BasketballOlympians Suzy Batkovic (Newcastle Hunters) and Belinda Snell (Manly) oppose each other on Saturday night.

NEWCASTLE Hunters coach Mark Gledson expects the defending Waratah Basketball League champions to feel more comfortable playing alongside new teammate Suzy Batkovic after a quickfire introduction last weekend.

CLASS ACT: Suzy Batkovic on her debut for the Hunters last weekend. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Hardly surprisingly, Batkovic led Newcastle in scoring in her first games for the Hunters in 20 years as they split their home double-header against Bankstown and Hornsby.

The three-time Olympic medallist and five-time Women’s National Basketball League Most Valuable Player will again attract most of the attention when the sixth-placed Hunters (2-3) host Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Broadmeadow at 5pm on Saturday.

Basketball devotees hope to see Batkovic’s former Opals teammate Belinda Snell, who led Sydney Uni Flames to the WNBL title last summer, line up for Manly.

“It will be great to see the two Olympians battling for their respective teams on Saturday night.They probably won’t mark each other, but the skill level will be great to admire,” Newcastle coach Mark Gledson said.

“Our girls were looking forward to playing with Suzy and have embraced the experience. During the course of the games, Suzy’s experience, knowledge and understanding of the game has been passed on to the team during breaks, and that’s been greatly appreciated by the players and coaches.”

The Hunters men will be undermanned when they host southern neighbours Central Coast Crusaders at 7pm on Saturday.

Newcastle coach Darren Nichols will have just eight players to rotate because of representative duties (Lachlan Jackson), injury (Jacob Rauch) and Youth League commitments (Jakob Dorricott).

The Hunters (2-6) are 10th after dropping home games to Bankstown and Maitland last weekend and will start underdogs against the seventh-placed Crusaders (2-4), who recruited former Waratah League MVP Mitchell Rueter from the Mustangs in the off-season.

“The boys did everything asked of them last week, and their effort in both games was immense. It always feels better to win, but I believe there were plenty of positives to take out of both games,” Nichols said.

“I made a tough decision to play without our pocket rocket Jakob Dorricott for this game, so he could be available for our Youth League men’s away game against Sydney Uni.

“Jakob has proven himself more than capable for us when we’ve called upon him, but it’s important

that we put the Hunters club first and our team second this week, and I’m confident that his ABA experience will be of huge value to him and his team in his Youth League contest this week.”

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