DEPARTING coach Shannon Seebohm is confident the unbeaten Newcastle Hunters remain fully focused on their Waratah Basketball League campaign irrespective of his decision to leave at the end of the season to join Women's National Basketball League club Townsville Fire.
Seebohm has guided the Hunters to a 12-0 start to the Waratah women's championship and they face their first back-to-back games of the season when they host Canberra Nationals on Saturday and Penrith Panthers on Sunday in a double-header at Newcastle Basketball Stadium.
Boasting some of Australia's most talented young players, Canberra (10-3) are second behind the table-topping Hunters, and eighth-placed Penrith (5-9) have won three of their past five to be one of the league's big improvers.
Seebohm was in Townsville on Friday to be unveiled as the Fire's new head coach but will be back on the sidelines at Broadmeadow this weekend as the Hunters try to extend their unbeaten streak.
"I'm fully committed to finishing the Waratah League season with Newcastle before I start at Townsville, and I've made that clear to our players," Seebohm said. "We've made a great start to our season and built a strong base and obviously the girls and myself are focused on reaching the finals and challenging for the title, so nothing's changed in that regard. This weekend is our first back-to-back games for the season, so that's a new challenge, and Canberra and Penrith will both be tough opponents so we just need to stay focused."
The Nationals are spear-headed by Canberra Capitals WNBL players Keely Froling, who averages 24 points and 15 rebounds a game, and Abby Cubillo (12.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists), and former Australian junior representative Hannah Kaser (14.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists).
"Canberra will be a great match-up for us because they have some of the best players in the competition and will challenge us defensively," Seebohm said.
The Hunters have four players averaging double figures in scoring: Jasmin Howe (17.1), Hannah Young (15.9), Lara McSpadden (15.8) and Jaimee Seebohm (13.1).
Meanwhile, Newcastle (1-11) hope to continue their recent improvement in the men's championship against ninth-placed Canberra Gunners (4-9) on Saturday and eighth-placed Penrith Panthers (6-8) on Sunday.
"This will be a tough weekend because we have several players involved in four games, playing both Championship Men and Youth League, but we have to deal with that and I'm confident the boys will give their best effort," Hunters coach Anthony Foy said.
"Canberra and Penrith are big teams so we have to at least match them on the boards, be committed defensively for four quarters, and play with pace to give ourselves a chance in both games."
The Hunters will celebrate their fifth annual Charity Night on Saturday, raising funds for Wheeling and Able, which provides support and specialist equipment for Newcastle children with disabilities.