Graham Croker
There will be plenty of weight on the shoulders of Sydney University Sports Scholarship holder Susan Pratley and veteran Catherine Cox when a new-look Australian netball team takes on New Zealand in a two-Test series beginning today.
The world champions, who have taken on the moniker of the Diamonds, will play the New Zealand Silver Ferns today at Westpac Arena in Christchurch and on September 20 at Vector Arena in Auckland.
With five rookies in the roster and a stand-in captain in Natalie von Bertouch, following the late withdrawal through illness of Sharelle McMahan, coach Norma Plummer will be looking to the experience of Pratley and Cox.
“I guess it’s a pretty even line-up at the moment,” von Bertouch said. “We’re the current world champions and they’re going to anything they can to knock us off the number one peg.
“They are definitely a settled line-up, but we have a lot of new faces in the team. We think it’s a really good blend of experienced players as well as some new fresh faces that can’t wait to get out there.
“We are really looking forward to the opportunity to challenge ourselves and see where we are at.”
Diamonds coach Norma Plummer has five players itching to get their first cap during the two Tests. Strong performances in the ANZ Championship against state and trans-Tasman rivals has earned Kate Beveridge, Kimberlee Green, Rebecca Bulley and Laura Geitz a call-up to the national side.
Rookie shooter Caitlin Thwaites was called in as a last-minute replacement following Natalie Medhurst’s withdrawal with appendicitis.
While Plummer is likely to opt for the experienced NSW Swifts shooting combination of Cox and Pratley early on, but Beveridge is expected to get some game time as replacement.
Australian squad: Natalie von Bertouch, Kate Beveridge, Rebecca Bulley, Bianca Chatfield, Catherine Cox, Laura Geitz, Mo’onia Gerrard, Kimberlee Green, Natalie Medhurst, Lauren Nourse, Susan Pratley and Julie Prendergast.