WITH the announcement of a mid-January international Quad Series between Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa, the Australian Diamonds have this week released the extended 15-player squad set to don the green and gold. A couple of Diamonds returnees grace the group as well as some surprise squad debutants.
First up were the goalers, with five selections and a shiny new face amongst the group in Sophie Dwyer. The young goal attack joins Cara Koenen and Sophie Garbin, who are also relatively new to the squad and will likely be taken under their wing. While neither Gretel Bueta nor Steph Wood are necessarily veterans in the squad, the two experienced goalers will look to keep the young group afloat and get things moving in the front-end. Intriguingly, head coach Stacey Marinkovich has opted for two goal shooters (Koenen and Garbin) to go with the trio of goal attacks, with Wood also able to rotate into wing attack where required. Overall, the new-look goaling group should provide a number of different options in the attacking end, as the Diamonds move away from the holding goal shooter style they have opted for over the years.
Predicted starters: Steph Wood (GA), Cara Koenen (GS)
Expect Koenen to earn the starting goal shooter position, with the calm and composed goaler a well-known fixture with great smarts to go with her accuracy to post. While Bueta is a real firepower, Koenen has a well-known connection with vice-captain, Wood, who will likely rotate through the goal attack position with Bueta depending on the role required on court. Wood adds silky playmaking skills where Bueta brings the intensity, with Garbin and Dwyer expected to earn valuable minutes as impact players.
Marinkovich says: “This group has fantastic depth, and each player brings versatility to the goal shooting circle.”
The midcourt was next to be announced, with a high-power, high-class group of five selected. While boasting versatility, the midcourt options also offer some great consistent players who can have a strong impact, with defensive midcourters Ash Brazill and Jamie-Lee Price sure to turn heads. The real question though, is around new captain, Liz Watson. The X-factor that Watson brings to the midcourt is undeniable, however there is no doubt the questions around her match fitness are crucial with the wing attack sitting out the entire 2021 Suncorp Super Netball season. Fortunately, the ever versatile Paige Hadley and Kate Moloney are able to cover all three midcourt positions, with Hadley most likely to share that wing attack role with Watson, and Moloney more likely to earn minutes in the centre.
Predicted starters: Jamie-Lee Price (C), Liz Watson (WA), Ash Brazill (WD)
Even on return from injury, it is hard to not see Watson starting in her preferred position of wing attack, especially given that she has evidently been cleared to participate despite not playing all year. As already suggested, Hadley would be next in line for that role, and realistically could earn the start in one or two matches to rest Watson. While both Price and Brazill can play through centre and wing defence, Price has spent plenty of time in centre over the past few seasons and is the clear starter across the group. Brazill’s explosiveness will be in high regard in wing defence, with Moloney also able to fill that role if required.
Marinkovich says: “Each athlete brings a unique skillset to the tour squad and we’re looking forward to seeing these combinations on the court in January.”
The defensive end is looking like the most exciting group of the lot, with exciting youngster Sunday Aryang earning her first call-up to the squad, coupled in with a number of experienced faces. Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner bring clean hands and excellent connection, while there is no doubt Aryang brings that X-factor to the goal defence position. Jo Weston and Courtney Bruce bring the experience, with their connection growing over the years as both have held down consistent starting roles. With a number of viable lineups, this group offers great versatility. Looking with the naked eye, there are no holes in this defensive unit which should have Aussie fans very excited for what’s to come.
Predicted starters: Jo Weston (GD), Courtney Bruce (GK)
With experience not only on the international stage but also the most caps of the defensive group, it is safe to say our predicted starters in defence are Weston and Bruce. Both are smiling assassins and lead the long arm brigade down back, so will look to play that really consistent role from the get-go. ExpectTurner and Klau to steal some of the spotlight, especially if Weston and Bruce are attracting attention from the umpires, while Aryang will do well playing an impact role with greater exposure to this level never a bad thing, especially with her potential.
Marinkovich says: “Connection is incredibly important for our defensive line-up and I’m excited to see what these athletes can do against our biggest rivals in January.”