Diamonds look to future

West Coast Fever v Northern Mystics, ANZ Netball Championships, HBF Arena Perth. 8th March 2015. Photo: Daniel Carson | DCIMAGES.ORG

THE Diamonds had one eye on the future when they announced an extended 15-player squad for next month’s Constellation Cup defence.

With nine players returning from Australia’s Netball World Cup triumph, Australian coach Lisa Alexander and selectors have opted for a conservative rotation policy during the four-Test series.

Ashleigh Brazill (Fever), Gabi Simpson (Firebirds), Gretel Tippett (Firebirds) and Joanna Weston (Vixens) have earned maiden Diamonds selections, while Clare McMeniman (Firebirds) and April Letton (Fever) secured recalls, to complement the nine gold medallists.

“We will need to make sure that our athletes have longevity in their careers, it was a very intense time leading up to the World Cup and ANZ Championship so we need to be mindful of that,” Alexander said.

“We also need to give exposure to that next layer that have really put their hand up, and were putting their hand up for World Cup selection, to give them the opportunity to show what they can do in the Diamonds environment, under enormous pressure against the Silver Ferns.

“You can’t get better competition than that.”

West Coast Fever captain Ashleigh Brazill’s recall has been three years in the making after the 25-year-old initially missed out on her international debut in 2012 courtesy of a knee injury.

The midcourter’s Diamonds selection caps of a remarkable 12 months after she led her ANZ Championship team to the finals for the first time in franchise’s history in her maiden year as captain.

“It was awesome to see the girls do so well at the World Cup and it just made me more determined to be a part of that success,” said Brazill, who could get the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd as the Australia host the Silver Ferns in Perth for the first time since 2011.

“The coolest thing though will be to play a game here in Perth. This is home for us so to be able to play in front of the people who watch us week in, week out will mean so much more.”

Brazill’s Fever teammate April Letton is the latest player to earn Diamonds selection after moving interstate in search for opportunities.

Letton’s move to Perth at the start of the year follows in the footsteps of world champions Erin Bell, Rebecca Bulley, Julie Corletto, Renae Ingles, Sharni Layton, Natalie Medhurst and Caitlin Thwaites who all moved interstate during their careers for new experiences.

“Being out of the Diamonds team for two years now, I feel like the decision to move to Perth and all my hard work has paid off,” said Letton, who’s only international Test appearance came in the final Test of Australia’s tour to England on Australia Day in 2013.

“A change is as good as a holiday and the different coaching I’ve experienced under Stacey, and the time spent with my teammates has challenged me to become a better player and person.”

ANZ Championship performances have been recognised in the 15-player squad with the five Queensland Firebirds premiership players selected, along with four from the Fever, three Swifts, two Thunderbirds and one Vixen.

Limited tickets are still available for the Melbourne and Perth Tests. Tickets are available from Ticketek. Purchase online at www.ticketek.com.au, phone 132 849 or any Ticketek outlet.