Darius Defoe says success will be even sweeter this season because it will prove that the Newcastle Eagles’ era of dominance is not over.
The long-serving forward has come of age this year – heeding Fab Flournoy’s call to step up and make a difference after the player-coach decided on one of the most radical overhauls of playing personnel for many seasons.
Defoe has edged into the league’s top five for two points and turnovers, but his contribution has been even bigger than that in a year when the Eagles knew they were going to be under intense scrutiny.
As they head into Sunday’s Wembley play-off final against Worcester, Defoe admits that it has been particularly satisfying to perform well this season.
He said: “This one is more special because I think a lot of people did not have faith in us, but I know for a fact that Fab (Flournoy) and Dave (Forrester) would not put a team together that is not competitive. We always had faith in each other and now we’re looking to take care of business,” he said.
“This is a team that we knew was going to be competitive this year, and it is great that we’re involved in the final day because it shows that we have been doing things right.”
Worcester’s improving Wolves are one of four teams that have dominated the BBL this year, and Defoe knows it will not be straightforward.
“The league is the strongest it has ever been. There have been four teams that could have won it this season and Worcester are one of them,” he said.
“They are a big team, they give us a physically strong test, but we are used to it now because every week we have been tested this season.
“It is stronger than it has ever been so we feel like if we come out of the play-offs as the best team we will have proven a big point to everyone.
“We have got confidence from what happened last week when we beat Leicester. That was important for us, but at the end of the day it is about us and no-one else.
Defoe is a man of few words, but he exudes much more authority than he did in previous years and he has flourished among a tightly-knit group of players. The forward’s game has changed but he has also matured as a person after seven years in the North East, and the London-born player now considers himself “half Geordie”.
“I think my game has changed, I’ve matured as a person and a professional. I have been here now the third longest of anyone in the team after Fab and Chuck,” he said.
“I’ve learned from Charles Smith and the other guys who have been my mentors over the years.
“Fab told me the other day that when I came here I was a kid and I’m now a young man, which is something that I agree with.
“I have enjoyed this year and it has been fun to do it with these guys because we’ve all been so close to each other.”
To many observers it feels like 29-year-old Defoe should at least be considered by Team GB, and he admits he would love to be called up.
“I would think about it if I was selected but at the end of the day it is not up to me to pick the team,” he said.