Cover Image: May Bailey
In Part 2 of our Diamonds’ chat, Netball Scoop checks in with Sarah Klau and Paige Hadley ahead of the Netball World Cup.
Known for her quiet but steely determination, Klau has continued to take her goal keeper game to new levels in recent years. Able to mark a holding or moving shooter, Klau has also added the goal defence bib to her skill set, giving Australia the option of running two talls in their back line. The Swifts three recent losses to the Thunderbirds, including the extra-time grandfinal, has lit a fire in Klau’s belly to go one step better at the Netball World Cup.
What does it mean to wear Indigenous artwork on your dress for the first time at a Netball World Cup?
The artwork means something specific to each individual. For me personally, we’ve been trying to create an inclusive environment and particularly having Donnell playing a really important role within the team, it’s important to have that spiritual connection to Australia. It was amazing to have Alkina (Edwards, Yorta Yorta woman) come in and design this very special dress, and share the significant meaning behind the dress as well. It should have been included in past World Cups, but we are excited to wear it with pride this year.
You and Paige Hadley had a quick turnaround after the Super Netball grand final. How did you cope with that?
We knew it was coming. Having the win would have made the entry a bit easier but it was a great game, and to just fall short in the extra five minutes was tough. The whole team was gutted but we got together with our family and friends, we celebrated making the grand final and all the success during the year as well. In those moments its important to be grateful and appreciate the positives. We gave ourselves a couple of days to digest and reflect on it.
Then it was go, go, go once we hit the Diamonds camp. Distraction can sometimes be good, to reset and refocus on a new goal. It’s a blessing and almost a second chance to be making a World Cup and working towards bringing gold home. So we are extremely focused, extremely driven and training has been tough this week.
The Thunderbirds had three internationals in their team. Did losing to them light a fire in your belly?
Absolutely. They got that one, but I’m keen to get the gold in the World Cup. There’s lots of perks to coming up against them so often and also having finals experience, because we will meet again at the World Cup, so having knowledge of how they play and work with one another will be extremely valuable.
The Diamonds has a formidable defensive end. What are your greatest strengths?
Versatility is number one. Each of us can swing into two positions. Sunday (Aryang) and Jo (Weston) can play wing defence/goal defence and Courtney (Bruce) and I can both play goal defence/goal keeper. We also have Ruby (Bakewell-Doran) in the mix as well. We can keep other teams guessing with different combinations.
We have been together for a four year build so we’ve been able to get our combinations right. We are quite tall, big, rangy, and we come out for the balls. We will bring something a little bit different, but the combinations we use will be based on how we match up against other teams.
You come up against a number of very tough international shooters. How do you go against combatting them?
SSN has given us a great platform to get international experience on a weekly basis, so I personally get to play against (Jhaniele) Fowler, or (Mwai) Kumwenda or (Eleanor) Cardwell, so there’s certainly lots of benefits to that. But even within the Diamonds environment, we’ve got a holding shooter, a moving circle, a lot of variation which challenges us at training.
Throughout the past week we’ve also had the Australian Men’s team come in, so some strong bodies to come up against and try different strategies and that has really helped in our preparation.
How do you like to spend your time off during a Netball World Cup?
It can get quite consuming and tense, so we all have our strategies to fill up our cup outside of netball. A lot of us are coffee drinkers, so we love going for walks to cafes and spending time with other off court and switching off netball. That’s super important. We might be limited in what we can do, but coffee will be the hub. Down time might also include movies and books, Mario Kart, and card games. We will have a heap of activities and distractions to balance it out.
What is the biggest difference between this team and the one you took to last year’s Comm Games?
We will take confidence from the Comm Games, but we know all the other teams are developing too. We won’t be changing every strategy in our book, but it’s also about creating and building on stronger connections, adding a few tools to our kit, and adjusting in the moment as there are no time outs. Our time together on court has been limited, but we’ve made sure it’s been quality.
The three reserves play a difficult role. How do you support them as well as they support you?
It’s such a challenging role and they are such great people. Inclusivity is the pinnacle of what we stand for, the foundations and the culture of the Sisters in Arms and Diamonds environment. So no matter what role we play, it’s about contributing to the outcome. There might only be seven girls on court at one time, so whether that’s you, or you are on the bench, on the back bench, you are finding ways to support each other.
Our reserves have been super positive, super great at training, and with the performance analyst, they’ve been doing video analysis, so they are always contributing. The strength and conditioning coach is also giving them great energy and keeping them busy. It will be important to check in and be supportive of them too, but we are one team.
Paige Hadley is currently Australia’s longest serving team member, and is also the only one to hold a Netball World Cup gold medal. With her 2022 Commonwealth Games campaign cruelled by injury, Hadley is more determined than ever to make every moment out on court matter. A versatile midcourter who can play across all three positions if need be, Hadley is at her best in centre and was instrumental in the Swifts’ grand final fightback.
