International experience to benefit young talent

www.mbphoto.co.nzSelectors have announced the 2015 Australian 21/U team that will play a series of warm-up matches against the Australian Diamonds, New Zealand Silver Ferns and England in the lead-up to August’s Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015.

The Australian 21/U team will take on the Diamonds in Newcastle as well as the Silver Ferns, a New Zealand `A’ side and England in Sydney between 1-5 August.

The team was chosen by Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander, Australian 21/U coach Tania Obst, 21/U national selector Kylee Byrne and Netball Australia’s National Pathway Manager Stacey West.

The line-up includes New South Wales defender Kristiana Manu’a, pictured left who had an outstanding debut season in the ANZ Championship for the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, and 2014 Melbourne Vixens championship players Liz Watson and Jo Weston.

Alexander said current Diamonds – including captain Laura Geitz and leadership group members Kimberlee Green, Renae Hallinan and Julie Corletto – experienced a similar opportunity when she was coaching the 21/U side in the lead-up to the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

“It was a tremendous benefit to give those athletes at the time that experience as part of their netball journey,” Alexander said.

“So for this group of 21/U athletes, it’s a terrific opportunity to get this experience at the international level. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity in many respects to get this level of match play.

2015 21U National Championships“All of the athletes will thoroughly enjoy it and, from the Diamonds perspective, it will certainly assist us in our preparations.”

Obst said she’s looking forward to watching the athletes step into the international arena and take on the world’s top three ranked countries.

“The depth of talent in Australia is tremendous at the moment so we’re striving to keep that pool deep and keep Australia at the top,” Obst said.

“We are coming in with a very strong team; there are only two athletes that don’t have any ANZ Championship experience, be it either as a contracted player or having been called up as a replacement player.

“Our schedule is pretty intense and we’re coming up against the three best nations in the world plus the New Zealand `A’ team. So the athletes’ ability to recover and produce day after day will be tested, but what an environment to do that in.”

Financial support for the 2015 Australian 21/U team has been provided by the Australian Commonwealth Games Association – through its NextGEN AUSComGames squad program.

“The ACGA is very pleased to provide funding which will enable the 21/U players to play matches against the best three Netball teams in the world. It is a great opportunity for the players and will give them valuable international competition experience at the highest level,” ACGA Chief Executive Officer Perry Crosswhite said.

Former Australian Diamonds defender Mo’onia Gerrard will work with the team as a specialist coach and Alexander said the veteran of 68 Tests would provide a wealth of knowledge.

“She’ll be able to talk about her experiences at international level and help them understand the sort of mindset and preparation that they’ll need to go through to combat those different international styles,” Alexander said.

“Mo’onia’s experience and dedication has been unquestioned and the fact that she’s now choosing to pass that onto the next generation will only benefit this group and give them a greater understanding of international competition.”

The Australian 21/U team: Gia Abernethy (South Australia), Kaitlyn Bryce (NSW), Mahalia Cassidy (Queensland), Sarah Klau (South Australia), Cody Lange (SA/Adelaide Thunderbirds), Chelsea Lemke (South Australia), Kristina Manu’a (NSW/WBOP Magic), Kaylia Stanton (WA/West Coast Fever), Alice Teague-Neeld (Victoria/Melbourne Vixens), Chloe Watson (Victoria/Melbourne Vixens), Liz Watson (Victoria/Melbourne Vixens), Jo Weston (Victoria/Melbourne Vixens).