With the Netball Quad Series now over, and 62 days left until the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, it’s crunch time for selectors who are about to round out the final selection process.
Former Australian representatives themselves, Michelle Wilkins and Annie Sargeant, together with Samsung Diamonds’ head coach, Lisa Alexander form the selection panel who can lay claim to having a guiding hand in creating a squad that holds number one ranking in the world.
Wilkins, a selector for four years, and Sargeant for 10, have tracked every move of every single player who has worn the green and gold dress in their time as selectors.
“It’s been at least a two-year process. It’s extremely thorough, it’s extremely time-consuming,” said Sargeant.
“Every single game, every weekend is watched in entirety and in all its detail, and maybe more than once by each of us.
“Even if Michelle had a coaching role or if I had the luxury of commentating, that wouldn’t count as viewing players. We would go away within the week of that round and watch every match, every player that took to the court. We then would individually consider what we saw, make notes, and do ratings on every single player that took the court. All the progression is taken into account.”
The ability to compete on an international stage is considered, and the selection panel keeps across every international test whether at the games or by using any footage they have access to – broadcast, or the internal performance analysis videos, taken by the Diamonds Senior Performance Analyst, Dr Mitch Mooney.
“We do attend some tours to watch the games live,” said Wilkins.
“And I think for us, the live viewing is really critical to selection, particularly at this level. I think it’s very important that you get the real time, the whole situation. For me, as a selector if I can see a long court view, I would watch that over the broadcast.”
With D-day of Commonwealth Games team selection looming, three of the most powerful women in Australian netball are working around the clock to ensure the team that is sent to the Gold Coast has the greatest shot at winning gold.
Whilst based in three different time zones, the selection panel has maintained contact across the Quad Series, the Diamonds’ final hit out as a team before Commonwealth Games. They came all together at a four-day camp in Canberra earlier this month, allowing selectors to see all 19 members of the squad in all possible combinations.
“At the moment, we’re using each of the international series – both 2017 and 2018 Quad Series, Constellation Cup – to expose all members of our squad. There were 14 in England and South Africa with others left behind but they have had exposure at different times and that is not forgotten, that is not neglected.
“You’ve also got to put the team balance in as an element. From Lisa’s point of view, she knows what type of balance fits into her game plan and also collectively how they work as a unit. There are so many elements that need to be considered when we make that final selection,” said Wilkins.
“As a selection panel, we’re very robust. We challenge each other. We’re very questioning, in a discursive format.”
With the excitement of Commonwealth Games selection comes the heartbreak of not making the team. And every netball fan would agree, it’s a pretty close call between each of the athletes eligible for selection.
“Having been there, the two of us, we are aware of it all and so respectful of what the they do. There’s never a player we don’t admire or respect,” said Sargeant.
“Players can go their whole lives and be fringe of making a Diamonds uniform. But it’s harder again to make a Diamonds uniform at the Commonwealth Games or Netball World Cup. They may have in their brains worked eight years for that and we’re not disrespectful of that.”
“It’s very hard to make decisions but they have to be made, and they’re made in a very positive and constructive context so, it’s a tough time at the moment.”
With each Diamonds combination on court continuing to dominate on the international stage, it will be a tough call for selectors to narrow it down to 12.
We don’t envy them at all!
So, where to from here?
The selection panel will meet again this week (“until however long it takes”), where they will make the final decision.
Athletes will then be notified whether they have made the team, all subject to final selection from Commonwealth Games Australia. The call will come from head coach Lisa Alexander with the Diamonds wellbeing manager also on the line.
The team is then nominated by Netball Australia for ratification by Commonwealth Games Australia. It essentially then becomes their team, with the netball team becoming part of the wider Australian Commonwealth Games team.
The team will be revealed to the public on Monday 5 February.
Current Diamonds Squad List
Caitlin Bassett (Western Australia, Sunshine Coast Lightning)
April Brandley (New South Wales, Collingwood Magpies)
Courtney Bruce (Western Australia, West Coast Fever)
Laura Geitz (Queensland, Queensland Firebirds)
Paige Hadley (New South Wales, NSW Swifts)
Sharni Layton (Victoria, Collingwood Magpies)
Emily Mannix (Victoria, Melbourne Vixens)
Kate Moloney (Victoria, Melbourne Vixens)
Caitlyn Nevins (Victoria, Queensland Firebirds)
Susan Pettitt (New South Wales, GIANTS Netball)
Tegan Philip (Victoria, Melbourne Vixens)
Kim Ravaillion (New South Wales, Collingwood Magpies)
Madi Robinson (Victoria, Collingwood Magpies)
Gabi Simpson (New South Wales, Queensland Firebirds)
Caitlin Thwaites (Victoria, Collingwood Magpies)
Gretel Tippett (Queensland, Queensland Firebirds)
Liz Watson (Victoria, Melbourne Vixens)
Jo Weston (Victoria, Melbourne Vixens)
Stephanie Wood (Queensland, Sunshine Coast Lightning)