The team of twelve Netball players selected to represent Team Scotland at Glasgow 2014 was announced today and the Netball team will now prepare to make its first ever appearance in the Commonwealth Games.
Currently ranked 12th in the World, Scottish Netball has seen a huge rise in its success and popularity in recent years improving from 16th back in 2011 and the U21 team enjoyed a 12th place finish and a rousing response from home fans at the World Youth Netball Championships, which were hosted in the Emirates Arena last year.
Leading the charge for the Scottish Thistles will be 34 year-old captain Lesley MacDonald who is no stranger to top-level competition, having earned a staggering 118 caps for her country and competing in three World Championships to date.
The role of vice-captain goes to Hayley Mulheron who has represented Scotland at all age levels and been part of the team, alongside MacDonald, that have recorded victories over higher-ranked nations Wales, Trinidad & Tobago and Northern Ireland in recent months.
Other key players in the team with a combined wealth of experience include shooter Lynsey Gallagher who captained the U21 side at the World Youth Championships; Claire Brownie who gives strength and power in the midcourt; and Rachel Forbes who is one of the team’s top defenders.
National Coach Gail Parata said: “I am excited to finally see the selection of the Scottish Thistles confirmed to compete at our first ever Commonwealth Games. For many of the athletes this journey started five years ago and they will be pleased to see their hard work has resulted in being selected for Team Scotland.
“From my perspective as the national coach it was very hard to choose the final 12 based on the improvement I have seen over the last year in the athletes that trialed for a place on the team. However I believe this is a strong squad that provides us with many options all over the court and also solid back up in each position.
“Team confidence is high with recent wins over teams ranked in the top 10 in the world and we hope to compete with distinction and aim for a top eight finish at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”
The team’s latest success was as recent as the last weekend of May in Cardiff when they qualified for the 2015 World Cup by finishing in the top two nations of the European Qualifiers.
The Commonwealth countries are renowned for being the strongest netballing nations in the world with netball powerhouses Australia and New Zealand battling for Gold in each of the past four competitions. Other top contenders for medals this year are expected to be England, Jamaica, Malawi and South Africa who are ranked 3-6th in the World respectively.
Scotland has a tough draw that will require them to adjust to a range of styles of play as they face teams from across the continents.
They will be looking to start with a victory on the 25th against St Lucia (15th) before taking on the world’s best and reigning Commonwealth Gold medallists New Zealand (1st) the following day. Next up is the Caribbean challenge of Jamaica (4th) on the 27th July, the top African nations of Malawi (5th) on the 29th and they wrap up the pool stages with a local battle against the much-improved Northern Ireland (11th), which is set to have a huge influence on the classification matches.
SELECTED NETBALL ATHLETES
Clair Brownie Wing Defence/ Centre
Karin Connell Wing Attack/ Centre
Rachel Forbes Goal Defence/ Wing Defence
Lynsey Gallagher Goal Attack/ Goal Shooter
Lesley MacDonald Goal Shooter/ Goal attack - Captain
June McNeill Goal Keeper/ Goal Shooter
Fiona Moore-McGrath Wing Defence/ Centre
Hayley Mulheron Goal Keeper/ Goal Defence - Vice Captain
Samantha Murphy Centre/ Wing Attack/ Wing Defence
Jo Pettitt Goal Shooter/ Goal Attack
Gemma Sole Goal Shooter/ Goal Keeper
Fiona Themann Goal Keeper/ Goal Defence
Photo credit: Jeff Holmes