Diamonds’ Commonwealth Games gold may take time
TWO of the five gold medal games for netball at the Commonwealth Games have been decided in sudden-death double overtime.
So Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander is making sure her squad is prepared for anything on the Gold Coast next month.
Both the 2002 (Manchester) and 2010 (Delhi) gold medal games needed two lots of extra-time to find a winner while the 1998 and 2006 gold medal showpieces were decided by three and five goals respectively.
With that in mind, the Diamonds rehearsed overtime strategies at last week's training camp in Canberra.
The next time Alexander sees her players, the team will be checking into the athletes' village on the Gold Coast.
So the week at the AIS was vital to putting the finishing touches on their preparation for a tilt at what would be Australia's fourth netball gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
"We practised double overtime at the camp. On purpose, we did an 85-minute scenario which is how long they probably played in Manchester,'' Alexander said.
"We concentrated on us this past week, getting our systems and strategies right and our teamwork right. It's also about staying strong together as a team with all the distractions that can happen in a village situation.
"We were extremely pleased with the camp. We got some really good indications that we didn't lose a lot in that period of time since the Quad Series (in January).
"Even with the change with (Laura) Geitz and (Madi) Robinson coming in, we were able to take our performances and then build on them.''
After one day at the athletes' village, the Diamonds will head to the Sunshine Coast for a brief training camp that will include two practice matches against the Lightning and Queensland Firebirds and a focus on analysing Australia's opponents in the pool matches.
While the netball competition at the Commonwealth Games used to be a two-horse race with Australia and New Zealand all but assured of their places in the gold medal stoush, the depth across international netball has improved markedly.
England and South Africa have made giant strides after gaining regular exposure to the Diamonds and Silver Ferns in the Quad Series competitions while Jamaica is also a wildcard.
The host of internationals that play in the Suncorp Super Netball competition has also contributed to the gap closing.
But the weight of expectation remains on the world champion Diamonds to salute on home pine.
Alexander said any external pressure was no match for the pressure the Diamonds put on themselves to perform.
"You just deal with it (external pressure). All I can say is that we put enough pressure on ourselves. The internal pressure that we create individually and collectively as a team outweighs it,'' she said.
"Netball at the international level has gone a lot deeper now. The coaching talent around the world is excellent and each country has worked on their high performance systems.
"The netball at the Commonwealth Games is world-class. Absolute world-class. The very best countries will be there competing.''