Australian netball coach targets top fitness

ADRIAN WARREN
Last updated 14:48 20/02/2013

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Australian netball team coach Lisa Alexander has targeted strength and conditioning as a key area for inprovement after the world champions' recent losses to major rivals New Zealand and England.

The Diamonds have dropped to second in the world rankings behind New Zealand, who won three of their five 2012 clashes.

And just last month an injury-ravaged Australia suffered a maiden series defeat away to England last month, losing all three Tests.

There were strong mitigating circumstances for that series loss.

They were without seven World Championship-winning squad members - Natalie Medhurst, Laura Geitz, Chelsea Pitman, Bianca Chatfield, Julie Corletto, Sharni Layton and Kimberlee Green.

To compound matters, inspirational skipper and midcourt lynchpin Natalie von Bertouch was subsequently ruled out of the series with a finger injury.

Alexander said New Zealand and England were both improving, but felt depth wasn't a major issue for Australia.

"But what it does, it shows areas that we do need to address," Alexander said.

"We need to improve our consistency with our strength and conditioning training and that filters right down to the 22 in our squad.

"We need committed athletes that are really working hard, particularly the next 18 months going into the Commonwealth Games...because our opposition are certainly doing that and we need to make sure we are progressing in that area.

She said a new national strength and coaching coordinator had been appointed to work across all Australian ANZ Championship franchises to ensure the necessary work was done.

Alexander is leaving the door open for former Australian captain and ace shooter Sharelle McMahon to return to international duty after she missed most of the last two seasons through injury and pregnancy.

"Of course the selectors and I would be interested in Sharelle if she is available and playing well and ticking all the boxes, as far as an athlete is concerned," Alexander said.

"And also if she's interested.

"We do have an opt in or out out clause that we ask the athlete to sign halfway through the season and so I don't want to put any pressure on her to make decisions about that when she is really just concentrating on coming back with Melbourne Vixens."

Australia will play five Tests against New Zealand later in the year, with a series against improving fifth-ranked Malawi to be confirmed.

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