Australian captain Kate Beveridge is confident her youthful Diamonds side will be strong contenders for the second World Netball Series in England this weekend, despite having a horror draw.
The three-day tournament in Liverpool brings together six of the world’s top ranked nations in netball’s version of the Twenty20 format. The games are conducted in the Fastnet format over six minute quarters with unlimited substitutions. Successful shots from outside the circle are worth two points, while each team can nominate a power play quarter in which every goal they score counts double.
Australia’s squad includes four Test players despite the fact all of the recent Commonwealth Games squad are resting back home.
Australia finished third in last year’s inaugural tournament in Manchester.
The Diamonds have retained the No.1 world ranking ahead of the Silver Ferns despite losing the Commonwealth Games final to New Zealand.
The draw in Liverpool has done the Diamonds no favours as they play all of the other top four ranked nations in their first three games of the round robin phase.
Australia commences their campaign against New Zealand and also play England on Friday.
They clash with Jamaica in their first match on Saturday before facing tournament underdogs Malawi and South Africa.
The top four teams advance to Sunday’s semi-finals, with the final played the same day.
“We’ve got two very tough games to start off with, if we get a couple of good performances out there first up we’ll be looking really good for the finals,” said shooter Beveridge, the only player in the Australian squad who contested last year’s tournament.
“I think we’ve got a very good chance.
“We’ve had the most time here (of the overseas nations) to acclimatise ourselves. I think having a couple of extra days here has really done us justice, getting our sleeping right and having a few more training sessions together.
“I think we’ve got a fantastic opportunity. Having younger girls means a lot of the other teams haven’t seen these girls play.
Like Australia, New Zealand have rested the majority of their star players, but will still field a strong side, containing five current or past Silver Ferns squad members including captain Maree Bowden.
England, who Australia beat for third spot last year, loom as a likely favourite as their lineup includes most of their Commonwealth Games bronze medal winning squad.
“England have got a lot of experience, they are probably the ones to watch out for the most,” Beveridge said.