Adelaide Thunderbirds defender Matilda Garrett (left) becomes the first Thunderbird to make a Diamonds squad since Erin Bell (right)(Picture: Adelaide Thunderbirds/Australian Diamonds, Design by Will Cuckson)

Having worked with her at her time at Collingwood Netball, Erin Bell was instrumental in Matilda Garrett’s move to the Adelaide Thunderbirds. After the past two seasons, the defender has realised her full potential which has resulted in a call-up to the 2023/24 Australian Diamonds squad.

Although former Thunderbird great Erin Bell only spent one year playing at Collingwood Netball, she ended up crossing paths with the latest Diamond, Matilda Garrett as a young up-and-coming player.

Having spent seven years at the Thunderbirds where Garrett now plays her netball, Bell knew that the club might be the place that was going to get the best out of her ability.

Erin Bell spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum about Matilda Garrett’s growth, how she feels about having a Thunderbird back in the green and gold and what it was like to represent the Diamonds.

“I played with Matilda Garrett at Collingwood, so I knew Tilly and also worked with Tilly outside of that so I knew her quite well,” Bell told The Inner Sanctum.

“I was really encouraging her to make the move to Adelaide and I’m really glad that’s working for her there as well.”

She continued to explain what she saw in Garrett as a young player in 2018 and the reason she thinks that she has been able to reach the heights that she has this season.

“I think at Collingwood, she was just starting out her journey [so] she was new [and] she was raw. [She] had talent but still had a lot to learn,” she said.

“I think the best thing about Tilly is that she has such a great work ethic and she’s just willing to do the extras and take on any sort of feedback she can get. She was [also] always really open to coaches, open to players, [and] everyone helping her and [she] tried her bottom off all the time every time.

“I knew that with the right coaching and in the right environment she would do well and I think the Thunderbirds has really been that for her so it’s really good to see her hard work be rewarded.”

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According to Bell, Garrett exemplifies everything that players need to do to get selected for international netball. She described that mindset, that Garrett has possessed and how she has continued to push to get the best out of her netball.

“I think she’s gone from strength to strength, but the thing is when she went [to the Thunderbirds], she wasn’t actually sure if she’d be getting court time,” Bell explained.

“I just think having that positivity and just that mindset of taking it all in her stride and just seeing what happens, not leaving any stone unturned and just taking on your opportunities, I think she’s just been really been a good example of that.

“She has been given court time and she has been given opportunity and she’s definitely stepped up and taken it and that’s just what you have to do.

“You are not always going to be a starting seven player or you might not be a sixty minute player but when you are out on court, you have to take those opportunities so she’s been a good example of that and is now being rewarded with consistent game time.”

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With Matilda Garrett’s selection in the Australian Diamonds 2023/24 squad, it signals the first time a Thunderbird has been picked since 2015 when Bell herself was named for the final time.

She reflected on what that meant to her personally and what it means to the club that has struggled for success across the journey in the SSN.

“I mean [I’ve got] mixed feelings about it, because it’s like oh my gosh, that’s so long ago, that was me in 2015,” she said.

“I kind of feel like disappointed for the club that it’s taken that long for someone else to get into the Australian squad, I didn’t realise at all that it had been that long.

“Obviously at the same time [I’m] very excited for them that the Thunderbirds are starting to get up the top of the ladder again, it means that selectors take them seriously, and really look at them for selection to be in the Diamonds team.

“Hopefully Tilly’s selection is just the start and we can get more and more players in that Diamonds squad like it was back when I was playing with Nat Von Bertouch, Renae Ingles, you know we were all in that Diamonds squad together.”

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Looking back at her 30 caps for Australia, Bell is filled with pride at her journey in the green and gold. Stating that it is the highlight of her career, she looked back at what it was like to play internationally.

“To play for your country is always an honour and something that a lot of players will never get to do so I’m very grateful for my experience and my years in the green and gold,” Bell said.

“When you watch the world cup or the ‘Comm Games’ on TV, I always get goosebumps when I hear the national anthem playing, like you still get goosebumps because you have those memories of when you are out on court about to take on the Silver Ferns or the [England] Roses.

“It’s still exciting to watch and watch the girls and when they get that success, just remembering the success that we had when I was playing and I’m jealous of them and the celebrations and the thrill that they get being able to experience all that.

“International netball is always exciting to watch and it’s evolved as well, the game has evolved, the players have evolved [and] it’s definitely changed over the years so that’s interesting to watch.”

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Looking forward to the Netball World Cup in South Africa later this year, Bell looked at what she thought of the Diamonds’ chances at taking home gold and their thoughts around squad and team selection.

“I don’t watch as much netball as I should but I definitely had a bit of a look at the squad this season and I think it will be interesting to see who they pick in the final team, I think some names are pretty self-selecting,” she continued.

“We need to find another goaler to replace Gretel, that’s been the talk and I think that will be interesting to see which way they go, they could go any way really.

“[It will be interesting] to see whether they do take Tilly, whether she gets a look in or whether they stick to combinations that they already know.

“I think it will be interesting, but it’s a tough job for selectors and coaches and it’s equally tough for the athletes that have kind of done what they can now and just have to sit back and cross their fingers and hopefully we do well at [the] World Cup.”

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