The Constellation Cup is right around the corner and it’s a very different lead up into this series for the Australian Diamonds.
It will mark the first international test for the Diamonds in more than a year and a lot has changed since then, with fresh faces and a new coach set to make their international debut.
One of those fresh faces is West Coast Fever midcourter Verity Charles, who has never made the Australian team until now.
The Inner Sanctum spoke with Charles about her first Diamonds tour and playing international sport during a pandemic.
The squad for the Diamonds for 2020/21 was announced in September just as the Suncorp Super Netball season started to heat up. When Charles got the call-up, she was shocked in the best way possible.
“I remember it was in the hub, it was after a couple of games and things and there was a bit going on in the media at that time and I my phone was going off with calls from private numbers, so I didn’t answer it just in case,” Charles told The Inner Sanctum.
“Then Stacey called me and I was like ‘hey’, I thought I missed a training session or I was late to something… I said ‘is everything alright’ and she said ‘no, no, I’ve got my Diamonds hat on here’.
“I said ‘oh, what’s up?’ and she told me I was in and it was the biggest shock and I told her ‘are you sure?’ I wasn’t expecting it at all like I had a good season but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure.”
The first Diamonds tour for any netballer is memorable but touring during a pandemic makes it even more so, with the team forced into a mandatory 14-day quarantine over in New Zealand.
“I’ve eaten all my snacks already which isn’t good,” Charles laughed.
“The food has been amazing; the facilities are great. As I said before we’re just waiting for test result, hopefully that will allow us If all is clear to get a bit of fresh air which will be nice.
“I’m really fortunate, a few of us have balconies and I’m one of them so I can sit outside and get a bit of fresh air on the balcony. I’m very lucky.”
It’s not the easiest preparation, with the 14-day quarantine not like what we saw for the Suncorp Super Netball sides up in Queensland, where the players could go to training and come back, all the preparation is being done via Zoom.
“We were into a routine as soon as we got here, we do two-three sessions via Zoom, either Pilates, S+C or one of the groups either shooters, mid courts or defence are put in to run a bike session or a skills session.
“We are interacting still via Zoom, some of us can get a bit of a wave from the balcony which is great.
“Everyone has been really good you know obviously a tough situation and not the ideal prep, but I think the thought that has gone behind this and the sessions that have been put in and the routine behind it is going to help us really get through this time period.”
It’s a completely new Diamonds side with the squad featuring seven potential debutants.
As well as an untried shooting circle, with Caitlin Bassett the only goalie that remains from the last tour, making the camp in Sydney important to build those on-court connections.
“It’s difficult with the situation at the moment. Really enjoyed camp, thrived in camp I love getting out there and actually getting some touch on a few balls and who can extend to what level and where to put it,” she said.
“I really love working out new players, the girls have been great I just wish it was a bit longer, I didn’t want camp to end, loved it loved the training it was super hard the intensity was set from the word go.
“I think those connections are coming, I just hoped we had a bit more time to get them out there.
“I’m hoping in this quarantine that we get to throw a ball around and work a few bits out.
“I think that’s the beauty with Australian netball we are very similar in how we all play. We play that quick, one on one Aussie way so we can work each other out quite quick.”
It was announced earlier in the week the Diamonds would take a different approach when it comes to leadership.
Instead of appointing a set captain and a leadership group, they will instead go with a team-wide leadership approach.
To make sure the International Netball Federation rules are met, a captain and vice-captain will be selected before each of the four tests.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for everyone,” she said.
“The girls we have here are all leaders in their own way and have been around the tracks for a long time, some have a lot of experience in this position.
“For everyone to have a turn and rotate I think that’s awesome and it strengthens the team having people wanting to step up and put their two sense out there and lead.”
Australian netball fans aren’t sure what to expect from the Diamonds since the side is so new, but Charles assured fans that the Diamonds will come out eager and fighting.
“I think we are going to come out fighting, we are going to be well rested,” she said.
“Obviously difficult conditions not being able to train and prep before versing one of the best in the world.
“I think we’ll come out and you’ll see that we have 18 girls here that are fit, healthy and extremely talented netballers.
“I think you’ll see a team that is super eager to get out there and I think you’ll see a lot of energy some powerful hit outs.”