our victory at Durham raised a few eyebrows and two good results this weekend might change a few more minds.
“I think people are going to realise that we could be contenders.”
Bunten welcomes back Anja Fuchs-Robetin after the influential guard missed Newcastle’s derby win against Durham due to international commitments.
The Austrian helped her country clinch a silver medal in the 3×3 tournament at this month’s University World Cup in China.
But Fuchs-Robetin and fellow internationals Giulia Simioni (Switzerland) and Mante Kvederaviciute (Lithuania) are all back on Tyneside and in contention to start Saturday’s Mystics clash.
“Anja returned last week and Mante was able to watch training on Monday,” added Bunten. “Giulia flew in that night but everyone was available for Northumbria University’s BUCS game at Loughborough on Wednesday.
“They got some good minutes under their belts and we’re ready for what will be a tough trip to Manchester.
“The Mystics have the leading points scorer in the league in Sam Roscoe and Georgia Jones is another potent scoring threat.
“We face them again in the WBBL Cup in a couple of weeks so this could be the first of two fiercely contested matches.”
If Bunten is confident that Newcastle can more than match two of the WBBL’s heavyweights this weekend then he could not hide his frustration at another scheduling headache.
“You rarely see BBL teams playing back-to-back games and I’d rather not play Sheffield 24 hours after we’re due to tip off against Manchester,” he added.
“The Hatters don’t have a game on Saturday so they’ll be fresher. I’m just hoping that our strength in depth and different options on offence and defence will count in our favour.
“We can’t even think about Sheffield until the Manchester match is done and dusted but I’m going into this weekend looking to win both games.
“I’m not in a position where I can try and manage minutes on the Saturday with Sunday’s match in mind. I can’t risk coming out of the weekend winless.”
Tomorrow’s Eagles Community Arena clash against the Hatters tips off at 4pm. Tickets are available on the door or in advance from just £6: