Veteran defender Demelza McCloud is keen to make the most of her second chance in the green and gold when Australia wraps up its Coles Netball Test Series against Malawi this week.
McCloud is back in the Australian squad eight years after she played her last Test and is keen to add to her eight Test caps when the Diamonds host the Queens at Wollongong on Wednesday night and the Gold Coast on Saturday evening.
The 33-year-old’s international career has been rejuvenated after a strong season in the ANZ Championship with the Queensland Firebirds and she said the lure of being part of Australia’s team for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Scotland is keeping her motivated to perform.
“That goal at the end of the season and into July is just so exciting,” McCloud said.
“I stumbled just before Melbourne (2006 Games) and remember watching that tournament and just being heartbroken the whole time.
“A little bit of that was letting myself down and not using the opportunities o I can’t wait for the year to come and for this group to go together forward towards it (and) have the best 12 in that team in July.
“It’s just a fantastic dream come true, just to be amongst the girls in this high performance environment and representing your country. There’s no greater honor in the sporting world (and) I’m just loving it.
“The way the group is so focused and hungry for success, it’s a pleasure to be part of it.”
McCloud replaces Bianca Chatfield in the Diamonds squad for the series against the Queens, the world’s fifth-ranked nation, and will form part of the defensive combination alongside her Firebirds captain and teammate Laura Geitz.
“Personally, I’d like to just make sure I step in and have the intensity and quality that the rest of the girls brought to the Constellation Cup series (against New Zealand) and when I get my opportunities to take with both hands and really do my job for Australia and for myself,” she said.
“We just want to build as a team on the performances that have already gone before us and hopefully put out a good show against Malawi.”
The Diamonds and Queens will create history by playing the first ever international Test match in Wollongong.
McCloud said the crowd will enjoy watching Malawi’s game style, especially the ANZ Championship’s newest recruit in goal shooter Mwai Kumwenda.
“They’re so exciting and they play with a lot of flair, they’re quite unorthodox in comparison to how we play over here,” she said.
“There’s definitely some individual flashes of brilliance with some of those girls and we’ll look (out) for a colorful display. We just have to be ready for anything really.
“MJ (Kumwenda) is going to be the lynchpin for them, so we’ll have a tough job to stop her. She’s tall, she’s athletic, she’s accurate and she can pull a ball in anywhere. We thought Irene (van Dyk) was tough.”
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said she’ll use the two Tests against Malawi as an opportunity to see what players like McCloud and newcomer Paige Hadley could potentially offer the squad heading towards Glasgow.
“It’s very important for the development of our athletes in preparation for Commonwealth Games that they get their opportunity,” Alexander said.
“It’s (using the bench) vitally important because then we know what the strength of our bench is and if you don’t put them out there, you don’t know.
“You’ve got to show that confidence in the group and they also have to show that confidence in each other, so it’s really important that we do that.”
Tickets for the Test at the WIN Entertainment Centre are still available via Ticketek at www.ticketek.com.au, by phone on 132 849 or at any Ticketek outlet.
The match will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 (Channel 501) from 8.00pm with SBS 2 showing it on delay at 10.30pm.