The future of the Australian Diamonds is shining bright according to coach Lisa Alexander following a practice match against the Australian 21/U Team in Invercargill on Tuesday.
The underage team, who are in New Zealand on tour, provided the perfect support act for the Diamonds’ Constellation Cup title defence, which begins on Thursday at ILT Stadium Southland.
“It was a terrific hit out, the Australian 21/U Team really brought it, particularly when they beat us in that last quarter,” Alexander said.
“They brought a lot of intensity and physicality, particularly in the fourth quarter, which is a great thing for us to have that practice match before we hit the Silver Ferns on Thursday night so I’m grateful to have them over here.”
The rare opportunity to bring the two national teams together provided the promising netballers with a unique chance to test themselves against the Commonwealth Games gold medallists while giving the Diamonds important match practice.
Australian 21/U coach Tania Obst said her young players would take a lot away from the games, which will also include a game against the Silver Ferns on Wednesday.
“A lot of these girls are playing ANZ Championship, and some aren’t, but it gives them a really good opportunity to see what is required at that international level,” Obst said.
“The players will get an appreciation for the physical attributes and skill level to play at this level.
“The Diamonds were exceptional with some of their ball movement and if we can take a little bit from that and try to implement that against the Silver Ferns we should give them a good run.”
Alexander suggested it wouldn’t be long until we see some of the 21s knocking on her Diamonds door.
“It was great for the 21s players to see the professionalism of the Diamonds and it gives them someone to aim for and try to take that spot one day so it was terrific and they did a great job,” Alexander said.
“There is talent all over the place, to see Gretel Tippett out there, she’s so unusual and unique as a player, and Mahalia Cassidy who was terrific, her speed, acceleration and athleticism are certainly going to take our notice in the future.”
Following the practice match on Tuesday, the Diamonds will continue their preparations for the first Test with a training session on Wednesday. “We’ve got a few things to work on but we know that,” Alexander said.
“We were a bit rusty still so we’ll work on that at training then we’ll have a little captain’s run on Thursday morning to polish off.”
The Silver Ferns host the first Test of the 2014 Constellation Cup at ILT Stadium Southland from 4.30pm (AEST) on Thursday.
Catch at all the action live on FOX SPORTS and SBS 2. Real Insurance Netball Test Series tickets, including the second and third Tests of the Constellation Cup in Melbourne (October 8) and Sydney (October 11), are available from Ticketek. Purchase online at www.ticketek.com.au, phone 132 849 or any Ticketek outlet.