Shanita Smith steps back into Claws action at Brisbane this weekend after being sidelined with a back injury.
Shanita Smith steps back into Claws action at Brisbane this weekend after being sidelined with a back injury. Sharyn Oneill Roksclaw

Big weekend for Capricorn Claws

IT WILL be a big weekend for the Capricorn Claws and coach Barb Ahmat has started the build-up with a few selection surprises.

With key circle defenders Keanna Hopkins and Pearl Hood unavailable for this round, Ahmat has called in reinforcements from outside the squad to assist in the tough games against defending premier Cougars and another tough opponent in Suncoast Lynx.

Danielle Wingard was one of the best-performed Claws players last year but decided against continuing playing at a representative level in 2012.

However, with no experienced cover available, Wingard has answered the call and will travel to Brisbane at the weekend.

Joining Wingard in the circle is another tall defender, Mikaela King, who is normally unavailable for the Claws due to her commitments to the Cyclones basketball team.

"Danni and Mikaela have played well together in A-grade netball," Ahmat said.

While that was last season when both were at Bluebirds, Ahmat believes the pair will again form a good combination.

"They will give us experience and height," she said.

The Claws will be looking for every possible advantage when facing arguably the two toughest teams in this year's competition.

"It will still be a tough call as this is a huge weekend," the coach conceded. "It's good those two girls are able to help out this weekend."

More good news for Ahmat is the return of teenage sensation Shanita Smith. The young defender missed the grading rounds of club netball with a back injury but Ahmat said she has trained with the Claws a couple of times and came through it well.

"We will still be looking after her," she said.

The coach is also giving some of this season's new faces a run against top-class opposition with former Gladstone and RGS Magic player Ella Lawrie in the centre court, shooter Sarah Brennan and Longreach's Brooke Mann all named.

Last year's champion Cougars team has been strengthened by the inclusion of former Rockhampton star Claudia Jones.

"It's going to be difficult playing against her," the coach admitted.

However, with the defensive circle strengthened, Ahmat believes success can be achieved through the shooters, depending on which shooters record the best percentages.

"We will be trying to stop the ball before it gets into the shooting circle," Ahmat said.

Despite the opposition, Ahmat said she was happy to get the State League season under way.

CLAWS TEAM

The Capricorn Claws team for next weekend's opening round games in the Queensland State Netball League against the Cougars and Suncoast:

Amanda Goody, Kira Lee Leo, Carmen Anderson, Lizzy Egerton, Sarah Brennan, Ella Lawrie, Shanita Smith, Brooke Mann, Mikaela King, Danni Wingard.



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