At The Turn: Newcastle Hunters

As each Waratah Championship team reaches the halfway mark of their season, Sky Blue Hoops will take a look at their campaign to this point and their chances going forward. This week we focus on the Newcastle Hunters, who kept their finals flame flickering with a comprehensive win over Manly on the weekend.

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Despite missing Cassidy McLean on the weekend, the Hunters were able to secure an 85-62 over Manly courtesy of a dominant 41 point, 14 rebound performance from Suzy Batkovic. The win moved the Hunters to 3-5 at the midway point of the season – not awe-inspiring by any stretch, but far more promising than a 2-6 record would have been.

It had been a tough start to the season in the pre-Batkovic/McLean weeks for the Hunters. A first up loss to Comets followed by a narrow 69-67 win over the still winless Illawarra had the Newcastle side in a bit of trouble early. However, since then they have managed to secure a couple of wins over Bankstown and Manly to give themselves a finals chance.

That finals chance is currently small, but considering they just demolished Manly by 23 points, anything is possible from here. Despite the early season results against Illawarra and Comets, the addition of Batkovic and McLean should see the Hunters take two wins from two in the return fixtures, and they also are yet to play the young Hills side that has won just one game so far. If they can secure wins in all four of those games, there are four more crunch games which will decide the Hunters’ fate.

The first of these comes against Hornsby on May 27. Newcastle allowed Hornsby to come back from 18 points down in the second game of a double-header last time out, but there is certainly scope there for Newcastle to grab the win. With 10 wins seemingly the minimum a team will need to make finals, a loss in that one would see Newcastle require a seven game winning streak to finish the season to even stand a chance of reaching the postseason.

However, with a stretch of eminently winnable games coming for Newcastle, especially if they have a full-strength team for every game, a scintillating run to end the season isn’t entirely out of the question. The Hornsby game in two weeks could be pivotal, and a win would start to put a little bit pressure on the likes of Sutherland, against whom the Hunters still have a game up their sleeve.

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