It was a baptism of fire for young Queenslander Gretel Tippett as she made her international debut in Australia’s second Constellation Cup victory in Auckland on Thursday night.
Tippett was handed the wing attack bib to replace Paige Hadley late in the third quarter – and with the Diamonds trailing New Zealand by two goals.
But the athletic 22-year-old quickly settled into position – with the help of teammates Natalie Medhurst and Kim Ravaillion – and played her role in Australia’s dominant final quarter that saw the Diamonds run away with a 10-goal win.
Having previously represented Australia in basketball at two world championships at underage level, Tippett said her international netball debut was now the highlight of her sporting career.
“It was the best experience ever and I’ll remember this game for the rest of my life,” Tippett said.
“I’m honored to be part of a special team.
Australian and Queensland Firebirds teammate Clare McMeniman said it was a proud moment watching Tippett step out in the gold dress for the first time.
“It’s been such a big year for Gretel and she makes me prouder every time she steps out on court,” McMeniman said.
“I’ve seen her right from the beginning of the year and I’ve been lucky to have her as my gym buddy.
“I know how talented and exceptionally athletic she is and I’m glad everyone is seeing what potential she has as a player.
“It made me very proud to see her out on court and I think it’s probably one of best debuts any Australian Diamond has ever had. She came on spectacularly and did a wonderful job for Australia.”
Tippett had a breakout season for the Firebirds in the ANZ Championship playing at goal attack but said she enjoyed running around at wing attack.
“I loved being out there and I had to remind myself not to run into circle a few times,” Tippett said.
“(Lisa) gave me a few tips before I went out to focus on my defence so I just tried to stay in the moment.
“I learned so much from feeding CBass (Caitlin Bassett) and Nat and working with Kim around the circle and also backed up by my Firebirds teammates.
“I thought for a few minutes at the start I was wearing the purple dress.”
The series returns to Australia for the next two Tests, starting at Melbourne’s Hisense Arena on Sunday.
The Diamonds lead the Silver Ferns 2-0 but Tippett said she expects the next Test to be as hard-fought as the games in Christchurch and Auckland.
“There’s lots to improve on so we’ll be sitting down and watching some vision and seeing how we can improve,” Tippett said.