New Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich says being pregnant is not the same as being injured, which is why Gretel Bueta is in the Australian squad despite not playing this Super Netball season.
Bueta (nee Tippett) is due to give birth in January but the rescheduling of the 2020 Constellation Cup against New Zealand from October to early next year, has seen her included in a 19-strong squad named on Friday.
There are five new names in Sophie Garbin, Kim Jenner, Cara Koenen and Maddy Proud and late-blooming West Coast Fever midcourter Verity Charles, who is 29. The ladder-leading Melbourne Vixens and last year’s champions NSW Swifts both have four representatives while strugglers Adelaide and Collingwood have no players.
The squad is set to go into camp in Queensland next month following the Super Netball grand final. Marinkovich said that Bueta, the reigning Australian netballer of the year, was committed to playing next year, with two Constellation Cup series planned.
“It’s forward thinking with some big tournaments coming up, so the contribution that Gretel can make to the group can be significant,” Marinkovich told AAP. “She was the best player in the league and amongst the Diamonds last year so her past performances have been taken into account.
“She’s not injured and that’s the thing that’s significantly different when it comes to selection. There’s nothing to say that she can’t come back and be performing and we will work through that with her.”
Bueta has been a constant on the sidelines of the Queensland Firebirds games, helping coach the team, which Marinkovich believes will add another level to her game when she returns.
Marinkovich said the form of Charles, who made her Super Netball debut in 2012, couldn’t be ignored.
“Vez (Verity) is a little bit older but the thing that we’ve gone on is the performance of the season and when you look at the numbers and the things she’s doing out on the court.
“She’s shown significant improvement.”
Also the Fever coach, Marinkovich was appointed to the top job last month and was part of a three-person selection panel alongside Anne Sargeant and Michelle Wilkins.
She said the camp was more about “laying the foundations” for a new direction.
“We recognise that the players have been going since November and this tournament and condensed season has been like a Comm Games on steroids,” she said.
“We don’t want to tax the body and the mind too much but we have a unique opportunity to bring the group together and lay the foundations so when we do come together in January we can really maximise the time on the court because we’ve already got a really thorough understanding of the direction we want to go.”
DIAMONDS SQUAD: Jess Anstiss (Fever), Kiera Austin (GIANTS), Caitlin Bassett (GIANTS), Gretel Bueta (Firebirds), Courtney Bruce (Fever), Verity Charles (Fever), Sophie Garbin (Swifts), Paige Hadley (Swifts), Kimberley Jenner (Firebirds), Cara Koenen (Lightning), Sarah Klau (Swifts), Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS), Maddy Proud (Swifts), Emily Mannix (Vixens), Kate Moloney (Vixens), Gabi Simpson (Firebirds), Liz Watson (Vixens), Jo Weston (Vixens), Steph Wood (Lightning).