The Newcastle Hunters are enjoying one of their most dominant runs in the Waratah League in recent history. After nineteen rounds, nine on the road and ten on home soil, Shannon Seebohm’s league-leading outfit has yet to taste defeat.
There’s been some close calls, of course. The North Bears provided stiff competition in their Round 12 meeting at the Northern Suburbs Indoor Sports Centre. A combined 35 points from Jaime Seebohm and Lara McSpadden was required to get Newcastle over the line in the tight 66-60 battle.
Bankstown and Canberra both claim close as well. The Bruins fell by just 12 points in Round 9 as the Hunters set off on the road, while the Nationals were just 13 points off the mark in Newcastle in Round 13.
Those meetings have been the closest anyone has come to rolling over the – as yet – undefeated Hunters as the Novocastrian squad continues their march onwards to the ultimate goal: the Waratah League championship.
“It’s been a great year for us, and it’s been one that has been building here at the club for the past two season,” Hunters coach Seebohm told the Chronicle after of Round 18.
Seebohm linked up with the Newcastle club ahead of the 2018 season. When he joined, the roster was seeing an exodus of star players. The Hunters had missed the finals in 2017, and things were looking grim for the women’s side.
The former Sydney Flames helmsman set to work, bringing in a cohort of players willing to buy into the “new direction” for the club. There wasn’t many that expected the side to fly high in 2018. The Hunters finished top four.
“We had a really commited group that year that were able to take us to a pretty unexpected postseason with a top four finish,” Seebohm explained.
“Off the back of that we were able to bring a lot of the girls back, and we got in some of the local girls that had been playing in the national competitions as well.
“We have a really strong team this year, but more importantly that foundation of culture that we put together has led us until the results that we’re seeing now this season.”
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While the Hunters boast a handful of Women’s NBL talents like Lara McSpadden (Sydney), Hannah Young (Canberra), and injured star Cassidy McLean (Bendigo), as well as former top level stars like Jaimee Seebohm and Mikaela Dombkins, Newcastle’s coach believes the “versatility” everyone brings has been the key.
“To be able to ‘plug-and-play’ different players into our lineup, in different roles and with different combinations, has been the true strength of our team,” he said.
“It’s one of the great beauties of our side this year that we’ve had so many different players step up and contribute in different games. This is a team that the same person doesn’t score top points week in and week out.
“Instead, we have a deep team that works for each other, and never has one player carrying the whole load.”
Even just in the past three fixtures that holds true for Seebohm’s squad.
Jasmin Howe dropped 22 points on the Central Coast in Round 16, before Seebohm clocked up 24 the next night against the Hills Hornets.
Then, just last weekend, Hannah Young scored a squad-high 18 points against Manly in a 71-45 victory in Newcastle.
The Hunters now take to the road over the next fortnight, as they face Hornsby Ku-ring-gai (14-5) and Canberra (14-5). The league leaders then return home to face Bankstown on Saturday, August 3 for the final home of the season.
With fixtures against the second and third-placed teams, Seebohm – who is seeing out the season before taking up a coaching tenure in Townsville for the 2019/20 WNBL season – knows the Hunters face some tough challenges in their upcoming road games.
Despite a potential loss in one of the final three fixtures stinging, the Hunters coach also has full faith in his side to keep their mental resolve even if they do lose their 19-game streak.
“If we go undefeated it’d be nice, of course, but it’s not something we’ve been focusing on at all,” he said.
“Our outlook has been that we have to improve every week. There’s been a lot of teams in the past in different leagues and sports that have achieved things like 20-0 seasons, and then don’t get it done in finals.
“For us, we want to be there right at the end of the season and be in the best possible position to win a championship. That’s what the girls want to do, and that’s what we’re striving for.
“Whether we come into the postseason 22-0, or 19-3, that goal doesn’t change for us. We just want to keep improving and growing every game.”