Comm Games squad contenders – the defenders

Constellation Cup Game 4 Australia Diamonds v New Zealand Silver FernsThe announcement of the Australian Diamonds squad next month is already one of the most anticipated events this year.

Coach Lisa Alexander will name her squad on April 15, from which the final team of 12 to contest this year’s Commonwealth Games will be chosen.

The Commonwealth Games are being held in Glasgow, Scotland in July and August with Australia keen on reclaiming the Gold Medal that’s eluded us since 2002.

Over the next three weeks we’ll take a look at who are the candidates for the defence, midcourt and the shooting circle as we build-up to Alexander’s squad announcement.

This week we start with a look at just which players are in the mix to fill the key defensive spots.

Diamonds captain Laura Geitz enjoyed a successful start to her leadership reign in last year’s International Test Series, guiding the Diamonds to series victories over New Zealand and Malawi.

geitzycupAfter losing her first Test as captain, Geitz led the Diamonds to six consecutive wins to reclaim the Constellation Cup from the Silver Ferns and a clean sweep of the Malawi Queens.

The 26-year-old was already a respected leader for the Queensland Firebirds before being appointed to the Diamonds role and she’s continued to flourish with that responsibility this year.

She’s the No.1 player in the ANZ Championship this season for intercepts (11) and ranked inside the top 10 for deflections (15) and rebounds. Geitz is renowned as a tight, one-on-one defender who lifts her teammates by pulling off an inspirational intercept or rebound.

Melbourne Vixens captain Bianca Chatfield is the `veteran’ of the current Diamonds squad, having made her international debut as a teenager back in 2001.

She passed the 50-test milestone against the Silver Ferns last year and continues to be the foundation of any defensive combination – whether it be for her club or country. She was elevated to the role of vice-captain for the Constellation Cup series last year, a reward for her years of solid output in the green and gold.

Having missed selection in the team for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Chatfield will be desperate to be part of this year’s intake and help Australia win gold.

Adelaide Thunderbirds’ Rebecca Bulley is equally as dependable, often asked to match up against shooters much taller than her.

But it’s a task she relishes and can be relied on to give 100 per cent to every contest she competes for and her shutdown ability makes her tough to beat.

Bulley is highly-respected by teammates and opponents alike and her ability to read the play and pre-empt moves makes her a tough match-up for any attacker.

Australia Diamonds and the Malawi QueensGame 2Having regained her spot in the Diamonds squad last year after missing the previous international season through injury, Sharni Layton is determined to remain part of the international scene.

Layton moved from the Thunderbirds to the NSW Swifts this season and, while she’s missed a couple of early season matches due to a thumb injury, is a valuable part of their defensive structure.

Her versatility to play in a number of positions should also hold Layton – the 2010 ANZ Championship Best Young Player – in good stead come the selection camp.

While she may be plying her trade across the Tasman with the Auckland-based Northern Mystics, Julie Corletto remains very much in the selection mix.

Having endured a frustrating couple of seasons with injuries, a fit and rejuvenated Corletto will no doubt put pressure on her rivals for a spot in the final 12 through some consistent performances against her fellow countrywomen.

Corletto is the leading player at the Mystics for intercepts (six) and second for deflections (10) and showing glimpses of the form that saw her win selection in the ANZ Championship All-Star Team in 2012.

Demelza McCloud earned a recall to the Australian side last year for the first time in more than a decade, playing in the Test series against Malawi.

It was just reward for a player that enjoyed a career best season in the ANZ Championship.

The 33-year-old has shown an ability to play on tall or small shooters and is very mobile. While she hasn’t had a lot of court time for the Queensland Firebirds so far this season, she remains a key player in their game plan and knows she can be called on at any stage to do a job.

These players know that every block, intercept or rebound they create is only helping their chances of making the squad when it’s named next month.

Tell us via Twitter – @AussieDiamonds – which players you’d like to see part of the Commonwealth Games squad and use the #MyDefence has tag.

Next week we’ll run our eyes over the leading candidates for the team’s `engine room’ – the midcourt.