Midcourt contenders for Comm Games squad

This week we continue the build up to the announcement of the Australian Diamonds squad by looking at the contenders for the midcourt.

Constellation Cup Game 4 Australia Diamonds v New Zealand Silver FernsIt’s the engine room of the side, the vital link between the defence and shooters who never stop running all match in pursuit of the ball or their opponents.

Australian coach Lisa Alexander is blessed at the moment to have some fantastic experienced athletes in form coupled with some exciting up-and-coming youngsters eager for their opportunities to showcase their talents on a bigger stage at international level.

In 2013 Renae Hallinan had a year to remember and was rewarded by winning the coveted Liz Ellis Diamond as Australia’s best player at both international and in the ANZ Championship.

Hallinan was handed the captaincy of the Adelaide Thunderbirds this season and she’s shown her versatility by filling a number of roles in their midcourt so far.

Last season Hallinan was ranked high up in the league for deflections and this season she’s already dished off 39 goal assists to show she’s a dangerous player in both attack and defence.

Constellation Cup Game 4Australia Diamonds v New Zealand Silver FernsNSW Swifts captain Kimberlee Green relished being elevated to the role of vice-captain for Australia’s Test Series against Malawi last year and has carried on that form into the early part of the ANZ Championship season.

Green, a veteran of more than 50 Tests, is ranked No.2 in the league for goal assists with 78 and is carrying more of the workload in the centre role after Paige Hadley’s season and Australian squad selection prospects were ended by a serious knee injury.

The 28-year-old’s experience is being called upon more than ever by the Swifts after the team has suffered a raft of injuries, but she’s thriving on leading her side through the face of adversity and onto their best start to a season since 2010.

She’s got a new name in 2014 but there’s no doubting the playing style of Madi Robinson remains the same. Constellation Cup Game 3 Australia Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns

The Melbourne Vixens midcourt dynamo remains one of the key players opposition sides target for her strength and athletic ability to never stop running.

Ranked fourth in the league for goal assists with 72, her creativity often creates goals for her teammates out of nothing.

The 2012 Liz Ellis Diamond winner is also relishing her role as the senior member of the Vixens midcourt and leading by example to her younger teammates.

Queensland Firebirds’ Kim Ravaillion began 2013 a relative unknown but finished it being rated one of the rising stars of world netball. Constellation Cup Game 4 Australia Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns

She may have played only eight Tests, but by the end of the series against New Zealand Ravaillion had earned herself the starting centre bib, quite an achievement for someone who turned 21 during the year.

Ravaillion, who achieved the rare feat of making her international debut before she had played an ANZ Championship game, is being marked more closely this year but only continues to improve each week.

Ravaillion’s Firebirds teammate Gabi Simpson had two different experiences of international netball last year.

Firstly with Australia’s 21/U side at the World Youth Championships in Scotland – of which Ravaillion was also part of – and then with the Australian Fast5 Flyers at the World Netball Series in New Zealand.

The 22-year-old is a smart reader of the play, highlighted by her spot inside the top 10 in the ANZ Championship for deflections (19) and doesn’t shy away from any challenge.

Eighteen months ago, injury denied Ashleigh Brazill the opportunity to push for a Test cap and then wrecked her ANZ Championship season last year.

But Brazill has shown why she’s such a classy player in the first five rounds with West Coast Fever, also sitting on 19 deflections and proved her versatility by playing in all three midcourt roles.

She was also a member of the Fast5 Flyers last year and an invitee to the Diamonds training camp in January to show she’s very much in the selector’s thoughts.

Her Fever teammate Chelsea Pitman has been part of an Australian world championship-winning squad and is a dangerous opponent as she does not just play in the midcourt, but is capable of moving into goals.

Pitman is in top five in the league for goal assists (68) and her combination with shooters Caitlin Bassett and Natalie Medhurst – also the front line of the 2011 Diamonds side – is growing every time they step out on court.

Verity Simmons emerged last year as an influential playmaker and she’s continued on that consistent form since making the move from the west to the Queensland Firebirds. She’s in the top three at the Firebirds for goal assists (32) and their No.1 player for loose ball pick ups (eight).

Abbey McCulloch has returned to Sydney after a season in Brisbane and slotted comfortably into the NSW Swifts line-up in the wing defence position.

She goes about her business without fuss and fanfare but is a smart reader of the play who has quickly become a reliable part of the Swifts back court combination. She ranks No.3 at the Swifts for deflections (nine) and their leading loose ball pick up player (12).

One young player making a name for herself is Liz Watson at the Melbourne Vixens. She earned a last-minute call-up to their squad for Elissa Kent but has made a quick impact.

Watson, who turned 20 this week, ranks No.2 at the Vixens for goal assists (57) behind Robinson and is their equal leader for intercepts (eight).

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

In our final feature next week we’ll take a look at those in contention for spots in the goal circle and the ones who are shooting us towards gold in Glasgow!