Diamonds prove too hard for New Zealand Silver Ferns in Constellation Cup

The Diamonds have sealed their year, and their reputation as the world’s best netball team, with a 58 to 42 goal victory over the Silver Ferns at Sydney’s Qudos Arena, sweeping the four-test Constellation Cup for only the second time.

A month ago, there were real fears surrounding the Australian side after a stunning Quad Series loss in Invercargill.

But four wins and an average margin of 12 goals left no doubt: this is the team to beat in next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Coach Lisa Alexander said it was a “very positive” performance made all the sweeter for the anxiety surrounding the Diamonds’ form a month ago

Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby could only lament her side’s lack of connections, something she thinks can only be addressed with more time together.

“We need to work that much harder,” said Silver Ferns captain Katrina Grant.

The Silver Ferns jumped out to an early lead in a terse opening quarter. Stifling defence from both sides made passing a challenge throughout.

Temalisi Fakahokatau made the most of her first chance at starting at goal keeper, disrupting passes and players with a menacing brand of defence.

It took the Diamonds six minutes to level the match, and the Ferns entered the first break one goal in front.

From that point on, though, it was all Australia as the Diamonds stretched their lead: four goals at half time, nine at the final interval before things blew out in the last 15 minutes.

With the series already decided before this final test, a lot of interest was instead focused on the ramifications for Commonwealth Games selection.

Captain Caitlin Bassett was replaced by Caitlyn Thwaites halfway through the second quarter, with the Diamonds up by three goals. The towering shooter had struggled at times in a congested circle, her normally stellar accuracy absent as she missed some easy opportunities.

The impact was immediate, as the Magpies veteran sunk her first seven shots, finishing with 30 goals at an accuracy of 94 per cent in one of her marquee performances in green and gold.

Both teams emptied their benches in the final quarter, the Kiwis were especially left scrambling in search of answers at both ends of the court.

The Diamonds have juggled goal attacks Susan Pettitt and Stephanie Wood throughout the series. Wood was handed the starting bib today, and was given three full quarters of court time.

The Australian attacking third seemed to struggle to get on the same page for much of the match, but Wood’s confidence when bombing away from distance was impressive.

At the other end of the court, Jo Weston made her first start as a Diamond at goal defence, and paired well with rising star Courtney Bruce.

Kim Ravaillion remains one of the most fascinating Australian players to watch. The young star has struggled for form this year, but worked her way into this match after a quiet opening quarter. When she was removed with five minutes remaining, she’d accumulated 28 feeds, a series high.

Wing attack Liz Watson capped a stellar season with another match MVP award. The dynamic Vixen impressed throughout the series, and will be difficult to dislodge from the starting side.

The Diamonds now get the chance for some much needed rest after a busy year. They’ll assemble again in December to start preparing for January’s Quad Series, the last chance for a tune-up before Gold Coast.