DEFENDERS PRESENT THEIR CASE FOR STARTING SPOTS

 

Australia’s defensive stocks appear in a healthy state heading into this year’s Constellation Cup series against New Zealand. 

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Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander has plenty of options to choose from as she looks to nullify the Silver Ferns shooters over the next five Test matches, starting on Sunday at Invercargill.

Her combination in the defensive circle at any one time could be made up from new Australian captain Laura Geitz, her deputy Bianca Chatfield and Rebecca Bulley or Sharni Layton, the later being part of the Adelaide Thunderbirds 2013 ANZ Championship title-winning side.

Layton is back in the Diamonds squad after missing last year’s International series because of injury and the 25-year-old said she is eager to add to her nine Tests.

“It’s so exciting to be back,” Layton said.

“I was pretty devastated last year (because) injuries are always hard to deal with, especially when it compromises a spot in the Aussie side. To be able to be back (for the Diamonds) is really rewarding and it’s such an honour to be here again.

“The best thing about our team is that we are able to push each other (for spots) and doing it at every training. So we know whoever is out on court can do the job.”

Chatfield is the most experienced of that quartet, having made her Test debut back in 2001 as a teenager.

After being in and out of the squad for a few years, the 31-year-old has consolidated her place over the last 12 months and is on the verge of playing her 50th Test.

Chatfield said it will be satisfying to reach that milestone having served a long apprenticeship.

“I was behind a pretty good player in Liz Ellis (for a defenders spot),” Chatfield said.

“I probably sat on the bench for maybe 60 Test matches and that’s just what you have to do. I’ve waited my time out so it’s nice to get to 50 (Tests) now. I probably wouldn’t be the player I am now if I hadn’t had those experiences in the past.”

Chatfield believes the coaching staff has the side as well prepared as they can be for Sunday’s opening Test.

“It’s exciting. It’s a bit of an unknown around what both teams are going to come up with,” she said.

“But I feel prepared. I feel like we’ve got a great team on and off court and we’re just really excited to start this series.”

Layton said it almost feels like a new-look team with the absence of 252 Tests of experience through the likes of Natalie von Bertouch, Mo’onia Gerrard and Catherine Cox.

“We’ve obviously got a few new team members at the moment. I’m back after being out (and) Mon and Nat aren’t here anymore,” Layton said.

“It’s about getting our culture and dynamics right.”

The Australian Diamonds take on the New Zealand Silver Ferns in the first Test of the 2013 Constellation Cup at SIT Zero Fees Velodrome in Invercargill on Sunday at 5.40pm (AEST).