Sparkling times ahead for Aussie stars

Australia Diamonds and the Malawi QueensGame 2In just over a week, 18 of Australia’s best athletes will be a step closer to their dream of winning gold at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The Australian Diamonds squad is being announced on 15 April and 12 athletes will be chosen from the squad to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Australian coach Lisa Alexander and selectors Anne Sargeant and Michelle Wilkins have been intently scrutinising the first five weeks of the ANZ Championship season and ranking every player’s performance as they start to piece together the squad they believe can win Australia’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal since 2002.

Alexander has assured Diamonds fans it’s been a thorough selection process.

“We rate and rank players from each Australian team as well as (Northern Mystics defender) Julie Corletto for all of their performances,” Alexander said.

“So we have to talk about those ratings and performances put out by the athletes. That in itself presents a challenge.

“Not every side has played each other yet or had the same amount of games at home and away and there’s a mix of who’s played against Australian or New Zealand teams. That’s what makes it really difficult when comparing like to like in athlete’s performances.

“So for the selection committee, it’s a really tough process. Normally we get a whole season plus the ANZ Championship Finals Series to make these decisions.

“This time we are making decision based on the first seven games, so therefore we have to do a bit of a prediction and analyse past performances about who’s performed well at ANZ Championship level and also internationally.”

Constellation Cup Game 4Australia Diamonds v New Zealand Silver FernsWith so much talent in Australian netball to pick from, Alexander said performances in the next fortnight could be a deciding factor if an athlete in contention is chosen by selectors or overlooked this time.

“But each player is accountable for their performances. They’re aware that once you’ve been picked in a squad that doesn’t mean you are in it forever,” Alexander said.

“You have to keep improving and keep up consistent performances week in, week out.”

Alexander said the selectors will have a phone hook-up next week and then on the day before the squad is announced to put the finishing touches on their list.

“This selection is not about development – it’s about picking our best possible team for the Commonwealth Games,” she declared.

“So the ones who get named in the squad have got an absolutely realistic chance of making the final team of 12.

“It’s exciting to see a lot of young players getting opportunities this year. We’re likely to have some invitees come along to our selection camp in May who could be added to the squad depending on their performances in those trials.”

This will be Alexander’s first pinnacle event as Diamonds coach and she said it’s “enormously exciting” to be ready to name her team

“As head coach I’ve been working towards this event for two-and-a-half years,” Alexander stated.

“All the work we’ve been doing as coaches, staff and athletes is all coming to a crescendo – this is our benchmark event.

“We have an enormous responsibility for our sport. We need to win this gold medal so we need to get this selection right and chose the right athletes who are mentally tough, resilient, that when they get knocked down they get up again and show that classic Aussie spirit.”

Make sure you stay in touch with the Diamonds and Netball Australia’s social media channels to be to see the squad when it’s announced on April 15.