Learning from May Madness, excitement prevails for…
By Jamie Thomas
It only feels like yesterday that the Newcastle Eagles were
rocking the landscape of the WBBL to its core, as they knocked out the number
one and two seeds from May Madness with incredible performances, but four
months have passed since then, and the new season is on the horizon.
One of the orchestrators of Newcastle’s incredibly
impressive playoff performances, Maddy McVicar is returning to Tyneside for a
second season and she discussed how the club can use their experience last May
to build for this season.
“We can learn a lot from that playoff experience. We showed
a lot of grit in those games and stuck to our gameplan really well in every
match, which is some of what we were missing throughout the regular season
because we were a bit inconsistent in following our scouting and so on.
“In those three games in particular, we paid a lot of
attention to detail, brought the most energy we could every night and we were
just so excited. Nobody expected us to win any games, so there was no pressure
on us and that showed in how we played.
“Everybody showed up and made big contributions too. Abby
(Lowe) was amazing and the growth from her throughout the season was fantastic.
You’re always going to get the same out of Ali (Gorrell), she’s always on for a
double-double, but we can definitely take a lot from the whole experience last
year and use it this season.”
“We’re going to be a very energetic team.”
The hallmarks of Newcastle’s more successful moments of the
last term featured high-energy plays, great hustle and, above all else, smiling
faces and clear chemistry between the team.
It bodes well for the Eagles, then, that Head Coach Chris
Bunten has assembled a team that fits those athletic characteristics first and
foremost, but also seems to have ticked the box on the chemistry front as
McVicar detailed what she feels the best qualities of this new roster are.
“I just can’t wait to get started, to be honest, especially
after the way we finished last season. Being down to seven or eight healthy
players on the roster and going through the playoffs as we did, it was a very
exciting first year over here, but I think this year could be even more
“We’ve got a new-look team this year, a lot of young players
added to the group, and I think we’ll have a different style of play. We’ve got
a lot of people here with great attitudes and I can’t wait to share the court
“Chris (Bunten) always does a great job of recruiting nice,
good people to the team. We’re building chemistry much quicker than last year,
I think, and we’re going to be a very energetic team. A little small, maybe,
but we’re going to be in people’s faces and bringing the energy every night.”
“We can take a lot of heart from last season.”
As we approach this new season, the Eagles’ exploits in the
playoffs last year have certainly acted as inspiration for other teams in the
WBBL, but McVicar is keen to ensure that Newcastle themselves take inspiration
as well and prove that those wins weren’t just a one-off.
“We don’t want to say where we’re going to be at too early,
because there have been so many changes across the league that makes it really
hard for anybody to predict, but we can take a lot of heart from last season
where we’ve shown anything is possible.
“We definitely take pride in the fact that we did what we
did at the end of last season, and that other teams are inspired by it, but
we’ve got to make sure we continue by that example ourselves.
“We don’t want it to be a fluke, we have to take pride in
our defence and offence because that’s what got us those upsets and we need to
keep that same intensity and aggressiveness to start on the right foot instead
of waiting for it to happen like we did last year.”
“We’re going to be an extremely quick and defensive-based team.”
McVicar herself had a very strong first season in the WBBL,
particularly in May Madness, and she’s as excited as Eagles fans are to see her
growth in this second term at the Vertu Motors Arena, where she’ll play in
front of a crowd for the first time in nearly two years. The point-guard
discussed what growth she expects from herself and the team in year two.
“I think you’re going to see the same Maddy this year – I
didn’t think I was too bad last year, but I learned to take more of a
leadership role as the season went on, for sure, and I’m sure that’ll be
important for me to do the same this year.
“With Ali on the team last year I could literally just throw
the ball to her at any point and just watch her go to work at times, but we’ll
be missing that this year of course and I’ll have to step up there. I look
forward to that responsibility though and to being a better version of what I
showed last year.
“We’re a talented group, we’re going to be an extremely quick and defensive-based team, I think. Post defence is where we struggled last year so to have post players that can do everything on offense as well as being great on defence is really going to give us a lot of options.”