Netball Constellation Cup Australia Diamonds v New Zealand game 3: Aussies win 62-47


Diamonds captain Liz Watson has thrust a week of controversy aside to put Australia on the cusp of regaining the Constellation Cup after leading a miraculous turnaround.

Playing their first game on home soil in 1088 days, the Diamonds turned around their lacklustre showing across the ditch in the opening two matches to win 62-47.

The Diamonds needed to win the final two games of the series by a combined margin of 13 goals or more to reclaim the trophy after losing it in 2021.

And after erasing the margin, they can seal the series on the Gold Coast on Sunday with victory.

Under pressure on and off the court, with tensions over sponsorship deals and pay negotiations boiling under the surface as players attempt to push for spots in the team for next year’s World Cup, the Diamonds managed to push the noise into the background to concentrate on their core job.

Playing their first game in Australia in almost three years due to Covid, the Diamonds put on a show in front of a full house at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena.

Watson officially took over the Diamonds captaincy last year after first leading her side in the last Constellation Cup.

But this was her first game in charge on home soil and she played like it, dominating the midcourt in a workaholic performance.

Watson finished with an enormous 55 feeds – more than double the game’s next best, teammate Kate Moloney – getting to circle edge and finding her shooters effectively.

“Those games, it wasn’t us,” Watson said.

“It was disappointing to go out there and not play our style but I think with the intent that we had, we wanted to score more than 60 goals and we did that – there were so many little wins, it was awesome.”

Watson’s connection with Melbourne Vixens clubmate Kate Moloney and wing defence Jamie-Lee Price was outstanding, while the injection of Jo Westson was pivotal to the Diamonds dominating the Ferns in defence.

After struggling to contain Silver Ferns shooter Grace Nweke in the opening two matches of the series in New Zealand, the Diamonds starved the holding shooter of ball, with goalkeeper Courtney Bruce and goal defence Weston outstanding.

Weston was called into the Diamonds side for the injured Aryang and formed an impenetrable wall with Bruce, the pair outstnding in an incredibly physical match.

The Diamonds also started holding shooter Sophie Garbin in a change Watson said gave them a strong presence in the circle.

“She’s easy to find and I think she adds that punch that we need and adds that enthusiasm and drive,” she said.

Watson was loathe to talk about her own form, instead turning her focus on the team.

“I love this team so much,” she said.

“I said to them today at the start of the game, just go out there, play free, play for each other, play for this crowd.”

DIAMONDS 62 (Garbin 34, Wood 28)

SILVER FERNS 47 (Nweke 30, Selby-Rickit 7, Ekenasio 6, Wilson 4)

RELIVE THE LIVE BLOG ANALYSIS HERE

The coaches have spoken.

Stacey Markinkovich is thrilled with the start the Diamonds have made and the “intensity that the whole group has put out on court in positioning and contest on the ball and balanced movement”.

Marinkovich acknowledged the difference Weston was making in her first game of the series.

“The way Joey plays the game is tight on the body and that’s what we needed to do to ramp up the pressure outside the circle before the ball comes in,” she said.

Despite their strong start, Marinkovich could still make changes if needed.

“We’ll see what the girls (out there now) can do, but we’ll inject fresh legs if we need to.”

And just as we say that, Amy Parmenter has been injected at wing defence for Price, who has been outstanding.

Ferns coach Noeline Taurua wants her team to be within four or five at the final change to have a chance of pushing for a series-sealing win.

HALF-TIME – SKIPPER STARS AS DIAMONDS CONTINUE STRONG START

Talk about a captain’s knock.

Liz Watson has 28 feeds and 15 goal assists in the first half alone as the Diamonds dominate the midcourt.

The Melbourne midcourter is back on her home court and playing in the midcourt with Vixens co-captain Kate Moloney is like slipping on a comfortable old shoe.

Okay, in her first domestic Test as Diamonds skipper there must have been some nerves but Watson has come to play.

Teammate Jo Weston has as well, with the defensive end going to work and the changes made by the Ferns reinforcing their confidence.

“I think Court (Bruce) is having a great game at goalkeeper and the same with ‘J’ (Jamie-Lee Price) and Kate (Moloney) out in front, have really managed to cause some havoc on the centre and wing attack position.”

The Aussies are up by nine goals at the long break – 31-22 – and if they can maintain the margin and seal the win, are on the way to claiming back the Constellation Cup.

1ST QUARTER- AUSTRALIA OUT TO 10-GOAL LEAD

The Diamonds have improved but the Ferns are undoubtedly missing dynamic midcourter Peta Toeava, who was outstanding in the opening two Tests.

The pocket rocket had an incredible combination with Nweke in games one and two, with her no-look high passes to the shooter giving the Ferns an edge.

