Fab Flournoy has warned his Newcastle Eagles to forget about the title and rediscover their hunger as they head into their play-off campaign.
Eagles take on neighbours Durham Wildcats in an eagerly anticipated North East derby this weekend – with the first of two legs at Sport Central tonight.
Newcastle are the clear favourites to progress to the semi-finals but Flournoy doesn’t want his team taking anything for granted, and he has warned them they must forget their success in the regular season as they tilt for another piece of silverware from a successful season.
“We were back in training at the start of this week and the first thing I said to the guys is that the league title is gone. So is everything else we have achieved – it’s done,” he said.
“There is no need to talk about it any more and we have to see it as over so that we can re-focus on what we need to do in the play-offs. Equally we need to start to get some of the hunger back again.
“Before the play-offs every weekend was a big weekend for us and it has been for every other team too. Everyone else was still in that rhythm last weekend while we were resting and healing, which was good for us but we need to get that hunger back really quickly because this is a big, big game for us.
“We have been able to catch our breath again and take some of the air out of what we’ve been doing but now we have to go back at it again on Friday. We need to make sure that we’re back playing as we did in the regular season again.”
Durham sneaked into the play-offs with an impressive defeat of Cheshire Phoenix last weekend and embark on their first play-off campaign with confidence and belief after a fine season.
Despite Newcastle having knocked off most of the top teams on their way to winning the league there are no clear favourites in the road to Wembley. From the Wildcats and fellow play-off newcomers Manchester Giants right through to the champions and Leicester Riders, everyone believes that they can triumph this season.
It is that threat that is fuelling Flournoy’s fires as he heads into yet another play-off campaign with the Eagles.
“I think everyone fancies their chances in the play-offs this year,” he said.
“Every team in those play-offs actually believes that they can go and win them. They feel that they have a shot of winning it because that is what the league is this season and I need to make sure that we are ready for that because it will be every bit as competitive as the league title was.
“We have to be at the same level as our opponents.”
Paul Blake has already said that a North East derby is one of the best things that could have happened to the sport in the region, and Flournoy agrees.
Although he feels they could be one of the surprise packages of the play-offs, Flournoy (pictured left) welcomes the prospect of taking on their North East rivals because it is a game of enough stature to wring the best from his Eagles players.
“This is the best thing that could have happened to both teams I think. I never try to choose our opponents before the season is over but I think that this is an ideal game for us and it’s an ideal game for the Wildcats,” he said.
“First of all I would really like to congratulate the Wildcats on their achievement of getting into the play-offs but there is more to it than that for both teams. I think it will create a great atmosphere at both games and it will really feel like a proper play-off game from the outset.
“We played the Wildcats just a couple of weeks ago and it was a very tight affair even though we got the win. It is one of those games where we need to make sure that we’re focused for the game ahead because we have already seen what can happen this season if we lose any of that focus.”