And I really can’t wait for it to begin.
For the first time in more than 20 years Australia will host the Netball World Cup and the eyes of the netball world will be focused on Sydney in August.
People still talk about the tournament when it was last played Down Under in 1991 and some of the names of that Australian team led by captain and current Diamonds assistant coach Michelle den Dekker, Shelley O’Donnell, Roselee Jencke, Simone McKinnis and Carissa Dalwood are now part of the folklore.
Hopefully, in 20 years’ time, the names of Laura Geitz, Madi Robinson, Caitlin Bassett, Natalie Medhurst, Julie Corletto and Renae Hallinan will be held in same regard.
While we’re delighted by our achievements this year, most notably winning Australia’s first Commonwealth Games Gold Medal in 12 years, rest assured that our athletes are working harder than ever to ensure we successfully defend our world title.
The theme for the Diamonds in 2015 is `Back to Back’ and, as we head into the festive season, I’m confident that our quest is well on track.
The athletes in the Diamonds squad are constantly challenging the coaching staff and each other to raise our games to another level.
I’m enormously proud of the Diamonds achievement to win all 13 of our Tests and it’s a credit to the athletes and their professional approach in preparing themselves for each encounter, executing our game plans and then the way they recovered.
We faced some tough opposition this year with the gap closing between the top four nations, which stresses the importance of why we need to continue to be innovative to stay ahead of the rest.
Just over a year ago, Laura Geitz was appointed to the position of Australian Diamonds Captain and I have been so pleased to watch her leadership qualities thrive over the past 12 months. She was also extremely well supported by our Leadership Group of Kimberlee Green and Bianca Chatfield.
We have also experienced the International retirements of Catherine Cox and Bianca – Catherine going out on a high with an ANZ Championship premiership win with the Melbourne Vixens to add to her list of career successes both internationally and domestically.
I also pay tribute again to the wonderful service of both athletes to Australian netball and, in particular, Bianca’s efforts as vice-captain of our Commonwealth Games Gold Medal team.
Another retirement is that of the Diamonds’ Head Physiotherapist, Steve Hawkins.
We, the Diamonds and support staff, are all going to miss Steve’s passion for the game, his attention to detail and his unending knowledge within his profession and how it applies to netball. We also thank him for his services to Australian netball for the past 17 years.
Our FAST5 Flyers team went so close to making it a clean sweep of all international titles at the FAST5 World Series in Auckland last month.
I know that the team were disappointed not to return home with the gold medal but they can hold their heads high for their performances to reach the Grand Final and the way they conducted themselves over the tournament.
That’s a credit to fine leadership of Jane Searle and Jane Woodlands-Thompson and support staff and the team’s co-captains Erin Bell and Clare McMeniman.
The Melbourne Vixens joined the Adelaide Thunderbirds as a two-time winner of the ANZ Championship title with a memorable win in the Grand Final against the Queensland Firebirds at Hisense Arena on a Sunday afternoon back in June.
It will be fascinating to watch how the battle pans out for finals places under the competition’s new format next season. Before we know it, we’ll be back into the action for 2015.
As this is my last column for 2014, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal Diamonds fans for your support over the last 12 months. I wish you all a safe and enjoyable festive season!
Bring on 2015 and the World Cup in Sydney!