Ex-Ea­gles coach has dig at club’s se­lec­tion pol­icy

Sunday Sun - - Rugby - Si­mon Rush­worth

FOR­MER New­cas­tle Ea­gles coach Tony Gar­be­lotto has ques­tioned the pol­icy of favour­ing for­eign stars above do­mes­tic tal­ent ahead of Fri­day’s re­turn trip to Ty­ne­side.

The man re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing Fab­u­lous Flournoy to the North East was con­firmed as Bri­tish Bas­ket­ball’s se­nior men’s coach last week.

And Gar­be­lotto – who will com­bine the role with his job as Glas­gow Rocks’ play­caller – has taken a swipe at the tro­phy-laden Ty­nesiders who opened their BBL ac­count with a record-break­ing 148-60 win against Leeds Force on Fri­day night.

The Lon­doner said: “I am slightly dis­ap­pointed that some teams have re­cruited very heav­ily away from pure Bri­tish play­ers and we’re not giving younger play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to break through.

“But I can only be a voice and can only try to influence own­ers, gen­eral man­agers and coaches to go down that road.

“The younger play­ers have a role in that and so they have to make a de­ci­sion if they want to come back.

“The BBL is a very com­pet­i­tive league with the way it’s put to­gether now so I will say that I’m very dis­ap­pointed that a younger player like Kofi Josephs chooses a lower league abroad.

“We un­der­stand why they are try­ing to make that choice. But I hope that the BBL can play a part in the fu­ture of Bri­tish bas­ket­ball at in­ter­na­tional level and I hope that some coaches start giving younger play­ers the chance to play.”

Gar­be­lotto’s words may well be de­signed to dis­tract New­cas­tle’s new-look ros­ter from the job in hand when the Rocks roll into town later this week.

But the ex-Ea­gles play­caller has a point after his for­mer club failed to add a sin­gle Bri­tish star to their line-up in the close-sea­son.

Fri­day’s demolition of hap­less Leeds sug­gests it was the right move from the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s point of view – even if it does lit­tle to nur­ture the next gen­er­a­tion.

In New­cas­tle’s de­fence the Ea­gles have spent 20 years blood­ing Bri­tish play­ers and pro­vid­ing them with a plat­form to progress.

Dar­ius De­foe is a prime ex­am­ple of a do­mes­tic tal­ent picked up as a vir­tual un­known by Flournoy and set on the road to a suc­cess­ful 14-year ca­reer in the BBL.

And even as re­cently as last sea­son New­cas­tle boasted a strong con­tin­gent of Bri­tish stars – in­clud­ing Joe Hart who linked up with Gar­be­lotto at the Rocks ear­lier this month.

But Flournoy is a de­mand­ing taskmas­ter and he was pri­vately dis­ap­pointed at a lack of progress dur­ing the 2016/17 cam­paign - with the club’s home­grown con­tin­gent a con­stant source of frus­tra­tion.

And in a break with tra­di­tion the Ea­gles felt they were forced to tar­get North Amer­i­can and Euro­pean play­ers to re­turn the or­gan­i­sa­tion to the BBL sum­mit.

Gar­be­lotto un­der­stands his for­mer club’s de­sire to re­main the dom­i­nant force in do­mes­tic hoops and added: “The rules are con­sti­tuted how they are con­sti­tuted. New­cas­tle are not do­ing any­thing wrong.

“I can’t do any­thing about that but all I will say is that my Rocks team is made up of three im­port play­ers and ev­ery­one else is Bri­tish – bar Boris (Ma­trakov) who is half-Bul­gar­ian and half-Scot­tish. “I’ll stand and fall by that de­ci­sion.” New­cas­tle fans will get an early op­por­tu­nity to see just how Gar­be­lotto’s new-look Rocks ad­just to the BBL when the Glas­gow club visit Sport Cen­tral on Fri­day.

The two clubs met in pre-sea­son – and again dur­ing last month’s All-Stars event at Lon­don’s O2 Arena – but the Ea­gles’ first com­pet­i­tive home­court clash of the sea­son will of­fer a more re­al­is­tic in­sight into where both sides are head­ing in 2017.

Head coach Fab Flournoy with Dar­ius De­foe who has forged a long suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the BBL

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