Constellation Cup 2023: Paige Hadley named Diamonds vice-captain for series against New Zealand and South Africa

Paige Hadley may now be the oldest member of the Diamonds squad but the new Australian vice-captain has no plans to give up on a gold dress that was hard won and remains cherished.
Hadley, who turned 31 less than three weeks after winning her second World Cup with the Diamonds in Cape Town in August, replaces Ash Brazill (33) and Steph Wood (32 next month) as the oldest member of the group, while stepping into Wood’s shoes as vice-captain for the remainder of the year.
Wood has been a crucial piece of the pie for the Diamonds on and off the court, especially over the past year as she and captain Liz Watson have helped navigate at-times choppy waters while preparing for benchmark tournaments at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup. Hadley won’t attempt to be a Wood clone – on the court for starters, she’s in the midcourt while Wood was a shooter – and will march to the beat of her own drum as a leader.
But the woman who skippered Australia for the series against England last year in the absence of Watson and Wood, was well aware of the need for athletes to find their voice in what has been a tumultuous time for the sport off the court.
“Obviously (Wood) leaves immense shoes but for me, it’s not about trying to be Steph,” a humbled Hadley said.
“On court everyone saw the impact she could make in a game and then off court, she was really (a great) support role for Lizzy in really what has been, I guess, a really turbulent up-and-down leadership (time).
“I think Lizzy has done an exceptional job in terms of being able to perform on court in every milestone event, in every series and then being able to look after the off-court stuff as well and she’s done it with such grace and humility.”
Since being appointed full-time skipper in 2021, Watson has been the public face of Australian netball through the Hancock sponsorship saga last year and a protracted and increasingly stressful industrial negotiation this year that threatens to overshadow the Test series.
“For me, it’s about being that support role and whatever Lizzy needs and hopefully I’ll have my own little spin on it, I don’t want to change who I am,” Hadley said.
Hadley was among the vast majority of Super Netball players, including all Diamonds, to make a social media post on Monday night under the #FightForFair hashtag to highlight their disappointment in Netball Australia’s rejection of a real partnership model with the players and the Australian Netball Players’ Association.
She said it was an important time for players’ voices to be held but all in camp were focused on taking on the Silver Ferns and aware of the job at hand.
“We’d be lying to say it wasn’t a hard time – we’re all unemployed,” she said of all Super Netball players being in contract limbo.
“People are looking at leaving clubs, deciding on what their futures hold, so it is a hard time and a playing group, we want to be unified.
“It’s just a time where women’s sport on the whole is growing and netball needs to keep pushing. Athletes are a key part of netball and always have been, so I think it’s really important for us to stand strong.
“But when you’re in this (Australian team) environment our focus – we have a CPA with them – is the Diamonds, so we’re full steam ahead.
“We want to perform against Silver Ferns.”
After missing the medals at the recent World Cup, the Ferns head to Australia for the opening two legs of the Con Cup off the back of a 2-1 series win against England determined to make their mark against the Diamonds, who they did not meet in Cape Town.
It’s been a long time between drinks for Hadley against the Ferns as well. While she played against them at the Quad Series earlier this year, she missed the Constellation Cup last year following a calf injury picked up at the Commonwealth Games and despite being part of coach Stacey Marinkovich’s first squad for the 2021 Con Cup series, she was not named for any of the Tests.
“I can’t wait to play the four games against New Zealand, it’s the top of the top,” she said.
“It’s Australia-New Zealand – the Test matches I grew up watching. The Irene van Dykes, the Laura Geitzes, just unreal. So to be part of it, the passion’s there and both of us want to finish 2023 on a high note.”
Hadley will be 34 by the time of the next World Cup but don’t count the 2015 World Cup winner out of another benchmark event on home soil. Even in 2019 her luck was rotten, breaking her arm against the Kiwis.
“While the hardships and the ups and downs were tough, it’s made me hungry and prolonged that career – given me that drive and that motivation,” said Hadley, who has also been through a knee reconstruction.
“There’s probably a lot of noise: ‘Oh, Paige is 31, what can she do, how long is she going to play for?’ and even I don’t know,” Hadley said.
“But whilst I’m hungry, whilst I’m in this environment, you just want more of it. It’s so hard to get into, so once you get in there you want to make the most of it.”

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