After missing selection in 2020, Sunshine Coast Lightning vice captain Steph Wood is a Diamond again.
A knee injury kept her out of last year’s Constellation Cup loss to New Zealand, leaving her unable to play alongside Diamonds debutant and teammate Cara Koenen.
The two will now be able to represent Australia alongside each other for the first time.
Wood last played for Australia at the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool. She was a key member of the shooting circle across both the group stages and finals matches.
She’s been well and truly back to her best for the Lightning in the 2021 season. Booking yet another finals campaign, Wood has converted 181 goals at 77%, and 22 Super Shots.
Another injury scare, this time to her ankle, kept her out of the Lightning’s final game of the season in a narrow loss to the season. Wood assured reporters on Monday that it will be “very hard to keep her off the court” come Saturday.
“Injuries are a part of sport, you can learn a lot about yourself,” she said.
“Missing out on the Con Cup was difficult. Knowing that I had to get myself right for SSN and knowing that I had to perform there and knowing that there was a bigger tournament coming, that was important for me.
“Devastated I couldn’t be with Cars [Koenen] for her debut. We’ve been playing netball with each other a while now. I still remember her as the little 18-year-old.
“Would’ve been really special to be there, but fingers crossed with the tournament coming, whatever we play Cars and I can be lining up with each other in that Australian dress. It would be a really cool moment.”
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It’s been a whirlwind year for the experienced shooter.
Wood spoke to The Inner Sanctum before the start of the Super Netball season, talking about the comeback trail from her knee surgery.
The 2020 season saw her miss a Grand Final for the first time in five seasons, after winning two and losing three across both the Lightning and the NSW Swifts from 2015-2019.
She’s one of the most decorated players in the Super Netball competition, but like all players, Wood is just as susceptible to her body letting her down.
Ever resilient, there’s no deterring Wood from adding what she can to the Diamonds in any capacity.
“You play team sport for a reason, so you do need to be quite on to your rehab,” Wood reflected.
“It can be lonely at times, but I just try to be a part of the team as much as I could helping out whenever I can, helping out with the attacking end. Cool to be back in the squad, just got to make sure I keep injuries at bay.”
Adding experience – strangely enough
One part of her selection that Wood is still adapting to is being one of the more experienced heads in this year’s Diamonds squad.
It’s an odd sentence to read out aloud – she’s still only earned 30 Diamonds caps, as hard as that may be to believe.
Wood jokes that even though the squad is filled with a host of exciting young talent, including 20-year-old West Coast Fever defender Sunday Aryang and 23-year-old Amy Parmenter (Giants Netball), she’s still “not the oldest!”
While the squad still includes veteran Diamonds with the likes of Caitlin Bassett and Liz Watson, Wood knows she’ll have a different role to play this time around.
The recent lack of success for the national side is also driving her to bring the group up to their potential.
“I think I’m going to really enjoy [being experienced] in this group, because there is a lot of young goalers,” Wood explained.
“Cars has been in the SSN for five years now, but at an international level it is different. The game’s a lot faster, there’s no time outs, so [I’m] passing on whatever I can to those girls.
“While I’d love to be a part of whatever team, I want Australia to do well. If I’m not within that team, I want to pass on whatever I can to make sure whoever is [in] is in the best position to perform for Australia.
“We don’t hold the Commonwealth Games medal, we don’t hold the World Cup gold medal. Whenever I can, whether I’m not in the team or in the team, I want Australia to have those medals. [I’ll do] anything I can to help Australia get them.
“It’s always a privilege to be in an Australian squad.”
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