But Toeava was not selected for the Australian legs of the Constellation Cup and the visitors are struggling to get the ball cleanly to circle edge for the feed.

It’s an incredibly physical match too – these teams are going at each other hammer and tong, especially in the circle.

It’s forced Kiwi coach Noeline Taurua to make a change, taking her captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio off, with Te Paea Selby-Rickit on at goal attack as the Aussies pish out to a 10-goal lead.

DIAMONDS SPONSOR HOLDOUT CONTINUES

Australia has again appeared without the Hancock Prospecting logo on its dress as tension remains over the sport’s multimillion-dollar partnership with Australia’s richest woman.

As fans surrounded Melbourne’s John Cairn Arena ahead of the match, plenty of talk about the sponsorship stoush could be heard.

A new drama erupted ahead of the match, with former board member Nareem Young revealing she experienced racism while serving on the Netball Australia board seven years ago and believes the behaviour exists at “every level” of the sport.

But focus switched as soon as the Diamonds took the court in front of a sellout crowd for their first match on home soil in 1088 days.

The Diamonds have made several changes to their side with the series on the line and it’s made a difference in the opening quarter, with Australia taking a four-goal lead to the opening break.

After struggling to contain Silver Ferns shooter Grace Nweke in the opening two matches of the series in New Zealand, the Diamonds have starved the holding shooter of ball, with goalkeeper Courtney Bruce and goal defence Jo Weston outstanding.

Melbourne Vixens defender Weston was called into the Diamonds side for the injured Aryang and she is forming an impenetrable wall with Bruce, who already has two gains, an intercept and two deflections in the first quarter.

Sophie Garbin, who has had few minutes in the opening two games, has started at goal shooter ahead of Cara Koenen.

AUSSIE MEN CLAIM HISTORIC TRANS-TASMAN WIN

Australia has withstood a last-ditch Kiwi fightback, hanging on for a 61-57 win to claim the trans-Tasman Cup 2-1 in a historic men’s series between the two countries.

The final thrilling stages of the match were played out in front of thousands of fans at a packed John Cain Arena in Melbourne, with the match also broadcast live on Fox Sports in a huge moment for the men’s game.

After dominating the opening match, the Aussies lost the second after failing to contain towering Kiwi shooter Junior Levi.

But they had the final say on Wednesday night, leading by eight goals at one stage in the final quarter before New Zealand fought back.

Australian defenders Dravyn Lee-Tauroa, Daniel Cools and captain Dylan Nexhip were outstanding, preventing the Kiwis from feeding Levi easily.

At the other end of the court, Jerome Gillbard dominated, slotting 40 of his 41 shots to ensure the Aussies sealed the win.

“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken in front of this many people before,” Nexhip said after the match.

“It’s taken so long for men’s netball to get this opportunity.”

And he thanked New Zealand for helping the teams put on a “display of netball unrivalled around the world” for the men’s game.

“I am just bursting with pride to have the opportunity to lead a humble, hardworking group of people,” he said.

“It has ben a long, long road for most of us but we are here now and the quality of netball we put on today was absolutely phenomenal.”

AUSTRLAIA 61 (Gillbard 40, Roberts 21)

NEW ZEALAND 57 (Levi 48, Wetere 5, Jefferies 4)

CAN DIAMONDS RISE ABOVE $15M SCANDAL IN DO-OR-DIE CLASH?

Kiera Austin and Jo Weston return for the Australia Diamonds in their do-or-die clash with New Zealand in Game III of the Constellation Cup.

The team is back on home soil after falling in the opening two clashes across the ditch and must win at John Cain Arena tonight to keep the series alive.

While the team looks to get back to winning ways on court there has been endless drama off this week amid player concerns about the partnership with Hancock Prospecting.

A fortnight ago Netball Australia announced it had signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Hancock that would underpin the Diamonds program for future success and enable it to grow the game at community and grassroots level.

But the deal, reportedly worth $3.5 million a year until the end of 2025, has been mired in controversy since being revealed, with former captain Sharni Norder among those to speak out about aligning the Diamonds brand with the mining company.

It’s also understood squad member Donnell Wallam, a proud Noongar woman who will become just the third First Nations Diamond if she makes her debut in the series against England later this month, had expressed concerns about the partnership.

The late Lang Hancock, founder of Hancock Prospecting and father of company boss Gina Rinehart, infamously suggested in 1984 that Indigenous Australians should be sterilised to “breed themselves out” in coming years.

The Diamonds have so far not displayed the Hancock Prospecting logo for the Constellation Cup amid the fall out between governing body and players.

This week also saw long-time Chair Marina Go stand down from her position with Netball Australia.

Originally published as Netball Constellation Cup Australia Diamonds v New Zealand game 3: Aussies win 62-47



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