You and Sarah Klau have had a very short turn around from the grand final. How have you physically and mentally refreshed yourselves?
We were really disappointed with the grand final result, so we needed to acknowledge that. We played on Saturday and came straight into camp on Monday, so Sahsie and I were open and honest with the Diamonds staff about how we were feeling. The camp is all systems go, just pushing through, but the staff were also great in adjusting our schedule and giving us time off when we needed it. But when you are in this environment, and pinching yourself to be around this group and representing Australia, you know the break will come after the World Cup.
The Swifts played the Thunderbirds three times in the last month, so of all athletes participating at the World Cup, you and Helen Housby have the best insights into how challenging the Jamaican defensive end is. How will you combat their strengths?
The last few rounds of Suncorp showed the world just how tough they were, and I’m excited to come up against them as part of the Diamonds’ attacking line up. For us it’s about maintaining possession, playing a moving role, having multiple options to the ball and going to post. They will attack the ball if there’s just one option, and at goal keeper Shamera (Sterling) will hunt anything put in the air or over the top of the shooters. But it will be one of the toughest World Cups yet, with so many nations a challenge.
Due to injury you had to take on more of an analytical rather than playing role at the Commonwealth Games. Has that impacted how you see the game?
It’s how I prepare for games anyway, watching footage of myself, my opponents, what they might do against us, how we can beat them, and their strengths and weaknesses. So at the Comm Games I sat down with Kate and Lizzie to look at different ways we could combat other team’s defensive lines. That extra focus has strengthened my game, and hopefully I will get the opportunity to put it out there on court, and not just contribute from the sidelines.
Sophie Garbin is a new addition to the shooting line. What strengths does she bring to the Diamonds?
From the first time I saw Sophie play at the Swifts, I’ve always thought, ‘Wow’, she’s going to be formidable for Australia one day. Her strength under the post, her hold, is unnatural. She and Cara can both hold and move – they bring different skill sets and attributes. Cara’s strength on the baseline, Sophie’s hold and ability to bring her other shooter into a combination. Soph is a blessing to feed and I’m stoked for her to have the opportunity while Gretel is pregnant with her second beautiful boy. She will build on the Con Cup from last year, where I thought she did a brilliant job against New Zealand.
How do you all support Sophie’s introduction into the team and build her confidence, given every other team member has played in at least one pinnacle event?
We know Gretel (Bueta) is a massive loss – she’s one of the world’s best players and hard to stop. So for this group moving forwards, it’s understanding that every single member of the shooting circle brings different strengths, and feeding them, I think, ‘Wow!’ For us mids, it is about giving confidence to whoever might wear that bib in the circle.
You saw at Comm Games last year, Stacey is willing to make changes during games, so it’s about making sure we know our strengths, and that we bring those to the party as a collective unit. That is the best way to gain an edge over other teams.
With eight games in ten days, what are your key tools for recovery in between?
I love tournaments and back to back games – that’s what you train for – but you do need to pay attention to recovery. We have ice baths, we’ve got (recovery) boots, we’ve got timed switch offs, whether you use that for time by yourself, or massage or physio, rolling (over a foam roller), rest and sleep, all those things you need to recover. Those games will be intense, so it’s about what we do in between, to be able to make sure we back up the next day.
How are you expecting this World Cup to be different to your previous experiences?
A World Cup is always a bit different – it’s all about netball, which is different to a multi-sport event like the Commonwealth Games. So the precinct and the hotels and the fans, they are all about netball too. It’s exciting and it builds the vibe. Going over in January to the Quad Series, we learned what we can and can’t do, whether we can go out in casual clothes, or whether we just chill in the team room. We have security with us who looks after us, and we need to make smart choices about our time off, including around our family and friends.
I can’t wait to play in front of the African fans because they are amazing, and we had a small taste of it at the Quad Series. The Proteas have done an amazing job of promoting the sport, and to be able to showcase the best netball in the world to Africa and South Africa will be special.
This is also coach Stacey Marinkovich’s first World Cup. How have you seen her develop into her role?
Stacey is unreal. The belief and culture she gives her players but her ability to put people around her in various roles who can excel and do their jobs too. Just her vision. She came in with a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve in this cycle, she’s been really clear with that. So you’ve seen people debut, different combinations and line ups. We want to get the World Cup back in the trophy cabinet and she has been immense. She’s about statistics, about measuring performance and that does keep you accountable. It’s not just a feeling, it’s what are we doing, what are producing, how does it look. On a personal level, the belief she’s given me to play on a world stage and contribute, I’m excited for Stacey to be at the helm alongside Nicole Richardson for their first World Cup.