New-look Di­a­monds ready to shine

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Sport -

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.

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