THE Mission Queensland Firebirds have ruled captain Laura Geitz out of this weekend's ANZ Championship pre-season competition in Sydney due to ongoing recovery from an off season knee operation.
The Allora goal keeper was recently honoured with a function at the Allora Sporting Hall of Fame after leading Australia to a gold medal win in the Commonwealth Games.
While Geitz is recovering well and on track to hit the court in the Firebirds opening round match on March 1 against the West Coast Fever in Brisbane, Coach Roselee Jencke said she wants to stick to the rehabilitation plan.
"Laura is progressing really well and has been training all the way through doing her rehab but is yet to step on court," Jencke said.
"She is not ready for this weekend and she does not need to be ready for this weekend, she will be right for the first game and that has always been our aim."
"We were hopeful she would be able to get in a couple of quarters on court during the pre-season tournament but that opportunity isn't there and we just need to make sure we follow the medical advice and timelines but she is on track for March 1," Jencke said.
The Firebirds will still hit the court in the summer shootout at Sydney Olympic Park tomorrow with a formidable defensive end boasting three Diamonds squad members in Firebirds vice-captain and former Warwick West State School student Clare McMeniman, Bec Bulley and Gabi Simpson plus young 190cm Queenslander known as the other Laura, Laura Clemesha.
Jencke said Geitz would finally hit the court at training for the first time tonight to do a skills session, which is specific to her.
"It will be really exciting for the team to have her on court for the first time this pre-season and we will progress that over the next few weeks," Jencke said.
"She is feeling really great in herself which is a real positive, she will still be going down with the team to the pre-season tournament and will still be captain and still playing that role as captain from the bench."
Geitz replacement is 19-year-old Australian Netball League star Mahalia Cassidy who Jencke said is no stranger to the Firebirds environment.
"Mahalia has been coming in as part of a train on seven and when they come in they are included in the warm up and team briefing, so she knows the expectations that have been set for the team, what we expect out on court and the standards we have here at the Firebirds," Jencke said.
Cassidy was part of the 19U Queensland State team who took out the National Championship in 2014 and Jencke said she is looking forward to seeing what the feisty mid-courter can do.
"She is a feisty and talented player, it will be good for her to grab an opportunity to get some court time and see and feel what it is like to be involved in a team at the ANZ level."
Jencke said the Firebirds number one goal in 2015 is to win the ANZ Championship and the 2011 Championship winning coach knows she has the team that can have a successful season after finishing bridesmaids the last two years.
"I have a very versatile team and can swap a number of my players around so it will really good to put out on court a number of different combination and give some of the younger players an opportunity to show what they can do.
"Also a chance to really work on some of the things we have been working on at training and executing those but also not giving away to much before the season starts," Jencke said.
The Mission Queensland Firebirds will hit the court launching their 2015 ANZ Championship campaign with an opening round match against the West Coast Fever, Sunday, 1 March at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
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