NSW junior and Swifts midcourter Paige Hadley helped the Australian Diamonds dominate the Malawi Queens, 83-34, in the first of a two-Test series in Wollongong on Wednesday night.
Swifts fans got a preview of what their 2014 line-up could deliver with Kimberlee Green and Sharni Layton on court in the first half, and Hadley making her senior international debut at WA in the second half, teaming up with Caitlin Thwaites at GS.
At just 21 years-old, Hadley wanted to pinch herself when told she was going on at halftime, in front of her home crowd.
“To have all my friends and family here, it was the best feeling ever,” Hadley said.
The NSW Swifts were well represented with four players from the 2014 roster in the Green & Gold. In her first game as Australian Vice-Captain, Green led from the front with some beautiful feeding into the Diamonds shooters, while her defensive pressure forced the Queens to look for the long ball out of the Australian attacking third.
2014 new recruit Layton stood up in her first match since Game One of the Constellation Cup, on court as goal defence in the first half, picking up some handy intercepts to turnover possession while also working the nimble Malawi shooting circle in tandem with her captain and partner Laura Geitz.
The Malawi Queens displayed their key strength early, using their quick speed to break the tight Australian man-on-man defence as the Diamonds struggled to adjust to the new style of their opposition. 2014 Canterbury Tactix recruit Mwai Kumwenda showed off her aerial acrobatics in the circle, giving netball fans and her Australian ANZ Championship opponents a taste of what to expect next season.
Australian Diamonds GS Caitlin Bassett continued her strong form from the Constellation Cup series against New Zealand Silver Ferns, scoring 22 goals at 92 per cent accuracy to be a strong target for her feeders in the circle. However despite giving away 22cm to her attacking counterpart, Malawi GK Towera Vinkhumbo showed incredible elevation to get fingertips to the high ball and force to turnover.
Australian Head Coach Lisa Alexander made wholesale changes to the Diamonds line-up for the second half, including bringing on Hadley to make her international debut at WA. Hadley was joined by 2014 teammate Thwaites at GS, with the prolific shooter finishing with 41 goals from 42 attempts at 98%.
With Thwaites on fire and fresh legs across the court for the Australians, the Diamonds powered home to win by 49 goals.
The teams now travel to the Gold Coast for the Diamonds final match of the 2013 COLES Netball Test Series on Saturday night.
AUSTRALIA – Q1: 13 – Q2: 33 (20) – Q3: 58 (25) – Q4: 83 (25)
MALAWI – Q1: 11 – Q2: 19 (8) – Q3: 24 (5) – Q4: 34 (10)
AUSTRALIA: 83/91 @ 91%
Caitlin Bassett: 22/24 @ 92%
Nat Medhurst: 11/12 @ 92%
Caitlin Thwaites: 41/42 @ 98%
Erin Bell: 9/13 @ 69%
MALAWI: 34/46 @ 71%
Mwai Kumwenda: 11/15 @ 73%
Jane Chimaliro: 15/19 @ 79%
Joyce Mvula: 8/12 @ 67%
Teams Starting Positions
AUSTRALIA – GS Caitlin Bassett, GA Nat Medhurst, WA Kimberlee Green (vc), C Madison Browne, WD Renae Hallinan, GD Sharni Layton, GK Laura Geitz (c)
MALAWI – GS Mwai Kumwenda, GA Jane Chimaliro, WA Bridget Kumwenda, C Takandwa Lwazi, WD Joana Kachilika, GD Caroline Mtukule (c), GK Towera Vinkhumbo
Q3 – GS Caitlin Thwaites, GA Erin Bell, WA Paige Hadley, GD Bec Bulley, GK Demelza McCloud
Q3 – GS Joyce Mvula, GA M Kumwenda, WA Tina Kamzah, C B Kumwenda, WD Matha Dambo; Q4 – GA Chimaliro
Photo: Tom Roberts