Diamond ready to sparkle once more
EIGHT years after her last Test appearance for the Australian Diamonds, Demelza McCloud will be back wearing green and gold in the first Test against the Malawi Queens in Wollongong tonight.
And the Queensland Firebirds defender is determined not to make the same mistake she did back then.
The 33-year-old played eight Tests between 2004 and 2005, but admitted to APN yesterday that she took those appearances for granted.
"I just did not respect what playing for Australia meant - I had no idea, to be honest," McCloud said. "So many players dream of playing for Australia, but the reality is that only a lucky few do.
"I just didn't see it that way back then, but I really appreciate it so much more this time around.
"There's no greater honour in the sporting world than representing your country (and) I'm just loving every minute of it."
The fact McCloud is back playing in the international arena again is an achievement in itself given she retired from playing in 2010.
"I still had the passion to play, but it was time for a change in direction," she said.
She made a brief comeback with the Melbourne Vixens in the trans-Tasman Championship later that year as an injury replacement player before she could not resist the urge to play in the Championship again two years later.
McCloud spent a season in New Zealand playing with the Southern Steel before she joined the Firebirds last season.
"When I stepped back onto court in the Championship, I just knew that it was home," she said. "But I never expected to be in contention for an Australian call-up though.
"There are so many quality players around me that I thought the boat had sailed and I had missed it.
"So when I got that call telling me I was in the squad for the Malawi series, well, that was the best feeling ever and I intend to make most of this second opportunity for me."
Australia has beaten the African nation in all three previous encounters between them, but McCloud said the world champion Aussies are taking nothing for granted.
"Malawi will be tougher than a lot of people expect," said McCloud, who will form part of the defensive combination alongside her Queensland teammate and Australian captain, Laura Geitz.
"We have to back ourselves physically and as Lisa (coach Lisa Alexander) always says 'we have to be really hard, strong and unbreakable - just like a diamond'."