NETBALL PREVIEW: Diamonds boast a balanced team

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There is no bigger competition than the Commonwealth Games for the Australian Diamonds.

As reigning World Champions and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists from Glasgow 2014, the Diamonds come into the competition as hot favourites and world number one.

The Diamonds boast a balanced team of youth and experience, with five athletes part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games team, captain Caitlin Bassett, Laura Geitz, Caitlin Thwaites, Kim Ravaillion and Madi Robinson.

Six athletes will be experiencing a major tournament for the first time, vice-captain Gabi Simpson, April Brandley, Courtney Bruce, Liz Watson, Jo Weston and Stephanie Wood.

Goal attack Susan Pettitt is the only team member to have experienced a home games, playing in Melbourne 2006, as well as Delhi 2010, but never tasting Gold.

With five matches in seven days during the preliminary rounds, followed by semifinals and medal matches, Diamonds Head Coach Lisa Alexander will call on her team’s depth to deliver consistent performances.

You will see the world’s best netballers hit the Gold Coast, with all 12 of the International Netball Federation’s top ranked nations qualifying for the Games.

Historically, the biggest rivalry in netball is Australia versus New Zealand, who have faced off in 139 test matches since 1938, when the sport was first played at international level. The two neighbouring nations have contested every Commonwealth Games Gold, the Diamonds victorious in 1998, 2002 and 2014, the Silver Ferns winning in 2006 and 2010.

Over the past 12 months the netball world order has been shaken up, with England, Jamaica and South Africa flexing their muscles as strong competitors, closing the gap between the world’s best.

Australia will face South Africa on day four of competition, and Jamaica on day seven, whilst New Zealand and England will face off in the preliminary rounds.

Captain Caitlin Bassett will lead Australia, the most experienced player on the team with 76 test appearances. Bassett is no stranger to pressure, shooting the winning goal in extra time to clinch the 2011 Netball World Cup 58-57 against New Zealand.

The return of new mother Laura Geitz will be one to watch. The fearless defender returns to the sport after giving birth to her son in February 2017. The Queenslander has not played international netball since October 2015 but has shown her return to form in recent practice matches.

The Diamonds open their Commonwealth Games campaign against Northern Ireland on Thursday 5 April at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.

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