The Australian Diamonds team to contest the 2016 quad series have been named, and there a quite a few changes from the world cup winning side of last year.
The squad of 18 has been reduced down to a team of 12 for the upcoming quad series against the New Zealand Silver Ferns, England Roses and South Africa Spar Proteas.
The start of a new cycle
With the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Netball World Cup done and dusted, it’s time to start preparing for international netball’s next biggest event, the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The quad series offers the coaching panel a chance to blood new players ahead of their next major competition.
Developing the next generation of players is important in the two years between events, as older players retire and players come in and out of form.
Five players from the 2015 world cup did not play in the previous world cup in 2011, with the end of the world cup signalling the end of the four year international netball cycle.
Meet the new players
April Brandley: many may also remember her as April Letton. Brandley is not a debutant to the Diamonds, but has only played three test matches for Australia to date. Brandley has had a rapid rise over the past two years since moving to the West Coast Fever in 2015.
KristianaManu’a: Manu’a’s induction into the team may come as a surprise to many, simply because many people did not realise that she was eligible. Manu’a has made her name in netball playing in New Zealand franchise the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic as a New Zealand player. Manu’a is a young gun, just 20 years of age, and was ninth in the 2016 ANZ Championship season in deflections with 47, and second for intercepts with 28.
Gabi Simpson: Gabi Simpson has been on the cusp of playing for Australia for many years, and finally made her debut in October last year. A dynamic wing defender who has the ability to shut down her opponent and create crucial turnovers. Simpson finished 10th in the ANZ Championship season for intercepts with 23, and 12th for deflections, with 44.
Liz Watson: Liz Watson is another player who made her debut in January. Like Simpson, Watson has been close to selection on many occasions. She was 12th in the ANZ Championship this year for goal assists, 153, and also has defensive ability, claiming 10 deflections for the season.
Stephanie Wood: Stephanie Wood has burst onto the scene this year, impressing in both wing attack and goal attack with the Swifts when given an opportunity. The only reason she is not continually getting a start with the NSW team is because her three positions are taken by veteran players Caitlin Thwaites, Susan Pettitt and Kimberlee Green. Wood has demonstrated her ability to play against the best defenders in the business when she is required, and has been a game changer at times, saving the Swifts from defeat a number of times this season.
Laura Geitz: The first noticeable absence from the team is Diamonds captain, Laura Geitz. After captaining the Diamonds in two successful campaigns, in the Commonwealth Games and World Cup, and captaining her ANZ Championship side, the Queensland Firebirds, to back-to-back premierships, Geitz has been rested for the upcoming series.
Susan Pettitt: Susan Pettitt is one of the most discussed absences from the Australian team over the last few years. Based on her current form, in which she was named the ANZ Championship All-Star Goal Attack three years in a row, many believe she should have been in the team. However given that now is the time to develop new, young talent, it is no surprise that Pettitt was not included in the team.
Paige Hadley: Paige Hadley is an interesting omission. Given she is a young player, it would make sense for her to play this series. However she has proved herself at the international level, playing in the World Cup winning side last year.
Gretel Tippett: Another young gun to be omitted from the team. Tippett adds a different dynamic with her lay-up shots at goal. Tippett scored 225 goals from 305 attempts this year in the ANZ Championship at 73 per cent.
Erin Bell: Erin Bell has had a tough season in the ANZ Championship. The Adelaide Thunderbirds were struck with injuries, illness and missed their captain, Renae Ingles, for the season while she was pregnant with twins. With the difficulty of captaining an injury-riddled team, and having her shooting combination with Carla Borrego interrupted during to Borrego’s ongoing injury, Bell didn’t make the team for 2016.
New Zealand Silver Ferns: Australia’s arch rivals on the netball court, the New Zealand Silver Ferns have had a rough patch in the last few years, losing both the Commonwealth Games and World Cup finals to Australia. The Diamonds have had a recent dominance over the Silver Ferns, however the Ferns will be out for redemption – so expect some more close matches between the world’s best.
South Africa Spar Proteas: The Proteas are an emerging talent in world netball. Taking out fifth place in last year’s world cup over Malawi, South Africa are continually improving. Although none of their players have ANZ Championship experience, their coach, Norma Plummer, has, coaching the Fever in the Championship as well as the Diamonds themselves.
England Roses:England are on the rise. They are catching, and significantly challenging the world’s best two teams each time they play, and have been close in the last two years to knocking Australia and New Zealand out of the finals of major competitions. Having many of their players involved in the ANZ Championship over recent years, the Roses have become more and more competitive, and with Australia’s young team, will be real competitors in the quad series.
Australian Diamonds Quad Series Team
- Caitlin Bassett (GS)
- April Brandley (GD, GK)
- Sharni Layton (GK, GD, WD)
- KristianaManu’a (GD, GK)
- Clare McMeniman (GD, GK)
- Natalie Medhurst (GA, GS)
- Kimberley Ravaillion (WA, C, WD)
- Madison Robinson (WA, C)
- Gabi Simpson (WD, C)
- Caitlin Thwaites (GS)
- Liz Watson (WA, C, WD)
- Stephanie Wood (GS, GA, WA)
Australian Diamonds Squad
- Laura Geitz (GK, GD)
- Paige Hadley (WA, C, WD)
- Caitlyn Nevins (WA, C)
- Susan Pettitt (GS, GA)
- Gretel Tippett (GS, GA, WA)
- Jo Weston (GD, GK, WD)
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons