Star duo’s re­turn adds pol­ish

The Weekend Australian - - SPORT - ERIC GE­ORGE

Sharni Lay­ton and Laura Geitz both made long-awaited re­turns to the Diamonds camp this week as they face a steep chal­lenge in mak­ing last-minute bids for Com­mon­wealth Games se­lec­tion next month.

Lay­ton stepped away from netball in July be­cause of ex­haus­tion, and Geitz is re­turn­ing af­ter a year of ma­ter­nity leave. Both play­ers joined the na­tional squad in Can­berra on Thurs­day for a three-day camp at the AIS.

Head coach Lisa Alexan­der said she was glad to have an in­jec­tion of ex­tra knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence, and that the two keep­ers had been per­form­ing well in their restricted min­utes of match sim­u­la­tion.

“I was re­ally pleased that they’ve been able to put them­selves out there on court and hold their own. That’s a good sign,” Alexan­der said.

Ac­cord­ing to Alexan­der, Geitz’s year away has left her feel­ing “a bit like a rookie” this week as she tries to catch up on the team’s new coach­ing sys­tems.

Diamonds vice-cap­tain Gabi Simp­son has watched Geitz’s come­back closely as the two pre­pare for the next Su­per Netball sea­son in Queens­land, and is al­ready see­ing glimpses of the goal­keeper’s best play.

Ac­cord­ing to Simp­son, there has been no awk­ward­ness from the former na­tional cap­tain as she ad­justs to a re­duced role in the Diamonds camp.

“She is find­ing her feet and work­ing on things individually, but she still brings that great lead­er­ship and pres­ence on court which is so help­ful for the team.”

Nei­ther Geitz nor Lay­ton will join the Diamonds de­part­ing to­mor­row for the Quad Se­ries against Eng­land, South Africa and New Zealand.

The tour­na­ment will be the Diamonds’ fi­nal set of matches be­fore they be­gin their gold medal de­fence on the Gold Coast.

Alexan­der’s se­lec­tion panel has proved over the past 12 months that se­nior play­ers have no re­tainer on a Diamonds dress, drop­ping Madi Robin­son from the team and not even in­clud­ing goaler Nat Med­hurst in the ex­tended squad.

The ab­sence of Lay­ton and Geitz last year al­lowed young West Coast Fever goal keeper Court­ney Bruce to stake her claim on the po­si­tion with a se­ries of im­pres­sive per­for­mances.

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