Diamonds fight to earn starting spots
Australian Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander says practice matches on the Sunshine Coast are crucial to preparations for the Commonwealth Games, with the starting seven yet be finalised.
The Diamonds took on the Queensland Firebirds for a closed session on Thursday morning and will enter USC Stadium in front of the public for a clash against the Sunshine Coast Lightning on Saturday.
Alexander said the starting spots for the Gold Coast would be influenced by performances during the training camp this week.
The entire Diamonds squad will be on court, with even the training partners among the action.
"We've taken a very different approach to our starting seven over the past 12 months," she said.
"What I try and do is look at form in training so yes it (practice games) will impact on that (starting spots)," she said.
"The sort of performances I see over the next three days will certainly let me know whether who's ready to start, who is ready to come on and who's ready to (make an) impact.
"I expect all 12 athletes to be able to do that and we have to be able to do that in a tournament."
She said the Diamonds wouldn't be holding back and wasn't concerned about possible injuries so close to the Games.
"It's always a risk and reward that you have and take as a coach so we have to have the practice matches and they have to be fair dinkum," she said.
"That's just a part of it. I always maintain that if you play with fair dinkum aggression and your normal skill and talent then you're less likely to have injuries.
"If you worry about it and get your mindset on it then it'll happen."
Defending the Diamonds' 2014 Glasgow gold medal was very much on the agenda in the coming weeks too, according to Alexander.
"It goes without saying (we want gold). We are world number one and we're current world champions and current Commonwealth Games champions," she said.
"However, that's on paper and this team is different and so this team has got it's own internal pressure to really ensure that it performs absolutely at the very best that we possible can and we're looking for improvement from the Quad Series."
Diamonds vice-captain Gabi Simpson said the training camp on the Sunshine Coast would be no holds barred but embraced the challenge.
"Every time we hit the court we hit it hard and we want to train like we're going to play and if injuries come that's just bad luck but we want to be prepared for game one and that means we train as hard as we play," she said.
She said the team were hungry to snare gold at the Games and believed they had the hallmarks to achieve it.
"We're setting out to win gold at this Commonwealth Games and that's what we've set our task to be," she said.
"We know that the preparation that we've had over the last year or so is going to put us in really good stead but we need to make sure we take confidence from what we've done in the past to set us up for these games.
"It's (Games) going to be hard yakka and if we do it (the work) and if we tick every box then we're setting ourselves up as well as we can."