Now let’s start by saying two things.
Congratulations to all athletes selected in both the Origin Australian Diamonds Squad and the Australian Development Squad.
It has been a tough few years for everyone with complicated domestic seasons and minimal exposure to International competition so all those included should be very proud of themselves.
I have no experience in coaching, high performance sport or elite selection, I am purely a fan and self-proclaimed netball nerd who has followed Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) and The Australian Diamonds for five plus years now, wanting to share my thoughts on the recent squad selections.
So, that’s out of the way. Let’s talk team selections.
A bombshell was dropped during the broadcast of the final minor round of SSN revealing that the Origin Australian Diamonds Squad and Australian Development Squad would be announced the following day.
Usually, the announcement is teased for longer but the excitement it produced in the netball community was incredible, and the thoughts that were shared following the announcement were varied. Here is my two cents on the recent squad selection.
This is arguably the easiest area of the court to select, purely based on the large number of internationals we have playing in SSN.
Of the 25 shooters in SSN, 10 of those are internationals.
Notably, Cara Koenen from Sunshine Coast Lightning is the only starting GS in the league, and given her form over the last two years is essentially a walk in to the Diamonds Squad.
The second and third GS positions gets complicated, we have two strong GSs playing overseas, in Donnell Wallam (Leeds Rhinos) and Caitlin Bassett (Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic) as well as Sophie Garbin who has played more minutes at GA for the NSW Swifts this season, but well and truly shown she can dominate GS against the strongest GKs in the league.
Bassett is an obvious inclusion, while her team has struggled in the ANZ Premiership (ANZP), she has proven she can take it to the incumbent starting defensive line up for the Silver Ferns in Jane Watson and Karin Burger.
Plus, heading into a major tournament like The Commonwealth Games in 2022, Diamonds cannot expect to win if they take in two GSs with less than 10 test caps between them.
Given the current COVID-19 situation, Diamonds will struggle to arrange enough international competition to really test out Garbin at GS.
While Bassett was not at her best during the 2021 Constellation Cup, her usual GAs of Steph Wood and Gretel Bueta were not part of the team due to injury and pregnancy respectively.
Bassett has proven with a strong GA out the front of her, she can take on the best and it would be to Australia’s detriment that she was left behind.
Then the final spot, while Wallam has been a fantastic new talent in the Vitality Netball Super League, she would benefit from a year in the Suncorp Super Netball before progressing to the Diamonds Squad.
For this reason, Garbin is the next inclusion.
She has had phenomenal games against the best defenders in Courtney Bruce, Geva Mentor and Shamera Sterling when given the opportunity to play at GS.
Let’s just hope this is where we see her, and not at GA which is where she made her Diamonds debut earlier this year.
The Goal Attack position also does a reasonable job at selecting itself, with Wood and Bueta obvious inclusions not only for their previous international form but also strong seasons in SSN.
While Bueta began the season with a high number of turnovers, this improved as the season went on, and it will be vital that it stays down when she dons the Diamonds Dress.
It was interesting to see Austin still named in the squad, despite the season ending ACL injury the suffered in May.
With her recovery likely to take 9-12 months, this will be pushing the clock to get ready to take on international level competition again in time for Commonwealth Games, which starts on July 28, especially given the need to back up day after day in a tournament style competition.
Nevertheless it is important that she stays a part of this high performance environment, as she certainly has a strong future in GA for Australia.
It’s great to see Sophie Dwyer as a camp invitee, she has excelled in the GIANTS team this year and is another strong prospect of Australian Netball who will only continue to grow with more exposure to elite competition.
This is undoubtedly the area of the court that would’ve caused the most selection headaches.
Out of the 36 SSN contracted players to take the court in mid-court positions in the 2021 season, only five of them are internationals meaning there is a plethora of Australian talent putting their hand up for selection.
There has been much discussion around the need for a specialist WD in the Diamonds Squad, with many SSN teams opting to go without due to the reduced squad size of 10.
Our most recent major tournament wins, 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Netball World Cup, have involved Renae Ingles at WD.
In 2018 we had Gabi Simpson in the Commonwealth Games final and she was absolutely electric, picking up several key intercepts while also shutting down her opponent.
It was a notable omission at the 2019 Netball World Cup when Jamie-Lee Price was named as the WD, despite having barely spent any time there during the domestic season, while Jo Weston and April Brandley were able to swing across from GD I think we ultimately paid the price for not selecting a WD from SSN.
Price will be a great inclusion at C for us this time round, she has had some great form there and with the inclusion of some specialist WDs, this is her time to dominate the C position.
It is fantastic to see the first time inclusion of Amy Parmenter in the squad, she has been in phenomenal form, sitting in sixth spot on the intercept list, ahead of both GIANTS circle defenders, with the next WD siting in 16th spot.
That WD is Ash Brazill, who also makes her long awaited return to the squad following her knee injury in early 2020.
Brazill is a fan favourite, but her inclusion came as somewhat of a surprise as while she is capable of elevating those around her, she hasn’t had as strong of an impact as she did in 2019 when she first returned to the Diamonds Squad.
