Welcome back from the holidays and festive season to all our Diamonds fans!
Rest assured the athletes have all been working hard over the break to keep their conditioning moving in the direction we would like it to be going and the coaching and support staff have been fine tuning our plans for what is going to be a huge year for netball.
We are also extremely pleased to regain the No.1 world ranking as at the end of 2013. It was a difficult start to the year, particularly with the UK tour and our series loss against England. But to finish on such a high note with our best result over the Silver Ferns for 15 years in the Constellation Cup was a credit to the great work ethic of our athletes and staff.
Now we set course for our Commonwealth Games journey.
It is great news that we have all of our staff in place for the ‘Going for Gold’ campaign with Michelle den Dekker taking on the important role of assistant coach and responsibility for defence and Marg Caldow in the position of specialist attack/goaling coach.
Both coaches are experts in their field of endeavour and bring an intense passion for winning that was embedded in both of them as legendary athletes of Australian netball.
It will be a privilege to sit beside them as the coaching team on the bench at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Our coaching team is working overtime to ensure we leave no stone unturned in our preparation for the games in Glasgow.
We also welcome the newest member of our support team Michelle Wilkins to the role of national selector. Michelle is an ex-Australian player and has spent the past 20 years honing her craft as a high performance coach. She is currently the WAIS Head Coach and brings great integrity and knowledge to the position.
I’m continually updating myself professionally using the resources available to me through the Australian Institute of Sport and spent two very productive days with Tennis Australia coaches and staff in the area of high performance at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park last week.
What a fantastic world event this is virtually on my door step in my home town. Six other national coaches joined with me to `chew the fat’ and grill the tennis coaches on everything they do in their quest for world rankings and getting our Davis Cup and Fed Cup squads back up to the top.
You can also be rest assured that tennis is definitely going places and will, with some patience and hard work from all, be right back up their again alongside cricket, swimming and netball as sports that capture our nation.
I was also fortunate to spend some time with AFL club the Western Bulldogs in Melbourne just recently. It was terrific to get an insight into the coaching philosophy and personal manner of a coach I really admire in Brendan McCartney.
Again, with the right amount of patience and hard work, I can see this team making great inroads into the tough competition that is the AFL in 2014 and beyond.
It was great to compare notes with the coaches on all things football and netball and we really appreciated the many similarities in our games and the need to look outside the square to keep improving.
The other big events this January are my visits to all ANZ Championship franchises to meet with the national squad athletes and their coaches – and of course our `Going for Gold’ simulation camp at the AIS at the end of the month.
Our visits are an important part of our process for achieving gold in Glasgow as we discuss each athletes key priority areas for improvement.
The camp will test out all of our systems to fine tune our preparation for Glasgow and to allow more contact time with the coaching staff and the athletes to continue to focus on areas of team work that will bring us victory.
Phew! That is a lot of work to fit into the month. We are revelling in it and can’t wait to see the athletes competing in the pre-season ANZ Championship tournament and when the regular season begins in March.
Only 188 days until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow begin!
On a sad note, on behalf of everyone involved with the Diamonds I wish to convey my deepest sympathy to the family of Gweneth Benzie after hearing news of her passing over the weekend.
She is a treasure of our game and will never be forgotten for what she did for netball in this country and the way she conducted herself. Rest in peace Gweneth – the Diamonds know that you will always have our backs!