Australian netball will celebrate a memorable year when the sport comes together for the 2014 Australian Netball Awards at Parliament House in Canberra on Saturday night.
It was a year in which Australia ended its 12-year Commonwealth Games gold medal drought, retained the Constellation Cup and regained the world number one ranking. A year when the Diamonds were unbeaten – winning 13 consecutive Test matches to record the first perfect calendar year since 2002.
Players, coaches, umpires and administrators will gather in the Great Hall to recognise the achievements of teams and individuals while honouring netball’s history with a new induction into the Australian Netball Hall of Fame.
The night, which culminates with the coveted Liz Ellis Diamond, will see two new accolades introduced with the Lorna McConchie Umpire Award and the Joyce Brown Coach Award, recognising the legendary former Australian coach. It will also be only the second time that the Spirit of Netball has been awarded.
Key player awards the Australian ANZ Championship Player of the Year and Real Insurance Australian International Player of the Year will be presented prior to the announcement of the Liz Ellis Diamond; the sport’s highest individual honour.
The Liz Ellis Diamond, which takes ANZ Championship and international performances into account, has been won by six different players since its inception in 2008.
No player has yet won the award twice but that record may change on Saturday evening with three previous winners – Julie Corletto (2009), Laura Geitz (2011) and Madi Robinson (2012) – all having stellar seasons along with shooters Caitlin Bassett and Natalie Medhurst on the domestic and international stages.
Corletto had a consistent ANZ Championship season with the Northern Mystics – and is returning to Australia next year to line up for the NSW Swifts – and then played a key role in Australia’s triumphant Commonwealth Games campaign.
Having missed almost two years of international duties due to injuries, Corletto continued to go from strength to strength during the Diamonds’ home Test series against New Zealand and England.
Geitz led the Queensland Firebirds to a second consecutive ANZ Championship Grand Final appearance and enhanced her status as one of the competition’s premier defenders.
But her crowning moment was Australia’s Commonwealth Games campaign where she was an influential presence as the Diamonds ended their 12-year gold medal drought.
Geitz also reached the 50-Test milestone in the Constellation Cup against New Zealand before minor knee surgery cut short her season.
She was one of the key playmakers behind the Melbourne Vixens’ triumphant ANZ Championship season and finally collected the premiership medal she’s craved for a number of years.
Robinson continued that form in Australia’s Commonwealth Games campaign to add a gold medal to her collection and then in the Diamonds’ Constellation Cup and Real Insurance Netball Test Series campaigns against New Zealand and England.
Robinson, one of just two players to play every international Test in 2014, collected three Player of the Match Awards, including back-to-back accolades against England in the final two Tests of the year at Bendigo and Canberra.
Bassett was the leading Australian shooter in the ANZ Championship with 461 goals for West Coast Fever; the seventh consecutive time she had posted more than 400 goals in a season.
Her 49 goals at 92 per cent accuracy in the Commonwealth Games Final against New Zealand was one of the most dominant individual performances by an Australian shooter in more than a decade and put the exclamation point on Australia’s gold medal performance.
In her 13 Test appearances in 2014, Bassett shot 391 goals at an average of 32.6 goals and 87 per cent accuracy.
Her classy shooting under pressure remains a feature of her game, as does her ability to find space and get the ball in dangerous positions.
She averaged 84 per cent accuracy across her 12 Test appearances in 2014. The Commonwealth Games Gold Medal now gives Medhurst a clean sweep of netball’s most coveted prizes, adding to her 2007 and 2011 World Championships, 2011 ANZ Championship premiership medal and the 2011 ANZ Championship Most Valuable Player award.
Medhurst moved to Perth this season to join West Coast Fever, being elevated to a captaincy role for the first time in her career and the young players in the side will only benefit from learning from her years of experience going forward.