King's new partner expected to fill the void
One half of squash's golden girls is missing but there's no shortage of confidence in Joelle King's new doubles partner for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
King combined with Jaclyn Hawkes to win gold in the women's doubles in Delhi four years ago but the latter's retirement last year - after becoming a mum - put paid to a title defence from the glamour pair of New Zealand squash.
Instead, Bay of Plenty's Amanda Landers-Murphy, ranked 43 in the world, has been selected to fill Hawkes' shoes and will partner King in Glasgow this year.
Landers-Murphy is the Kiwi No 3, ranked just behind Canterbury's Megan Craig who with Waikato's Kylie Lindsay will make up New Zealand's other women's pairing.
All four will play in the singles while King and Landers-Murphy will also play in the mixed doubles; King will play alongside Aucklander Martin Knight - the pair won the silver medal in Delhi four years ago - and Landers-Murphy teams up with Canterbury's Paul Coll.
Knight and New Zealand men's No 1 Campbell Grayson form the top men's doubles pairing, while Coll teams with fellow Games debutant Lance Beddoes (Auckland). All four men will also play the singles.
King, ranked No 4 in the world and third in the Commonwealth, looms as the key medal prospect; in singles, mixed doubles and, New Zealand assistant coach Dave Clarke says, the doubles.
"We've seen some top performances from her in a New Zealand shirt, when she puts that on her performances tend to lift 10 per cent," Clarke said.
"Although Joelle has lost Jackie, she's gained Amanda who has taken to doubles very, very well.
"Amanda is playing stronger than her ranking at the moment, in singles and doubles, and she has a couple of naturally suited attributes. She hits a very flat forehand which at times can clip the top of the tin in singles but in doubles (where the tin is four inches lower) it's an absolute screaming winner.
"So I don't think we've lost quite as much as some may think."
Clarke said an initial approach was made to Hawkes, who is now based in Ipswich, England, about a comeback for Glasgow. "But unfortunately she couldn't commit to the Games at that time. We'd have loved her to be involved but that was her decision."
The eight-person team is slightly bigger than usual, given the addition of a second men's doubles pairing.
Aside from King in singles, there is hope that King and Knight, and Knight and Grayson, can give the medal dais a nudge.
"We're really confident in the group we've got, they have been performing really well," Clarke said.
King was the only initial selection in singles, though the New Zealand Olympic Committee endorsed a Squash New Zealand request to allow the athletes selected as part of doubles teams to participate in singles.