As we head into the festive season, I’m pleased to say our focus is already on what shapes as a big 2014 campaign for the Australian Diamonds.
Last week in Canberra we started our preparation for next year’s Commonwealth Games with 17 athletes gathering at the Australian Institute of Sport for the first of our training camps.
Our `Going For Gold’ camp grew out of January’s disappointing tour to the UK and the seven days we spent together in Canberra has certainly provided an excellent foundation for our tilt at the gold medal in Glasgow.
We had great fun together – especially around the team-building activities. Who would have known that so many of our Diamonds are talented dancers, singers, artists and directors, and not just netballers. What a multi-talented group we have.
Our strength and conditioning coach Leigh Smith had organised an `Amazing Race’ on the Friday of the camp which tested the girls’ navigation skills, goalkicking abilities with the Canberra Raiders, and also saw them performing tasks such as eating mangoes in front of Belconnen Coles Supermarket and random acts of kindness – all while running eight kilometres to get it all done.
Well done girls, you were all amazing that day!
The results of our three-Test series against England at the beginning of the year left a very sour taste in all of our mouths.
While it was great for international netball and recognised the emergence of England as a serious international threat to the status quo, the 3-0 result was a very hard pill to swallow for all of us.
However, as I said to the group, this should and will provide great incentive for this type of result to never happen again.
On a positive note, that January tour provided great impetus for all of us to find the improvements we needed to reclaim the Constellation Cup later in the year, our best result against the Silver Ferns in 15 years.
In late January we’ll return to Canberra for another training camp, which will be the last time I have our squad together before our Commonwealth Games selection camp in early May.
While the immediate focus is on claiming gold at next year’s Games, we need to keep one eye on the future so we’ve invited some emerging athletes to join us at this camp after their performances for either their ANZ Championship franchises, Australian 21 and Under Team or Australian Fast5 Flyers at the Fast5 Netball World Series.
Those invitees are Ashleigh Brazill (West Coast Fever/NSW), Emily Beaton (Adelaide Thunderbirds/South Australia), Courtney Bruce (West Coast Fever/West Australia), Gretel Tippett (NSW Swifts/Queensland) and Jo Weston (Melbourne Vixens/Victoria).
On reflecting back on the year it was a brilliant year for netball in Australia from an International perspective.
It was a great finish to finish with our Fast5 Flyers defying the critics to finish runner-up at the Fast5 World Series in Auckland. The team had a wonderful tournament under the fine leadership of Jane Searle and Jane Woodlands-Thompson and support staff.
The Diamonds are extremely proud and pleased with our efforts in the Constellation Cup and the overall result of the Coles Netball Test Series against New Zealand and Malawi.
It was made even more special with the celebrations in Adelaide and Melbourne for the recently-retired former captains in Nat von Bertouch and Sharelle McMahon.
It was also humbling to be a big part of the centenary celebrations for our nation’s capital in Canberra as well as continually building the fanaticism of our fans and loud supporters.
Laura is an inspiring Australian full stop and I am amazed at her ability to keep rising to the top.
The Adelaide Thunderbirds topped off a magnificent season with a gutsy Grand Final win in front of their adoring fans against an equally formidable opponent in the Queensland Firebirds.
It was a very pleasing ANZ Championship Final Series from an Australian point of view with the Melbourne Vixens also making the final four for a great result overall for Australian netball.
The Australian 21/U team are to be congratulated on their efforts in winning a silver medal at August’s World Youth Netball Championships and I have no doubt that they will all have extra incentive burning away within them as athletes to overcome the disappointment of losing the final in Glasgow.
As this is my last column for 2013, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal Diamonds fans for your support over the last 12 months. It really assists us to push on when the going gets tough.
On behalf of the team, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and we look forward to having you all along as part of our `Going For Gold’ campaign in 2014!