2015 Liz Ellis Diamond contenders – Defenders

As we continue to build up to Saturday night’s Australian Netball Awards, our final look at the contenders for the Liz Ellis Diamonds focuses on those who were the last line of defence for club and country.

The Liz Ellis Diamond is the most prestigious individual honor in the sport, awarded to Australia’s best netballer every year.

The inaugural award was won by a defender – Mo’onia Gerrard in 2008 – and since then Julie Corletto (2009) and Laura Geitz (2011) have claimed the accolade.

Here are the leading defenders from 2015.

JULIE CORLETTO

Not even a broken foot could stop Corletto from helping the Diamonds defend their Netball World Cup crown in what was her final match at the elite level.

Corletto revealed post-game she played the majority of the gold medal match with the injury, but was determined to bow out a winner having announced her retirement in the lead-up to the tournament.

The foot problem meant that she was nursed through the tournament before stepping up when the stakes were at their highest.

Injuries have been a constant theme of her career, but she leaves the sport as a three-time world champion and Commonwealth Games gold medalist.

The 2015 ANZ Championship season was arguably one of Corletto’s most consistent. Returning to Australia to play for the NSW Swifts, she played every match and reached the 100-game milestone during their finals campaign.

Her form saw Corletto earn selection in the Foxtel All-Star Team for the second time.

LAURA GEITZ

Winning a second Liz Ellis Diamond would be a nice birthday present for Geitz, who turned 28 this week.

Her leadership came to the fore in 2015 for both the Queensland Firebirds and the Australian Diamonds as she continued to stamp herself one of Australian netball’s finest leaders.

It was Geitz who pulled off the memorable intercept in the dying seconds of the ANZ Championship Grand Final that allowed the Firebirds to claim their second title after coming runners up the previous two seasons.

It capped off a season where the Firebirds went on a 13-game winning streak, claiming the inaugural Australian Conference title and finishing with the Challenge Trophy.

Geitz shouldered the weight of expectation throughout Australia’s Netball World Cup campaign but embraced that to lead the Diamonds to a famous victory on home soil.

She finished the tournament Australia’s leading defender for deflections (32).

SHARNI LAYTON

It’s hard to remember any defender having as much impact in a year as Sharni Layton did in 2015.

The NSW Swifts joint vice-captain was the dominant defender in the ANZ Championship, ranked number one for deflections (112), gains (85), intercepts (49) and defensive rebounds (36) and showed why she’s one of the toughest competitors in the league.

Despite the Swifts’ heartbreaking Grand Final loss, Layton’s performances for the side throughout their finals campaign saw her named the Most Valuable Player of the Finals.

That followed her selection as goal keeper in the Foxtel All-Star Team for the first time – just the third player to be chosen in that coveted spot since 2011.

She was then a vital part of the Diamonds defence for their triumphant Netball World Cup campaign.

Layton finished the tournament Australia’s leading rebounder with 18 and her 19 intercepts was the equal third best of players from all countries.