NS EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Diamonds’ coach Stacey Marinkovich – the Australian 2020/21 squad

NS EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Diamonds’ coach Stacey Marinkovich – the Australian 2020/21 squad

By |2020-09-25T18:18:22+10:00September 25th, 2020|Categories: AUS, Exclusive Interview|0 Comments

The 2020/2021 national squad is focused on athletes who have performed consistently across the abbreviated season, and still have growth left in their game. Diamonds’ coach Stacey Marinkovich explained that the emerging squad, to be announced in a few weeks, will include athletes who have been less consistent but still show great skill on court. They may be promoted as a squad invitee, if they meet selection criteria. In this exclusive insight, Marinkovich discusses her selection choices.

Stacey Marinkovich, and her selection panel had some tough decisions to make. Photo: Marcela Massey

This is your first big announcement as Diamonds’ coach. What are your initial thoughts?

I’m really excited to announce the squad, and it was a good process to go through. We’ve got a very dynamic squad, and the selectors have left room for invitees. We need to make sure that the selection process is constantly ongoing, so that we can continue to see development and elevate people in due course.

There’s been some strong performances across the Suncorp Super Netball season. What key things did you keep in mind when selecting the 2020/2021 squad?

The biggest thing in looking at national selection is considering what opposition we are going to come up against over the next couple of years. We are really looking at what those sides have.

We also considered the skill sets required to play a tournament style, and that’s the beauty of what this 2020 season has shown – players who can endure a big tournament physically and mentally. So we looked at consistent performances across this season under the most challenging of circumstances.

Selectors can see what players do within SSN clubs, and there are certain roles that players have to play at their clubs, and strategies that they have to adhere to. In narrowing the squad down in the future, it’s important see what players can do in a different environment, with different direction, and we believe it will show other skill sets that we believe the athletes possess.

We also need to consider athletes that highlight the strengths of others around them. That’s part of the selection for me. When players come together, how do they combine and bring the best features out in each other.

A consistently good season and strong leadership skills earned Gabi Simpson another callup into the Diamonds Squad. Photo: May Bailey

What the selection process has also highlighted is that Australia has great depth, and that there are development opportunities for players that, while they might not have had the consistency this season, do have amazing skill sets that we as a pathway have to foster.

We will have an emerging group announced in a couple of weeks, and then you will actually see how everything has been captured, with the ability that people can be promoted and continue to challenge up into the Diamonds.

This is particularly important with the forward thinking focus of 2022 and 2023 pinnacle events.

 

There will be a national camp after the finals. What will that look like?

We have to jump through a few hoops to understand what we can and can’t do, but it’s not a performance based camp.

It’s about bringing the group together to lay the foundations and the vision going forwards. If we can spend that time to build relationships and get alignment, when we come together to play in January, we can put full emphasis on court performance, because we will be really connected off the court. Hopefully that transfers to performances out on court.

 

Will you be electing the leadership group at camp, or will that be established further down the track?

I’m yet to have discussions about that. There have been some good reviews, and I need to get in and amongst the group to see what the leadership is actually like and how the group interacts, to understand what sort of leadership they value, and what is needed to keep pushing the group forwards. It’s a wait and see at the moment.

Stacey Marinkovich is excited to have picked her first Diamonds Squad. Photo Simon Leonard.

Will the development squad purely be rising talent, or is there room for some of the senior players who’ve missed out on selection?

We are still finalising this at the moment, but there is real direction towards players that can progress into the Diamonds. If players have missed out on the Diamonds’ squad and there is still growth in their play, then certainly they will still be considered.

 

There are some former squad members who’ve missed out, through injury or performance. How do you manage that?

It’s never an easy conversation to have. There are situations and circumstances that make it difficult for some athletes to perform within a season, and it’s important to give them clarity that the door is not closed.

For players that may not have been selected through injury, Netball Australia makes sure there is great connection between the medical staff of Diamonds and club land, and that players are supported. Clubs are extremely professional in getting players back to their best.

We’ve left room within the squad to be able to extend it and give players opportunity. They are dedicated, they’re focused and want to be back at their best, so you have to be able to provide the support give them the chance to earn their opportunities. I’m looking forward to seeing their progress.

 

Do you provide feedback to athletes that have been overlooked?

I haven’t gone down the nitty gritty of those performances just yet, and it’s something that I have to sit down and work through with the clubs – how we interact on giving players feedback.

It has to be incorporated with the club coaches, because that feedback will be relevant for Diamonds, but it would be hard to implement into club strategy sometimes.

So I need to be able to communicate what that player needs to do to perform in the Diamonds’ environment, then we have to put together a 12 month plan that gets great connection between club and Diamonds so that we are working with each other in an aligned approach, so that player can peak and play their best netball in the role that they need to for club, then possibly adjust to a different style of play for the Diamonds.

Kate Moloney is familiar with Diamonds environment, having been training partner ahead of the 2019 Netball World Cup. Photo: May Bailey

Will there be any match practice next year other than the two Constellation Cups?

I hope there will be opportunities, but the international calendar isn’t set in stone yet, and there are a lot of moving parts. Covid is still a real issue, and so we will need to have Plans A, B and C so that the preparation for what we need to perform is covered.

