The Diamonds squad was announced on Thursday but it will be England’s Commonwealth Games selectors who will have a keen eye on a big Super Netball clash on Sunday.
Commonwealth Games selectors are likely to take a particular interest when the Queensland Firebirds host the Collingwood Magpies in Sunday’s Super Netball clash.
Plenty has been said about the Diamonds squad selection on Thursday.
But it’s England’s selectors that are likely to be watching most keenly, as goalkeepers Eboni Usoro-Brown and Geva Mentor attempt to shut down the opposition shooters.
Both goalkeepers, the pair won’t go head-to-head, but their performances could be crucial for Roses officials watching on from overseas.
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Mentor returns from a bout of Covid to lead the Magpies, who are languishing at the bottom of the Super Netball ladder after a rough start to the season.
The Firebirds pushed into outright third with their win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds last week and while there’s been deserved focus on their attacking end and the exciting combination of Gretel Bueta and Donnell Wallam – both named in the Diamonds squad on Thursday – Usoro-Brown is having plenty of impact in defence.
The only new import in the competition this season, Usoro-Brown is building a strong combination with breakout star Ruby Bakewell-Doran and Kim Jenner in the defensive third.
“I’ve come back into this competition and am trying to build connections not only with Ruby and the rest of the defenders but we’re showing improvements from game to game,” said Usoro-Brown, whose previous stint in Australia came in the Trans-Tasman league with West Coast Fever and the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
“We’re getting stronger and stronger and winning more balls, so credit to the girls out in front of me, sometimes they make me look good at the back.
“I think there’s more to come from me. But yeah, we’re building the right direction.”
Giving the credit to others might show Usoro-Brown’s humility but it’s not always the case.
A physical defender, the Team Bath stalwart, who has more than 100 Test caps for England – including in their gold medal win over the Diamonds at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – is not afraid to get up in the grill of the game’s best shooters.
Just ask Lenize Potgieter, the Adelaide Thunderbirds goaler who oozed frustration last week as Usoro-Brown wore her like a glove, or Giants shooter and Usoro-Brown’s England teammate Jo Harten, against whom she had eight gains, an intercept and four deflections when the pair went head-to-head.
If she’s a disrupter, she’s not worried about it.
“I’m a defender who’s about hustle, working the ground hard and making sure my shooter earns every single ball that they get going towards the post,” Usoro-Brown said.
“If they were ruffled, I didn’t really notice, I just had my head in the zone and in the game.”
Some criticism has come the way of the 32-year-old due to the number of penalties she picked up, especially in the early rounds, leaving the Firebirds with a defender out of play on a significant proportion of opposition entries to the circle.
And while her contact penalties have shrunk recently, she is not going to shy away from bringing a physical presence to her defence.
“It’s not something I really focus on,” she said.
“In one sense, if you’re not contracting, are you really in the game – especially as a defender.
“But it’s the nature of the contract penalties and making sure you’re adjusting when the umpire calls.”
Originally published as Super Netball 2022: All the latest news, results and fallout from Round 6