The Australian Netball Diamonds have capped off a stellar year with another nail biting 44-41 goal win over arch rivals New Zealand to clinch the Holden Netball Test Series, retain the Constellation Cup and reclaim the world number one ranking.
In front of a capacity crowd at Hisense Arena in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, the Diamonds were forced to claw their way back from an eight goal deficit in the first half but stormed home to seal the series win in the most dramatic fashion.
The Silver Ferns exploded out of the blocks in the first quarter to lead 12-6, keeping the Diamonds to their lowest first quarter score for the entire series.
Coach Lisa Alexander wasted no time in pulling the changes with goal attack Natalie Medhurst sent to bench after just 1 goal from 2 attempts in the first quarter. Erin Bell moved from the wing attack into goals and Madison Brown entered the game at wing attack.
With terrific depth in the ranks and the attitudes to match, Alexander had no hesitation in using in her bench in the decider.
“The team behaviors that we have been working on gives me great confidence that no matter what line up I can put out there they will perform when they have to and they are very ruthless in that execution,” Alexander said.
The changes paid dividends with the Diamonds drawing the quarter at 10 goal a piece, but it was still a six goal buffer at the main break.
Alexander made another change to her side for the second half with Captain Catherine Cox moving to bench to make way for Diamonds super sub Caitlin Bassett at goal shooter.
In another typical Bassett performance, she proved to be a thorn in the side of the Silvers Ferns as she bagged 12 goals from 12 attempts to take the Diamonds from a six goal deficit to a two goal lead heading into the final quarter time.
“She is a very special player, there is no doubt about that,” Alexander said.
“You’ve seen her at world champs, she can bring us home and we have complete confidence in her to do that. She will be a starting shooter not too far down the track.”
Buoyed on by a parochial home crowd, the Diamonds held their nerve with Bassett and Bell unbreakable in the goal circle, shooting the Diamonds to a three goal victory.
The pace and precision of the mid court duo of Browne and Kim Green was simply outstanding for the Diamonds with both players producing near career best performances. In only her second ever outing against the Kiwis, Victorian Madison Browne was named player of the match.
The victory capped off an incredible year for the World Champion Diamonds. Not only do they retain the Constellation Cup for another year, they rightfully won back the all important world number one ranking.
For Alexander, this series was a perfect start to what looks like being a long and successful career at the helm of the world’s best netball team.
“It was very special, but they are a very special group of girls,” Alexander said.
The Diamonds players will now take a well deserved rest before pre season starts with their respective ANZ Championship teams.
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