‘Very hard’: Coach’s heartbreaking call
AUSTRALIAN coach Lisa Alexander says leaving ex-Diamonds vice-captain Gabi Simpson out of the Netball World Cup squad was one of the hardest decisions of her time in charge of the national team.
Simpson was the major omission from the 12-player squad announced Thursday, given she had played 40 Tests since making her international debut just after the 2015 World Cup and had been Diamonds vice-captain since August 2017.
The Queensland Firebirds captain was pipped by Giants wing defence Jamie-Lee Price - the daughter of former Australian and Queensland Origin prop Steve Price - who can also play centre.
Alexander said last week that some very good players would miss out on the squad for July's World Cup in Liverpool and the strength of the team would be highlighted by the calibre of netballer who stayed at home.
Simpson is the epitome of that.
"It was extremely difficult to not pick Gabi given I'd been involved in her development from the AIS days. It was a very, very hard call,'' Alexander said.
"I would have loved to have been able to take 13 players to Liverpool.
"We needed to have flexibility in our team, particularly in the centre court. We need another position to be covered.
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"And we actually thought that at this stage that Jamie-Lee was ahead of Gabi at wing defence.
"But Gabi's great leadership skills and other considerable abilities made it a terribly difficult choice at the end of the day.
"It's a very hard team to make.''
Alexander said Simpson's recent injury troubles and the form of the Firebirds were not factors in the decision but international performances in the past 12 months were taken into consideration.
Veteran goalshooter Caitlin Bassett will remain as Diamonds captain while Vixens midcourter Liz Watson will be vice-captain.
It is the first World Cup for nine players, with Bassett, Caitlin Thwaites and Paige Hadley the only survivors from the victorious 2015 World Cup team.
Four players will be named as training partners in the coming weeks and will attend the Diamonds training camps in Sydney and Manchester leading into the tournament.
Meanwhile, World Cup-bound Gretel Tippett says the disappointment of missing out on a home Commonwealth Games in 2018 drove her to become a better netballer.
The Firebirds star joined fellow Queenslander and goal attack Steph Wood in the 12-player Australian Diamonds squad for July's Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
Tippett has 26 Tests for the Diamonds to her name but she has never been a part of the Australian squad for a major championship until now.
The 25-year-old went within a whisker of making the cut for the Commonwealth Games on her native Gold Coast which made her more determined to give selectors no choice but to pick her.
"I knew what I had to work on after missing out on the Gold Coast. I knew what I had to do to help my chances for the World Cup,'' Tippett said.
"I had little goals I set for myself. I wanted to make sure that every training session, I got that little bit better all over the court and kept adding tools to that toolbox of mine. Hopefully I can add a few more before the Worlds.''
Despite her outstanding individual form in 2019, Tippett was taking nothing for granted this week.
"I was not confident. I knew the depth within the squad was huge. I'd done everything I possibly could but you have to leave it up to the selectors,'' she said.
"I got the call from Lisa (Alexander, Diamonds coach) on Monday. I was very nervous answering that call, that's for sure.
"I'm very excited and humbled by the opportunity. We've got so many talented athletes in this country and it would have been a very tough decision for selectors and I can't wait to get over there and start.
"I'm excited about our attack end. We have the versatility and variety there."
While she was over the moon with her selection, Tippett was hurting for her Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson who was left out of the squad.
"Definitely feeling for Gabs. She gave it her all to make the team. She's such an amazing person, athlete and leader for all of us at the Firebirds so we'll rally around her,'' Tippett said.
THE DIAMONDS WORLD CUP SQUAD
Caitlin Bassett (Giants, captain), April Brandley (Collingwood), Kelsey Browne (Collingwood), Courtney Bruce (West Coast Fever), Paige Hadley (NSW Swifts), Sarah Klau (NSW Swifts), Jamie-Lee Price (Giants), Caitlin Thwaites (Melbourne Vixens), Gretel Tippett (Queensland Firebirds), Liz Watson (Melbourne Vixens, vice-captain), Jo Weston (Melbourne Vixens), Steph Wood (Sunshine Coast Lightning).