A specialist WD is important, but do we need two? Brazill has spent some time at C this season, but hasn’t had as strong an impact as she did in 2019, and there are plenty of players in the squad to cover C.
Gabi Simpson was somewhat hard done by in the WD position, as previously mentioned she’s proven to do well in the Gold Dress and while she has struggled for form in SSN of late, it’s important she’s not lost from the Australian Diamonds system because she brings something special in her leadership and form when given the opportunity.
Now for the attacking mid-courters, what a task to narrow this down.
The beauty of these players is they are all capable of covering multiple positions, with three of them able to cover the entire midcourt, but that’s not to say there weren’t some shock responses to selection.
Despite her injury, Liz Watson is the current Diamonds Captain, from the rotation policy from Constellation Cup, and likely the next team elected Captain so she is an automatic inclusion.
While the Melbourne Vixens had a tough SSN season, Moloney was fantastic during the Constellation Cup and also has proven leadership qualities that are important in an international side.
Hadley also has significant Diamonds experience, but in the past has struggled to bring her strong domestic form to the international stage and wasn’t given a chance to do so earlier in the year.
It would be fantastic to see her and Proud get the chance to wear the Green and Gold alongside each other, they’ve played together for five years now and with Garbin in the squad I think they deserve a chance to show what they can do.
The final two spots of Anstiss and Charles have been the most controversial, notably because outgoing Fever Head Coach Stacey Marinkovich is the Diamonds Coach and some have accused her of favouritism in these selection choices.
While they have had strong domestic seasons, they have had a tall target in Jhaniele Fowler at GS, and when Sasha Glasgow has been brought into GS they have struggled to find her because they are so used to being able to throw in a high ball into Fowler.
Charles had some court time with the Diamonds in early 2021 and played well, she injected some speed and flare into the game but the same qualities can be added by the likes of a Kelsey Browne, who has previous Diamonds experience as well as a strong connection with Bassett, Koenen and Wood from their time at Sunshine Coast Lightning.
Anstiss received her third Diamonds Squad call up, but is yet to be named in a match day 12.
While the versatility she offers in being able to cover all three mid court positions is valuable, there are more experienced players who offer the same qualities who were omitted from the squad – the most notable being Kim Ravaillion.
Her poor form at Collingwood has done a 180 and she is playing phenomenally in the purple dress at the Firebirds.
She has a strong connection with Bueta and has won previous tournaments for Australia feeding Bassett.
What she gives away in penalties and low intercepts, she makes up for with lack of turnovers and high goal assists.
It was also confirmed she was available – raising more eyebrows about her omission.
Finally the defenders, three experienced campaigners, alongside exciting young talent.
Courtney Bruce was an absolute shoe-in for the squad, she is in career best form and has long proven this transfers into the Diamonds Dress.
Sarah Klau has also had a great season this year, and the re-inclusion of fellow Swift Maddy Turner into the squad will give Klau that extra confidence as this defensive unit has managed to shut down some world class shooting circles in the past.
Despite a rocky year for Melbourne Vixens, Jo Weston has become a stalwart at GD for Australia and has also proven her worth at WD in previous test matches.
The most exciting inclusion is perhaps that of Sunday Aryang, after her first season as a contracted SSN player.
Her ability to read the play and float off for an intercept has been phenomenal, and her combination with Bruce has only improved as the season progressed.
Some have questioned if it is too early to include her, having only played one full season but the fact that she was able to push English International Stacey Francis-Bayman from her preferred position out to WD is a strong sign that she’s worthy of the call up.
Finally, we have Kim Jenner who returns to the squad after an inclusion last year, despite not getting any court time.
This has been a quieter season for Jenner compared to 2021, but similar to her Firebirds teammate Gabi Simpson, I feel she will be a player that elevates herself when in the gold dress.
We can only hope she gets a chance to take the court in the next lot of international matches.
Emily Mannix was a tough exclusion from this strong line up, after an injury riddled year her connection with Weston wasn’t enough to see her secure a place in the senior squad.
With only two specialist GKs selected don’t be surprised if she gets promoted from the Development Squad should any player unfortunately go down with an injury.
There is also plenty of young talent to be excited about in the Australian Development Squad, but a few notable omissions including Molly Jovic, Tayla Fraser and Maddy McAuliffe.
McAuliffe and Jovic have been starting seven players all year and missed selection in favour of the likes of Olivia Lewis and Tilly McDonell who have had minimal court time in their seasons of SSN.
As has been mentioned previously, there is a lack of Indigenous representation, with only Jemma MiMi of the Development Squad being named.
Wallam will no doubt break her way into the international scenes in the coming years, but this further highlights the need for more Indigenous representation at the SSN level.
While selecting a squad of 21 must have been hard, it will be even more interesting to see the 12 player match day sides that get selected for the upcoming Constellation Cup.
With this being the only confirmed international fixture between now and Commonwealth Games, let’s hope that all players get a chance to show what they can do on the international stage so that the best players can get picked to represent Australia at the major tournament and that they are capable of bringing back one of the most highly sought after trophies in World Netball to home soil.