New-look Diamonds ready to shine
TALENTED locals make up a majority of the WA Diamonds final team for the 2014 Australian Hockey League.
The announcement last week comes after an extensive selection build-up and an intense development period leading into their last six weeks of preparation.
More than 40 players have come in and out of the program by invitation to work with the core group, with a focus on investing in the future development of the team as well as building on the depth in the program.
Last year, the Diamonds were represented by the oldest group in the league.
It was nearly a fairytale tournament for a team many thought would feature at the bottom of the table, ultimately losing the grand final in a shootout, head coach Jason Butcher said.
“We were concerned about the preparedness of our up-andcoming talent to play at this level last year and so we believed our best strategy was to squeeze some last drops out of our ageing group to give us some extra time to fast-track our underpinning talent,” Butcher said.
“While our U18 and U21 results were disappointing this year, we are confident that our next generation of top-end talent has taken significant steps forward in the last 12 months.”
With five U21 athletes and five athletes in their early 20s representing more than half of the team this year, there has been a significant change in the balance of the Diamonds group.
The inclusions of exciting U18 athletes Preah Hetherington and Georgia Wilson and U21 athletes Kathryn Slattery and Sophie Argus coupled with the return of talented finisher Elly Buckley symbolise the beginning of a new era for the Diamonds.
“There is a lot to look forward to for Diamonds fans with the inclusion of rising stars Kyra Flynn, Katy Symons, Caitlin Pascov and Penny Squibb,” Butcher said.
“We will miss Kobie (McGurk), Shelley (Liddelow), Oli (Chiu), Paige (Collins) and Jodie (Searle), and it will be difficult to replace their experience and class, but we believe the time is right and that we are now in a position to begin the process of regenerating this team.
“Last year, we manufactured a fantastic performance against a lot of obstacles and we acknowledge that there are similar challenges and doubts again around our ability to make finals, especially with so many youngsters being brought in.”
This year’s Women’s AHL takes place in Brisbane from October 4 to 11.
This year, the ‘quarters’ format will be introduced, with the game played in four 15-minute periods.