Sport Netball Up to eight games in 10 days: Tiring schedule could limit Diamonds’ sparkle at netball World Cup
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Up to eight games in 10 days: Tiring schedule could limit Diamonds’ sparkle at netball World Cup

Jamie-Lee Price and her Diamonds teammates are focusing on World Cup success. Photo: Getty
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Netball Australia has announced the Diamonds squad that will take on the world’s best at the World Cup at Liverpool in July.

The downside is that many of the squad members could struggle with fatigue when they return for the second half of the Super Netball season.

Only three players from the successful 2015 World Cup campaign survived to make it into this year’s new-look squad, with the rest making their debut.

The 12-player line-up for the July 12-21 tournament is fairly evenly spread between seven of the eight domestic league clubs.

Caitlin Bassett, who will return as captain, joins Giants teammate Jamie-Lee Price; Kelsey Browne and April Brandley come from Collingwood Magpies; Paige Hadley and Sarah Klau from NSW Swifts; Courtney Bruce plays at West Coast Fever; Steph Wood from Sunshine Coast Lightning; and Gretel Tippett stars for Queensland Firebirds.

There was speculation that up to half of the international team would be made up of players from Melbourne Vixens, however only three – Caitlin Thwaites, Jo Weston and vice-captain Liz Watson – made the cut.

Only Adelaide Thunderbirds failed to have a player selected.

Former Diamonds vice-captain Gabi Simpson is the biggest omission, partly because she’s been struggling with a groin injury and partly because of the depth of talent that Diamonds head coach Lisa Alexander had to choose from.

Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander (centre) had difficult decisions to make. Photo: Getty

For those who will head over to Liverpool, it’s a huge vote of confidence in their talent and skills.

But it also puts them in a potentially rough position after their return from the World Cup when they will be expected to play in the last five matches of the Super Netball season.

Depending on how the Diamonds perform – although given their long history of bringing home gold, there should be little doubt about their ability to power through the competition – players are likely to play eight matches squeezed into 10 days.

Players will have just two weeks from the end of Round 9 to the start of the World Cup to prepare to defend their title and upon their return to Australia, will have five days to recover before Round 10 kicks off.

Steph Wood looks for options against England in London in January. Photo: Getty

Due to the timing of the World Cup, this year’s Super Netball season was split in half, with the first nine games played before the national team departs, and the remaining games to be played after the World Cup.

There’s also another three weeks of finals on top of that, with the grand final to be held on September 15.

It’s an exhausting schedule and raises the risk of injury and exhaustion in those Diamonds players who are pulling double duty.

Clubs are therefore at risk at having their best players missing or unable to perform at the peak, raising the prospect of some unexpected changes to the end-of-season ladder.

It’s not just the Australian national players who are affected by this, with 21 players from Super Netball expected to represent their home countries in the World Cup: Eight from England, five who hail from Jamaica, three from South Africa, two are from New Zealand and single player each from Uganda, Trinidad and Malawi.

Two of the Diamonds’ traditional foes, New Zealand and England, restructured their respective seasons to ensure that they will be completed by June, giving their players a clean break between their domestic competition and the World Cup.

While what will happen during part two of the domestic season will be potentially unprecedented, what we do know is that the World Cup will be a cracker of a competition.

The Diamonds be defending their title as the world’s best, after they swept the competition in 2015 to clinch the trophy.

This year’s year’s tournament will have a welcome competitive edge after England shocked the sport by taking home the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold on the Gold Coast, edging Australia by a point.

The Diamonds will be eager to re-establish themselves as the alpha of the netball world, meaning we should expect some strong and thrilling matches.

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