We will need to look for match play opportunities in different environments, so looking at playing against men or All Star teams such as the Fever played against in Perth. We’ve got great opportunity with our emerging group and the Australia A team.

 

THE 2020/2021 DIAMONDS’ SQUAD

All the players will be given real clarity on the role that they need to play when they are out on the court, and making sure they are physically and mentally prepared to execute that role in combination with other squad members. If players do that they put themselves in a really good position to be selected into the team.

 

THE ATTACK.

Kiera Austin, Caitlin Bassett, Gretel Bueta, Sophie Garbin, Cara Koenen, Steph Wood

This area is where there’s been the most change in the squad. What do you like about the group?

They are really coachable, still want to get better, and have belief that there is real growth in their game. They have a hunger to be better, and it’s exciting to work with them.

Kiera Austin got another call-up after an impressive 2020 season. Photo: May Bailey

Caitlin Bassett has had limited court time this season, but is still very valuable to the Diamonds.

The selectors looked at the quality of what Caitlin produced when she was on the court. She still has high shooting percentages and volumes. Caitlin is working through what her future is, and we have networks around her to support her in that decision making process. She needs to make that decision based on what is going to produce the best netball, and also makes her happy doing it, because that is when athletes are playing at their best.

New squad members Cara Koenen and Sophie Garbin

One of the privileges in this position is that you are able to share a moment with two players that have aspirations to take their netball forwards. It was a really nice time to be able to give them the call and share their selection.

They are both two very different styles of players. If the Diamonds want to go to a moving circle Sophie provides great strength, while Cara is more a dodger on the baseline. So they have unique qualities, and for them, it’s being able to grow that strength, and then add in a few more strings to their bow.

Despite not taking the court in 2020, Gretel Bueta still earned a callup. Photo: May Bailey

Gretel Tippett is currently on maternity leave. What is her importance moving forwards.

Gretel was player of the year in 2019, and has great athleticism in the way that she can do things out on court. She’s very unique and it’s very important that she be in the squad, and makes the transition from being a mum to continuing being an elite athlete. We’ve got a real forward thinking vision for this group, and we want players to be involved from the very beginning and be on that journey to make sure that their skill sets are accentuated.

Kiera Austin and Steph Wood are two returning squad members

We’ve seen Keira for the last couple of seasons, and taking her opportunities in Fast5. She has great athleticism, she’s cool and calm

Steph is a great creator on the court. She’s gained a lot of experience over the past few seasons, and I look forward to seeing what she can do in combination with the shooting end.

 

THE MIDCOURT

Jess Anstiss, Verity Charles, Paige Hadley, Jamie-Lee Price, Maddy Proud, Kate Moloney, Gabi Simpson, Liz Watson.

This may be the most difficult group to condense from a squad to a team. What are you specifically looking for?

Any player coming into the Diamonds’ environment in the midcourt needs to be strong in both areas of attack and defence, and a multi-position player to a certain degree.

Maddy Proud in action during the 2018 Fast5 Netball World Series. Photo: Kirsten Daley

New squad members Verity Charles and Maddy Proud

Verity has been able to get some real consistency in her game, and be impactful in both attack and defence. She has really taken her opportunities this season, but has to come into an environment and be able to feed a different group of shooters. That will be her challenge.

When I spoke to Maddy I said she should be incredibly proud with the work that she’s done to get back on court, and also to grow her performance throughout the season, to be hitting the performances that she is. It shows that she’s dedicated, it shows that she’s driven, and she has so much growth ahead of her.

Some of the more consistent players across the season include incumbent squad members Liz Watson, Kate Moloney, Paige Hadley and Jamie-Lee Price.

The way in which they hold possession of the ball and combining that with their absolute athleticism and skill is going to prove a very big headache for the panel when we have to select the team.

Jess Anstiss on court for the Fast5 Flyers in the 2018 Fast5 Netball World Series. Photo: Kirsten Daley

Jess Anstiss and Gabbi Simpson are returning to the squad

Jess is a multi-position player, and it’s fairly rare that a player is strong across all three positions.

Gabi has taken on the feedback that she was given last year, and she’s really tracking her players nicely and is creating a lot of opportunities for her players at the back in the Firebirds to get some good ball.

 

THE DEFENCE

Courtney Bruce, Sarah Klau, Kim Jenner, Emily Mannix, Jo Weston

Kim Jenner experiencing international netball in the Fast5 Netball World Series in 2018. Photo: Kirsten Daley

Kim Jenner is the new inclusion.

She’s a ball getter, and has a real tenacity about her. She’s a young player that comes in fearlessly, and is able to take on any game in any situation. That will provide some determination amongst our defenders.

Returning squad members Courtney Bruce, Jo Weston, Sarah Klau, Em Mannix

The thing that I like with this defence end is their versatility. We’ve seen Jo Weston move across to wing defence, Courtney and Sarah playing across two positions, and Emily’s had a taste as well. They each have the ability to play one-on-one, and the ability to fly at the ball. They all have attributes that when you put them together could be a real force to be reckoned with.

About the Author:

Physiotherapist, writer and netball enthusiast. Feature articles, editorials and co-author of "Shine: the making of the Australian Netball Diamonds". Everyone has a story to tell, and I'm privileged to put some of them on paper. Thank you to the phenomenal athletes, coaches and people in the netball world who open a door to their lives, and let me tiptoe in.