Gretel Tippett has worked her way back into the Diamonds line-up.
Gretel Tippett has worked her way back into the Diamonds line-up. DAVID ROWLAND

Firebirds star gets her shot at World Cup

GRETEL Tippett wasn't missing this one.

And the Queensland Firebirds star had just given Australian selectors 100 reasons to name her in the World Cup squad.

Tippett had missed selection in the Diamonds squad to contest the Commonwealth Games in her home city on the Gold Coast early last year.

There was disappointment.

But the upbeat goal attack wasn't going to dwell on her omission and instead took criticism of her game on board to become a better player and ensure she would be there for the World Cup starting tonight in England.

"They chose experience over youth, and that's totally fair enough," the towering 25-year-old said of her Commonwealth Games exclusion.

"The players performing were exceptional.

"I had a few things I needed to tidy up in my game. I've improved a little bit since then."

Tippett stepped up when it came to shooting.
Tippett stepped up when it came to shooting. HAMISH BLAIR

One of those areas needing a "tidy up" was ensuring she was "getting a good volume of shots up during a game".

When you play alongside the huge presence that is Firebirds legendary goal shooter Romelda Aiken it's hard not to give the ball off.

But with the Jamaican having missed much of this year's Super Netball season with a leg injury, Tippett had to step up. Her response was more impressive than anyone could have imagined.

She became the first Australian player in the national competition to sink 100 goals from 100 attempts.

The milestone was reached in round five - the last before coach Lisa Alexander named her Diamonds squad of 12.

"I was so shocked when I found out," Tippett said of the approaching milestone. "(Firebirds great) Laura Geitz broke the news to me when I was on 99. I freaked out. I thought 'oh my God'.

"I was so relieved after that 100th goal went in ... I missed the next one."

There was however no way Tippett would be missing out on a ticket to England.

Former Diamonds skipper and now Channel 9 netball anchor Cath Cox was one of Tippett's chief critics.

"I was quite tough on her when she first started, her accuracy just wasn't there," Cox said of the former basketballer.

"There's no way in the world you could say that now. There's no stopping that girl."

Tippett has been a standout with the Firebirds this season.
Tippett has been a standout with the Firebirds this season. HAMISH BLAIR

While this is Tippett's first World Cup as a player, the Firebirds star was a training partner for the Diamonds ahead of the 2015 tournament and watched them win their third title in a row.

"I was there on grand final day and watched Laura (Geitz) hold up the cup. That was pretty special," she recalled.

Tippett now wants to experience the feeling of victory as an official member of the squad.

"It's such a highly-contended top 12," said the Firebirds' reigning club champion. "When you look at netball, I think there's over a million participants in Australia.

"It's kind of a pinch-me moment, but one knowing you've worked really hard for."

The Super Netball competition has been put on hold for the World Cup with the Diamonds brought together for a week-long camp in Sydney before flying out to England.

One minute the players were locking horns for their respective clubs, the next they united in the green and gold and preparing to take on new world powerhouse England, as well as perennial rival New Zealand and South Africa and Jamaica.

Tippett's athleticism is a key part of her game.
Tippett's athleticism is a key part of her game. DARREN PATEMAN

"It was awesome to have that week together," Tippett said. "I was wondering how that would all go but it was a very seamless transition, which was great.

"We really focussed on reforming those connections, adapting really quickly to each other's style of play."

The squad tuned up with a match against the New South Wales men's side.

"It was awesome, I really enjoyed it," Tippett said. "It was tricky, tough ... they are so athletic.

It was like going out there and playing against my brothers back in the day," she added referring to former AFL stars Kurt and Joel. "I loved it."

The Diamonds, who begin their campaign in the group stage tonight against Northern Ireland before clashes against Zimbabwe on Saturday and Sri Lanka on Sunday, will be led by goal shooter Caitlin Bassett.

Tippett will make her World Cup debut in England.
Tippett will make her World Cup debut in England. LUKAS COCH

"She's so smart and opens up the space really well for the other shooter," Tippett said. "The way she holds out her opponents is incredible

"I love being back in the circle with 'Cbass', and Caitlin Thwaites as well. It's been awesome."

Tippett's Firebirds teammate, Aiken, won't be too far away, with the veteran shooter named as support for Jamaican captain Jhanielle Fowler.

"I've never played her ... I'm a bit nervous. I might pass her the ball," Tippett joked.

"She will be a force to be reckoned with."

Tippett is one of nine players in the Diamonds squad yet to play in a World Cup and she is expecting a tough challenge.

"A lot of people have said how strong and fierce the New Zealand team look," Tippett said. "They've got an amazing coach in Noelene Taurua, who's done wonders for the Sunny Coast.

"It's going to be hardest-fought series yet. That makes it even more exciting."

Tippett and her Diamonds teammates spent six days in Manchester after arriving in England before heading to host city Liverpool.

"I think England are staying in the same hotel as us," she said. "It's going to be hard not to rub shoulders with them ... at the buffet breakfast in the morning, racing to see who gets the eggs first."

It'll be a taste of greater glories to fight over. The final will be played on Sunday, July 21.

News Corp Australia

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