Shooting their way into Comm Games contention

Next Tuesday Australian coach Lisa Alexander will announce her squad from which the Commonwealth Games team will be named.

Given the form of the Australian sides in the ANZ Championship so far this season, it’s expected to be a highly anticipated announcement.

We’ve looked at the contenders over the past fortnight for her defensive and midcourt spots and this week in the final instalment we take a look at those athletes who have the most important job in Australia’s quest for the gold medal – the shooters.

Constellation Cup Game 4Australia Diamonds v New Zealand Silver FernsWest Coast Fever’s Caitlin Bassett had a strong international season last year and has made a strong start to the ANZ Championship season. The 25-year-old is the second highest scorer in the league and last Sunday became the first Australian player to pass 3000 career goals.

Bassett is averaging 38.3 goals a match this season and her second efforts have also been impressive, pulling in 15 rebounds.

Bassett’s combination with new Fever captain Natalie Medhurst was instrumental in the Diamonds’ Constellation Cup win over New Zealand last year and it’s continued to evolve following Medhurst’s move west from the Queensland Firebirds.

Last year, Medhurst was ranked No.4 in goal assists with 207 feeding Romelda Aiken and averaged 16.3 goals a match. Constellation Cup Game 4Australia Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns

This year, she’s lifted that average up to 17.2 goals a game and remains inside the top 10 for goal assists. She’s also shown she can also play in the goal shooter spot which adds another dimension to her game.

Adelaide Thunderbirds hot shot Erin Bell enjoyed a career-best season in 2013, earning selection in the Foxtel ANZ Championship All-Star team for the first time and winning the best-on-court medal in their Grand Final triumph.

Bell averaged 19.9 goals a match last year and has boosted that output to 23 so far this season.

Australia Diamonds and the Malawi QueensGame 2She went past 1000 career ANZ Championship goals last Sunday and is regarded as one of the best long-range shot specialists in the league, averaging 80 per cent from that range this season.

After three seasons in New Zealand, Caitlin Thwaites returned to Australia to join the NSW Swifts and put herself more closely under the eye of the national selectors.

Thwaites, who enjoyed some extended court time in Australia’s series win against Malawi last year, has been influential behind Australia Diamonds and the Malawi Queens Game 2the Swifts best start to a season since 2010.

The former Melbourne Vixens is averaging 28.6 goals a match and is shooting 87 per cent accuracy.

Her arrival in Sydney has eased a bit of pressure on Susan Pratley, who shot 56 per cent of the Swifts goal tally last season.

Pratley averaged 28.2 goals a match last season and shot at 81 per cent accuracy and, while she missed selection in the Australian squad, was part of the Australian Fast5 Flyers line-up that won silver at the Fast5 World Netball Series in New Zealand.

The 30-year-old from Canberra is averaging 24.4 goals and 5.6 assists a game in 2014 and enjoying her combination with Thwaites.

The Melbourne Vixens have three shooters that each bring a different dynamic and game style to their circle.

Tegan Caldwell has been in the national squad for the past few seasons and gained her first taste of international experience with the Fast5 team last year.

The 25-year-old’s average this season is 22 goals a match, up on her career-best numbers in 2013, and has done a lot of work her long-range shooting ability. This, coupled with her speed and agility, makes her a tough opponent.

Karyn Bailey has produced some healthy numbers in the first part of the season to keep pressure on the other spearheads in contention. She did the same last year until hampered by a knee injury, but continues to grow in confidence and consistency.

Catherine Cox is the only player still in the ANZ Championship that has won a Commonwealth Games Gold Medal, having been part of the 2002 squad that won in Manchester.

A veteran of 108 Tests, Cox opted out of Australia’s international campaign after the 2013 ANZ Championship season. She moved to the Vixens this year and, while her court time has been limited, her experience and leadership qualities are critical to building depth in the circle.

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

Plus, make sure you stay in touch with the Diamonds and Netball Australia’s social media channels to see the squad when it’s announced on April 15.