Sam Poolman is poised to become the first Newcastle player in decades to take the court for Australia after a stellar Super Netball season.
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander told the Newcastle Herald on Tuesday that the 26-year-old Giants goal keeper would get “some sort of opportunity” this year after impressing national selectors.
The three Diamonds selectors will announce squads on June 27 for the Quad Series in August, Constellation Cup against New Zealand in October and 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Alexander said Poolman had turned around her career under Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald this season after four years with the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
“We’ve been very impressed with her improvement this year,” Alexander said.
“I did ring her a couple of years ago. It was really important for her to understand that what was holding her back was a bit around her high-performance behaviours. She needed to get herself into the sort of shape that is necessary to play at the very top.
“Nobody was more delighted than me when Julie decided to give that defence spot to her at the Giants. I was confident Sammy would understand this was basically her last chance of having a good crack at it, because there’s so many younger kids coming through.
“To see her put the work in under Julie’s tutelage and what she’s done is just fantastic. I’m just thrilled for her, both as a person and an athlete.”
Poolman won her battle with Melbourne Vixens star shooter Mwai Kumwenda on Sunday as the Giants triumphed 56-52 to return to the top of the Super Netball ladder.
“I’m taking notice of any defence that plays well against the Vixens,” Alexander said.
“Mwai Kumwenda has done such a tremendous job as the shooter and beaten nearly everyone, so I think it’s a real credit to Sam that she was able to really shut down that supply through to Mwai and perhaps put a little bit of doubt in the minds of the feeders.”
The coach said Poolman was reaching her potential after attending the Australian Institute of Sport on a scholarship in 2011.
“She’s been at the AIS, she’s been an identified junior back in the day at NSW. Many of us thought she’d be the next Liz Ellis in many respects, but there’s also a burden with that, the burden of expectation.
“Sammy is a really good person, but she had to be tough with herself. That’s extremely tough for anybody, and I think Julie’s managed her beautifully.
“It’s great that she’s improved so much in that area, and we’re impressed. In some way, shape or form she’ll be getting some sort of opportunity I see this year.”
Collingwood goal keeper Sharni Layton is the Australian captain, but selectors will name at least six defenders in their squads next month.
Alexander said the selectors would watch closely during the Super Netball finals to see which defenders had the mental toughness and concentration to play well under pressure.
“Sam’s really shown that extremely well this year. She’s a very, very smart defender, and we can see that clearly.”
Poolman has more defensive rebounds than any other Australian in Super Netball and is fourth in deflections and intercepts.
Fitzgerald said the defender had worked hard in the off-season and arrived at the Giants “well and truly ready to play”.
“Her agility has improved enormously, and her vertical jump has improved something like nine centimetres over a short period of time,” she said.
“She’s been able to play on a variety of shooters for us.
“I think she’s definitely worthy of being in the Australian squad. The statistics keep her up in that top echelon of defenders in every regard.
“You have to pick on form and the players who are playing well at the time. Sam’s definitely putting her hand up.”