Uncapped Gabi Simpson and Gretel Tippett as well as Clare McMeniman are the new faces in world champion Australia’s netball squad for the Constellation Cup series against New Zealand.
The trio were on Tuesday included in a 12-strong squad for the first two Tests next week following the retirements of defenders Julie Corletto and Rebecca Bulley – and the international retirement of vice-captain Kim Green – after the World Cup triumph in August.
The Diamonds take on the Silver Ferns in Christchurch next Tuesday and in Auckland two days later followed by two more Tests in Australia.
The Test in Christchurch will be the first time the Diamonds have taken to the court since defeating the Silver Ferns by three goals in Sydney to win a third consecutive World Cup.
There are nine remaining members of that World Cup-winning team that will travel across the Tasman on Saturday, led by captain Laura Geitz and four of her team-mates from the trans-Tasman championship-winning Queensland Firebirds: Kim Ravaillion, Simpson, Tippett and McMeniman.
“With the first two Tests over in New Zealand, it’s important that we make a positive start to establish momentum for the rest of the series in Melbourne and Perth,” Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said.
Goal defence McMeniman will be hoping to get back in the green and gold after making her Diamonds debut last year but missing out on the World Cup squad. The 30-year-old will be battling with NSW Swifts star Sharni Layton for a starting spot alongside Geitz in the backcourt.
Tippett, the sister of Sydney Swans AFL star Kurt, was the toast of Queensland in June when her clutch goal with just 15 seconds left on the clock lifted the Firebirds to a thrilling win over the Swifts in the trans-Tasman grand final.
Although she’s likely viewed as a back-up goal shooter to the likes of Caitlin Bassett, Natalie Medhurst, Caitlin Thwaites and Erin Bell, the 22-year-old’s inclusion in the squad is a tick of approval from selectors in her development.
Tippett only made the switch from basketball to netball in 2011. Simpson, 22, has been a solid performer in the midcourt for the Firebirds in recent seasons and has been a member of some recent extended Diamonds squads.
The squad will arrive in Melbourne on Wednesday for a three-day camp before the team’s departure for New Zealand.
Australia squad: Caitlin Bassett, Erin Bell, Laura Geitz, Paige Hadley, Renae Ingles (nee Hallinan), Sharni Layton, Clare McMeniman, Natalie Medhurst, Kim Ravaillion, Gabi Simpson, Caitlin Thwaites, Gretel Tippett.