Tears of joy for new Diamond McMeniman

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When Clare McMeniman saw Lisa Alexander’s number appear on her phone, she got nervous.

“Whenever she calls it’s either good or bad news,” McMeniman said about taking calls from the Australian Diamonds coach.

This time it was good news as Alexander was ringing the Queensland Firebirds defender to tell of her selection in the Australian squad for the upcoming Real Insurance Netball Test Series against New Zealand and England.

Her first reaction was to cry. But they were tears of joy having endured every range of emotion throughout her netball career.

“It was a little bit surreal to be told (of my selection),” McMeniman said. “But it was also really exciting and I felt happiness to hear the news.”

McMeniman has spent the past week at Netball Australia’s Centre of Excellence in Canberra at a specialist defenders camp, working with Diamonds assistant coach Michelle den Dekker.

She said on Wednesday night, after being told the news, the pair shared a ‘secret hug’ as the group was heading out to dinner.

Having previously been part of an extended squad, McMeniman thought the chance of representing Australia had passed her by when she made the decision to come out of retirement and play with the Firebirds in the ANZ Championship this season after two years out of the game.

2014 Round 9 ANZ Championship gameFirebirds v FeverIt was when the 29-year-old got elevated to the national squad after being an invitee to the Commonwealth Games training camp that she believed her window of opportunity to wear the green and gold had opened up again.

“I like to have goals and challenges in my life and to better myself and getting that call-up to the squad opened up new realm of challenges and goals for me personally,” McMeniman said.

“I realised that I had potential to match it at international level.”

Her selection gives McMeniman to chance to share her international debut playing alongside her good friend and Diamonds captain Laura Geitz.

“I love playing with her in the Firebirds. We do have a great combination together and if I do have an opportunity to step on court with her, I’d enjoy every moment,” McMeniman said.

McMeniman said her selection is also a reward for the wonderful support she’s received from family and friends over her journey – along with the countless coaches that have played some part in her development.

Alexander was thrilled to be able to tell McMeniman of her selection.

Having previously coached McMeniman in the Australian 21/U side, Alexander was among many who were disappointed when the Queenslander decided to retire following the 2011 ANZ Championship season.

“I would have loved her to hang around at end of the 2011,” Alexander said.

“I went to ring her when I was appointed (Diamonds) coach and say `are you sure?’ because she had a really good opportunity to make that team in second half of the year.

“But she’d made her decision and I wasn’t going to talk her out of it.”

www.mbphoto.co.nzAlexander said McMeniman’s selection was recognition of her excellent comeback season for the Firebirds that resulted in a Grand Final appearance.

“She’s a terrific athlete and I loved coaching her in the 21s and I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for her and a credit to her for the she’s way come back,” Alexander said.

“She’s really been sensational coming back after two years out of the game. She’s still got a long way to go and she knows that.”

McMeniman will be part of the team for the final three Tests of the series, one against the Silver Ferns in Auckland (15 October) and the two tests against England in Bendigo (19 October) and Canberra (22 October).

Her new Firebirds teammate Rebecca Bulley will play the first three Tests of the Constellation Cup series against the Silver Ferns, that begins at Invercargill on 2 October with matches to follow in Melbourne (8 October) and Sydney (11 October).

McMeniman said being part of the Australian side to defend the Netball World Cup crown in Sydney next year is now a realistic goal for her.

“I said to Lisa this isn’t the finish, this is just the beginning,” McMeniman declared.

In more good news for the Diamonds, leading insurer Real Insurance has been announced as principle partner and naming rights sponsor of the Test series.

Netball Australia CEO Kate Palmer said the new partnership caps off a memorable month for Australian netball after the Diamonds ended a 12-year Commonwealth Games hoodoo by winning the gold medal in Glasgow with a comprehensive 18-goal victory over New Zealand in the final.

“The latest partnership with Real Insurance is another vote of confidence in Australian netball and caps off an extraordinary month for our sport,” Palmer said.

“As an organisation we strive to provide a supportive and inclusive netball community to ensure a sense of belonging, achievement, enjoyment and health so it’s fitting that we team up with Real Insurance who are committed to protecting and building the quality of people’s lives.”

Click here to find out how to get tickets for the 2014 Real Insurance Netball Test Series matches in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.