A rebuilt Australian Diamonds netball team is looking to reclaim top spot on the podium at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Of the 12 selected players, only four competed at the Gold Coast 2018 Games where the team suffered a crushing one-point loss to England in the gold medal play-off.
Captain Liz Watson, 28, and vice-captain Steph Wood, 30, will be joined by Joanna Weston, 28, and Courtney Bruce, 28, from the 2018 squad, with eight Games newcomers rounding out the dynamic cluster of Diamonds.
Pascoe Vale South product Watson, who was appointed Diamonds captain last year, is the most capped player in the team with 51 test matches to her name.
Watson was selected alongside her Melbourne Vixens teammate Kate Moloney, 29, and New South Wales Swifts star Paige Hadley, 29, will both be making their Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham along with fellow Games newcomer Ash Brazill, 32, rounds out the Diamonds’ strong mid-court quartet.
Watson said there is no greater honour than representing her nation at the Commonwealth Games.
“I am incredibly excited to be playing alongside some of the best netballers in the world, and I am itching to see what this team can do in Birmingham,” she said.
“We’ve all grown up watching and dreaming about the Commonwealth Games, and we hope to inspire the nation when we step onto the court to represent Australia.”
Specialist wing defence Ash Brazill made the difficult decision earlier this year to step away from her AFLW commitments to focus on Commonwealth Games netball selection. The applauded cross-coder is one of the supermums in the Australian team, balancing her demanding training schedule with looking after daughter Frankie and son Louis.
Dynamo goal attack Gretel Bueta, 28, has also been juggling netball and parenting duties after giving birth to son Bobby last year. If anything, the dual role has renewed the Queenslander’s love for the sport – she was crowned player of the tournament at this year’s Quad Series, where the Diamonds defeated New Zealand, South Africa and England.
Rising star Sunday Aryang, 21, the first African-born Diamond, joins the experienced Joanna Weston and Courtney Bruce in defence, alongside two-time NSW Swifts premiership player Sarah Klau, 27.
Stephanie Wood has been selected alongside her Sunshine Coast Lightning teammate Cara Koenen, 26, a pair who formed a formidable goal combination in Super Netball this season.
Vixens goaler Kiera Austin, 24, will also make her highly anticipated return at the international level after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in 2021.
The Australian Diamonds will travel to England with three reserves – Donnell Wallam, 28, Jamie-Lee Price, 26, and Ruby Bakewell-Doran, 23.
The Diamonds, who are ranked number one in the world, will complete training camps in Perth and Manchester prior to the Birmingham Games starting next month.
Commonwealth Games Australia Team Chef de Mission Petria Thomas OAM said she is looking forward to seeing this star-studded team take to the courts in Birmingham.
“Congratulations to the 12 netballers chosen to represent the Australia Team at the Birmingham Games,” Thomas said.
“Australia has been fortunate to enjoy a tremendous history in netball at the Commonwealth Games, and I know this Australian Team, led by captain Liz Watson will be ready to be bold, brave and brilliant in Birmingham.”
Australian Diamonds head coach Stacey Marinkovich is excited for the squad to start working towards the Birmingham Games.
“Selection for any international series – especially the Commonwealth Games – is never easy,” Marinkovich said.
“We have such great depth of talent in Australian netball, across every position on the court, and I congratulate the 12 athletes who have been selected to compete at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“I’m incredibly excited to work with this group of athletes and build on our connection both on and off the court, starting with a training camp in Perth next month.”
Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan has congratulated the 12 athletes selected and said she hopes they can continue to build on Australia’s Games success.
“On behalf of Netball Australia, we congratulate the 12 athletes selected in the Australian Diamonds Commonwealth Games team,” Ryan said.
“This opportunity only comes around every four years, and we are all keen to see this team carry on Australia’s proud history in netball at Birmingham.”
Fast-paced, athletic and skilful, netball at the Commonwealth Games features the world’s best teams
and is one of the most popular and highly-anticipated sports. The 12 teams in Birmingham are divided into two groups of six. Each team plays every other team in their pool in the group phase. The top two teams in each pool advance to the semi-finals. The two semi-final winners play off for gold, while the two losers play for bronze.
Netball was first played at the Commonwealth Games as a demonstration sport at the Auckland 1990 Commonwealth Games, comprising a single match between Australia and New Zealand. The sport joined the full sport programme at the Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games.
England caused a major surprise when they defeated Australia 52-51 in the final at Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Until then, Australia and New Zealand had played every gold-medal match at the Commonwealth Games.