The Samsung Diamonds have won the Constellation Cup series 4-0, after a dominant 16-goal victory over the New Zealand Silver Ferns.
It is the first time since 2014 that the Diamonds have not lost a game during the annual series.
All 12 athletes took to court, with a strong display of teamwork and seamless substitutions.
Coach Lisa Alexander explained that teamwork was an area of focus, particularly in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games.
“We emphasized the teamwork aspects, to go away from the individual stuff,” said Alexander.
“Everyone understands that this game, and their success, and increasing their chances of selection is based on the team winning and those connections being seamless.”
“Every game we pushed out our lead and that was our focus. Tonight we really wanted to put out a four-quarter performance,” player of the match Liz Watson said.
“In previous games we’ve had lapses, we’ve had patchy quarters. I think tonight we started strong and kept building each quarter. That’s something we have spoken about a lot and we wanted to finish this tour on a high.
“The first game we only one by three, and to push out now to 16 you can see the progress we made in this tour.”
The Silver Ferns started with spark with the first five goals of the game. The Diamonds levelled the score six-all halfway through the opening term, before the Ferns went into the first break with a one-goal advantage 13-12.
It was a physical contest across the court, exemplified by the battle between Liz Watson and Kayla Cullen.
Maria Tutaia entered the second quarter at goal attack after six minutes, closely followed by Caitlin Thwaites into the Australian goal shooter bib. The Diamonds lead 26-22 into half time.
“I knew it was going to be physical and I kind of liked the physicality of the game, it’s something that I thrive on,” said Watson.
“You know when they are starting to get physical that they could be getting frustrated. You have to take it as a positive, but keep brushing it off and keep going.”
It was the home side’s determination and grit that saw them push away 14-9 in the third quarter. They scooped up three pick-ups, whilst the Ferns had none. The Diamonds went into the final break with a nine-goal advantage, 40-31.
The combination of Jo Weston and Courtney Bruce, though new to the test match environment, put pressure on the Ferns defenders, ably supported by vice captain Gabi Simpson.
Alexander praised the range within her defenders, saying “that’s terrific for us that we’ve got those fantastic defenders who show a bit of variability in their play and can match up against what the Kiwis have.”
Susan Pettitt moved into goal attack for the final quarter, playing a key role as playmaker. The depth of the Diamonds team was showcased in the final eight minutes of the game, with three simultaneous changes; Kate Moloney (centre), Caitlyn Nevins (wing attack) and April Brandley (goal defence), with seamless transition.
The Diamonds were relentless, outscoring the Ferns 18-11 in the final term.
Alexander maintains that the team will not get too carried away, as the journey towards the Commonwealth Games builds.
“You don’t get too carried away with wins, you don’t get too carried away with your losses.
“You’ve got to keep an even keel here so we don’t want to get over excited about this we are still building to commonwealth games, but it’s a very positive thing.”
Samsung Diamonds shooting statistics
Caitlin Bassett 9/12 (75%)
Stephanie Wood 15/20 (75%)
Caitlin Thwaites 30/32 (94%)
Susan Pettitt 4/6 (67%)
New Zealand Silver Ferns shooting statistics
Maria Tutaia 12/16 (75%)
Bailey Mes 1/3 (33%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 24/28 (86%)
Maia Wilson 5/6 (83%)
Article: Netball Australia