NS EXCLUSIVE: Sights set on South Africa, with Stacey Marinkovich

NS EXCLUSIVE: Sights set on South Africa, with Stacey Marinkovich

Following a highly successful nine months in which Australia took out Commonwealth Games gold, the Constellation Cup, Quad series and a test series against England, there have been minimal changes to the Diamonds 2023/24 squad. Matilda Garrett has forced her way into the defensive mix at the expense of Maddy Turner, while Gretel Bueta (maternity leave) and Tara Hinchliffe (injured) have been omitted.

Diamonds’ coach Stacey Marinkovich and her fellow selectors Annie Sargeant OAM and Michelle Wilkins, have chosen 19 athletes, although can elevate a further three should their form warrant it. Marinkovich shared her thoughts around the selections.


Shooters: Kiera Austin, Sophie Dwyer, Sophie Garbin, Cara Koenen, Donnell Wallam, Steph Wood

Midcourters: Ash Brazill, Paige Hadley, Kate Moloney, Amy Parmenter, Jamie-Lee Price, Maddy Proud, Liz Watson

Defenders: Sunday Aryang, Ruby Bakewell-Doran, Courtney Bruce, Matilda Garrett, Sarah Klau, Jo Weston



You’ve shown that you can beat three of the top teams without Gretel Bueta. However, you haven’t played Jamaica since her pregnancy was announced. How will your shooting circle maintain its dominance?

We will need the versatility of our shooting combinations, and different skill sets against various opponents. Our shooters are in and amongst international defenders week in, week out. They get challenged, they understand where their gaps are and we can see where we need to do a little bit of work to get there.

However, the way in which they combine with our midcourt is hopefully going to be the part that separates us from others. It’s not the individual stars, but rather the connection and cohesion of the team that will get us to an even higher standard.


Steph Wood and Cara Koenen are continuing to go from strength to strength together.

They are flying at the moment. They share a great connection, but they are evolving the midcourt at the Lightning which is enabling them to play to their strengths. It will be great for them to come into the Diamonds to continue their combination but also their connection with the others.


It’s been challenging for Sophie Garbin playing out of position at the Magpies, and she’s had a couple of games to forget. How can you assess her performance for selection?

For us, Suncorp Super Netball performance is just one layer of selection. The key is understanding that, and then understanding what it is that we need to put in place to give her or any player the confidence to be able to transition to a Diamonds’ game plan.

The communication and connection I’ve got with the clubs is the best it’s ever been, and there’s a real understanding that we need to support clubs winning premierships and they need to support us winning gold medals. We will continue to work with the clubs to ensure that if we are seeing any gaps, or we need any improvement, we can have those discussions and work out how to get the shift.


How do you engage with clubs to make sure players are working on certain skill sets?

It’s more the training environments and individual sessions where they can do some work that connects them to Diamonds. It’s not changing game plans or getting them to do specific things in SSN games. That really comes under the mandate of their SSN coaches and we understand that. We have good conversations to make sure there’s alignment in messaging.

I don’t want to confuse an athlete, and have them pulled from pillar to post. So they work on Diamonds behaviours when they can, but they also need to execute things they need to for club.


Has Gretel Bueta given you any indication of what her future might be?

The conversations we’ve had are to really enjoy and embrace the experience of having baby number two, and to allow her body to do what it needs, and then assess when the time comes.

So we continue to support her being a mother of two, and there’s no pressure on her coming back. We always knew she wasn’t going to be available for the World Cup, and there’s a fair bit of time before the next marquee events for her to make a decision.


Did Sasha Glasgow make herself available for national selection, or does her future lie with England?

She was up for selection. We are aware she is also got her hand up for England at the same time, which is a fairly unique situation to be in. Netball Australia have supported her Australian development and she did make our Fast5 squad last year.

In terms of selection, we’ve gone through the process that we usually do, and the understanding of where she sits in that pathway. However, we’ve chosen the squad that we think is in the best frame for World Cup at this stage, although there is the potential to add players later if it’s warranted.




Tilly Garrett is your only addition to the Diamonds squad. What secured her place?

It’s great to see a player develop. We’ve really seen Tilly work on her physical capacities, and that’s apparent with the consistency of her performance out on court and her repeated efforts. I also think she’s showcasing her ability to get ball that’s not reliant just on the Jamaicans around her.


What was her reaction to your phone call?

Absolutely shock and surprise. That shows the type of person that she is. There’s a level of humility there and that getting a call for Diamonds’ selection isn’t just a given. The surprise that she had, and her excitement to be part of the group is one of the great moments that as a coach you get to capture.


Maddy Turner was the unfortunate player who missed out. While it would be hugely disappointing for her, how will the Diamonds provide her support?

