Sidelined skipper Marina Fernandez has targeted Newcastle’s North East derby against Durham Palatinates in two weeks’ time as she edges closer to a WBBL return.
But the injured Spaniard will be courtside during this afternoon’s clash with champions Sevenoaks Suns as the Eagles go in search of a first league win of the season.
Fernandez hyper extended her knee last month but remains Newcastle’s most vocal supporter — despite a frustrating start to a key campaign.
“It is tough having to sit games out right now,” she said. “We’re running low on bodies and we’re still trying to find our identity.
“But even if I can’t play I’d rather be on the floor with my team-mates and go through these games together.
“I’m just trying to be as vocal as possible and help out as much as I can — albeit from the sidelines.
“I’m desperate to get back but I need one more week of rehab and then I’ll be ready to go.
“If everything goes as planned I should be able to do everything in practice next week and then play against Durham.”
Fernandez managed just one appearance for Newcastle last season before an Achilles tear ended her rookie WBBL campaign early.
But the Eagles’ captain is confident she’ll be back and firing on all cylinders by the end of the month.
Before then Chris Bunten’s side face Sevenoaks and Leicester Riders in back-to-back league clashes just months after Newcastle dumped both teams out of the playoffs.
“We’re excited about the Sevenoaks game,” insisted Fernandez. “It’s a chance to compete against a good team and another chance to improve.
“It’s a new challenge and an opportunity for us to get better. We need to stick together and stick to the game plan and see where it takes us.
“There’s always room for improvement and as a team we’re very competitive. We hate losing.
“Losing is not fun but it’s also part of the process. If you lose a game then that’s just a red flag. If you keep improving then that’s fine.
“If we’re comfortable with where we’re at and every game is easy that doesn’t make us better players. We need to be tested and to face adversity to become better.
“Losing a game by a point against the Pride was a reminder that we need to keep improving and keep getting better.”
Newcastle slipped to a second successive loss north of the border last Saturday on the back of another slow start and some poor decision making down the stretch.
A scrappy final quarter was marred by two more injuries as both Ebony Horton and Jessica Eadsforth-Yates lost their footing on a greasy surface and had to be helped from the court.
But Fernandez expects both players to feature at the Suns in what’s been a traditionally tough fixture for the women in black.
“I think they’ll play some part and they’ve both practiced this week,” she added. “I think they’ll be fine.”
Meanwhile Courtney Clasen’s short-term future remains unclear as the US import continues to wait for a definitive answer on the knee injury she picked up against Caledonia Pride last month.