Australian netball star Jo Weston says she hopes the Diamonds can go one better after their heartbreaking last World Cup loss to New Zealand.
Weston was part of the side that suffered the agonising one-goal defeat held in Liverpool – as were two of her fellow defenders selected for the Cape Town event starting on Friday.
Weston, Courtney Bruce and Sarah Klau will all get a shot at redemption in this 2023 World Cup, as they make up the backline alongside Fever youngster Sunday Aryang.
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“I think the levels of excitement are still as high as they were four years ago,” she told Fox Netball.
“(There’s) a lot of nervous energy going into a world tournament but mainly just looking forward to getting over the South Africa and getting started.
“The World Cup in 2019 was Sarah’s (Klau) first tournament so it was a bit of a baptism of fire for her.
“For us it was really disappointing not to be able to perform in the grand final match, but all three of us – and now adding Sunday into the mix with a bit of youth – we’ve matured in terms of the way we play.”
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Weston said the versatility of that Diamonds’ defence was going to be a strength come the world tournament.
“The versatility we offer out on court – both Sarah and Court are both more than capable of play out at goal defence and play a different style out there than I do,” she said.
“It feels like we’ve had a lot of growth.
“Coming off the back of the Commonwealth Games last year, we’ve moved forward significantly since 2019.
“I love playing wing defence – I do have really long arms so I hope that’s advantageous for our defenders back in the circle but it’s always good to have versatility going into bigger tournaments. Yes to spread the load, but to give our coaches more options to keep our opponents guessing.”
While the Diamonds’ defensive end has only seen one change from their 2019 silver medal winning team, rivals New Zealand are a new-look attack end.
Just Ameliaranne Ekenasio remains from that performance, while Te Paea Selby-Rickit has been selected once again – although she didn’t play any minutes in that gold medal match.
“There were a few changes in the New Zealand side,” Weston said.
“It always is a really big challenge coming up against the New Zealanders. They’ve now got Grace (Nweke) down there who provides a tall target and Ameliaranne Ekenasio who can shoot from distance.”
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At just 21 years of age, Nweke looms as a massive threat for the Silver Ferns in goal shooter.
She heads into her World Cup campaign off the back of an ANZ Premiership MVP performance, shooting a remarkable 70 goals – in a competition that does not have Super Netball’s two-goal super shot.
But Weston is confident the Diamonds defence can handle the Kiwi superstar, and says she’s over the injury woes that forced her out of the Quad Series tournament.
“The calf injury was pretty poorly timed in terms of missing chunks of training and the tour to South Africa. But my body has been holding up during the year,” she said.
“I’m feeling really good … We’re lucky to have some of the best sports medicine support staff going around – having them looking after me is a luxury I’m so grateful for.”
The Diamonds play their first match of the World Cup on Friday, taking on Zimbabwe from 7pm AEST.
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