This three-Test Series against the English Roses has been highly anticipated for quite some time, especially for all the netball fans in England who will be able to witness world-class netball live.
We have already had unprecedented interest from media outlets around Australia and also in England where Sky Sports will televise each Test match live around the UK.
It’s being billed as `Netball Month’ in England with the Test Series leading into a `Super Saturday’ for their Superleague teams – England’s version of the ANZ Championship – with all eight opening the season on the same day.
Our training and preparations for this series has been well coordinated around the country with much assistance and support from the coaching staff at our ANZ Championship teams taking the athletes for court work sessions.
The Diamonds athletes have also worked hard in the gym with their ANZ Championship team’s Strength and Conditioning Coaches. This is no easy feat but all orchestrated by the Diamonds’ Strength and Conditioning Co-ordinator, Leigh Smith.
The announcement of our new Leadership Group for this tour has been front and centre over the past few days with Clare McMeniman named acting Captain with Caitlin Bassett and Sharni Layton joint acting Vice Captains for this Test Series.
All three were extremely honored to be chosen by their peers in our current leadership group along with Laura Geitz and Renae Ingles.
They were then appointed to these roles for the tour and endorsed by Netball Australia. It’s a ringing endorsement for our Leading Teams process of empowering our athlete group to choose the leaders they believe best represent the Trademark of “Sisters in Arms” and our team values and behaviors.
Leadership is so much more than a title.
It is acknowledging that, in order to lead, we must work on ourselves first and foremost and then proactively drive the behaviors of the team and squad – ultimately knowing we are accountable to our trademark.
Clare, Caitlin and Sharni know this process very well. They have – and will be – undertaking personal development to ensure that they will continue to learn and improve as leaders.
The Diamonds’ Captain and Vice Captains are so much more than the person completing the coin toss or the one who speaks to the umpires at half-time. They lead a sport that is played by more than one million people around our country.
They understand their duty and responsibilities.
We have arrived at our training base in Manchester to prepare for the series, which begins in Liverpool next week.
Packing our winter woollies has been important to ensure we are well prepared for the winter weather we’ve arrived into – even down to wearing our compression garments on the flight over.
Adjusting to the time zone is critically important to our training and preparation.
We chose Manchester because we flew directly there from Dubai, its training facilities are excellent, it’s close to Liverpool and we know the city well. It was our base where the team prepared for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The time spent training in Manchester will be primarily getting our attack and defensive strategies set, studying the opposition in performance analysis, adjusting to and testing the new rules and we’ll have a practice match against England `A’ next Monday.
That will be our first opportunity to actually experience the new rules in play and we have the International Umpires officiating the Test series taking charge of this match. This will give us a great opportunity to see the rules in action and ask questions.
This tour has the inclusion of three new athletes in Liz Watson, Stephanie Wood and Kristiana Manu’a into the Diamonds environment. This means that one of our important goals, as a team, is to seamlessly induct these athletes into our system.
We also have four changes to the side from our last Test played in Perth back in October.
This requires our coaching team of myself, Marg Caldow and Jane Searle to get down to basics and build the combinations again.
This is exciting and risky but always with an eye to extending the Diamonds winning culture.
We may have lost the 2013 series in England 3-0 – and that still hurts – but we are aiming to reverse that result this time around with this completely new team.
It will not be easy.
We are out of season, we are going from summer to winter and lots of travel stress.
But we love a challenge.
Expect this series to be closely contested but, let the games begin!