All players receive feedback on their performances, and as we said to Maddy, we will continue to work with her and club to make sure she continues to evolve her performance.




You’ve gone with an unchanged midcourt squad, and it is the most hotly contested area on court. What are you looking for ahead of the World Cup.

Selecting the midcourt is a tough battle and there is quite high consistency with their performance. It steps up again in the Diamonds environment when they are working together.

The things we look at in the SSN is their movement, the way they are working the ball, and their impact in defence. But that’s just one part of it. We have a really good oversight of what the players do in our environment, and that’s their versatility and how they can provide the change-ups that we are going to need. The style or consistency of hard running will also end up defining the end group.




What happens with the squad between now and the World Cup?

As well as continuing to watch SSN matches, we will have a targeted approach about how we engage with players and interacting with them during the week, visiting them, continuing to build relationships and the understanding of their role within the Diamonds.


When do you go into camp ahead of the World Cup?

It’s a really quick turn around. The SSN grand final is on a Saturday, and we come straight into camp on Monday, just two days later. It’s a week and a half in Melbourne then  we are straight into South Africa for some more training and acclimatisation.

There’s not really time to test and try, it’s more to solidify and get our connections to a standard that will challenge, to adjust to the different styles that we will play, and how to win the one off games that we have to, to get into a gold medal match.


With such a short gap between SSN and World Cup, I imagine recovery between games becomes crucial?

A big part of the transition is getting the well-being in place. You have to prepare the body, but you also have to prepare the mind. The SSN is demanding, some girls will be in finals, winning finals, losing finals, so there is a lot of emotion that comes in the back end of the season. And then we also need them to shift and potentially go into different types of game plans.

So there’s a lot in terms of not just getting them on court together, but to make sure they are in the right head space and refreshed. They will certainly be excited, they always are.


What did you learn from the Quad Series about playing in Africa.

Going to the Quad Series was the best thing for us. Making sure security feels as normal as possible, understanding our routines, what food is available. Getting over jetlag. Little things we’ve been able to tweak since or get information about. A lot of the girls got sick with some gastro while we were over there, so there is a bigger medical focus. Basically looking at all the little things that could distract or interfere with performance.


We have heard that there were some security concerns at the Quad series, and that teams will be taking their own security. Can you comment on this?

In Australia crowds can’t access teams, whereas at the Quad Series team benches were entwined with part of the crowd. Feedback was given about the security aspect of this, and I have every confidence that adaptations have been made.

We do have the same security guy, who will meet us in Jo’burg and continue with us until the end of the tournament. He has a really good rapport with us and has worked with us before so he’s got the lay of the land, and makes sure everyone has the freedom to enjoy and experience South Africa.


During the tournament, there is the ability to replace up to three players if needed. How will this work in practice?

They can only come in on a permanent replacement basis, and there is strict criteria around that based on injury and illness. There are intricate details around that. There will be an independent doctor, it can’t be manipulated, because of checks and balances.

There is a disadvantage for some teams, because some countries can afford to take those extra three players, and some can’t. It makes sense to be able to keep the quality of a team up if they lose one or more players, but it has to be fair for everyone.

Most of the time when you pick a 12 you are looking at how you fill gaps from within, so there is a lot of rotation. Now you still do that, but you have the flexibility that you don’t have to take other players out of position. It adds another layer of complexities when you think of all the ‘what if’ scenarios.


What are you most excited about with the World Cup?

I can’t wait to get the girls together. It’s the end of the cycle, we’ve had a really clear vision in wanting to win the marquee events and remain world number one. That’s the mandate by us and by Netball Australia. I’m excited because the girls know that we haven’t hit our potential yet and we can work on some clear gaps in performance. We really embrace that challenge and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do in the key moments.


What will be the key challenges at the World Cup?

The vastly different styles of netball. You play against varying levels of ability at a World Cup, so you have to hold your standard and show respect by playing your best brand of netball against any opposition. But then when it gets to the tight end, those styles of play are going to be vastly different from one game to the next. For example, it could be from a Jamaica to New Zealand, or South Africa to England. Very different styles with different skill sets and big name players. So we are going to have to be at our best to cope with anything that’s thrown at us.


There’s been discussion that you are also trying to deal with your own contract during this busy time. Can you comment on this?

I’m so heavily focused on World Cup, the SSN season, connection with players, that my contract is in the background. My responsibility is to focus on the job at hand. I love being the Diamonds coach, but I’d love to see this group finish off with a win at a World Cup. We will work on that first.


The Diamonds squad of 12, plus three replacements, for the Netball World Cup will be announced during Round 14.

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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.
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