Youngsters shine in series opener

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The future of Australian netball shone bright in the Samsung Diamonds’ Netball Quad Series opener, defeating England 54 to 50 at Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

23-year-old Courtney Bruce became the 172nd athlete to represent Australia, earning her first call up at goal keeper in the home side’s starting seven.

Bruce was named Samsung Player of the Match, with five intercepts, eight deflections and four defensive rebounds to her name. The Perth local gained a number of tips at clutch moments, shifting momentum back towards the Diamonds.

“I still feel like I’m dreaming a little bit,” said Bruce.

“It was really exciting, to be standing up next to Bass (Caitlin Bassett), someone that I have known since I was 14-15 years old.

“I felt safe having Bass next to me and all the girls out there, it was just amazing.”

The Roses started the game strong, with three quick early goals and Geva Mentor prowling for intercepts. The Diamonds defence fought back, turning over the ball to the ever-reliable Caitlin Bassett. The home side lead 15-10 at the end of the first term.

The Diamonds remained unchanged in the second quarter, registering a run of five unanswered goals in the opening minutes of the term. The breakaway saw the Roses bring on Serena Guthrie to centre and Beth Cobden in wing defence during a timeout, but momentum remained with the Australians. The Diamonds had the advantage 32 – 22 at the main break.

Coach Lisa Alexander was pleased with her side’s opening half, stating “I knew they could do it, that’s the thing that I was delighted about, particularly the first half.

“I knew that that was the sort of level of netball that they were capable of. We just have stuff to work on for the second half.”

Tegan Philip returned to goal attack in the third quarter, for the first time since 22 October 2014, scoring four goals from five attempts. Tippett returned to goal attack for the final quarter. Youngster Jo Weston replaced April Brandley at goal defence for most of the second half.

Australia’s lead narrowed to six goals at the end of the third quarter, 43 – 37. The Roses came back fighting in the final term, drawing the margin to within three goals with less than two minutes on the clock.

Alexander was happy her young squad withstood the Roses challenge, despite being the most inexperienced group in the Netball Quad Series.

“We proved all the naysayers about our experience levels wrong, which I love to do,” said Alexander.

“I reminded the players about that today, that it was up to them to create their history and make it themselves. I’ve always said you ignore youth at your peril,” she explained.

AUSTRALIAN DIAMONDS (54) defeated ENGLAND ROSES (50)

Australian Diamonds shooting statistics
Caitlin Bassett 43/46 (93%)
Gretel Tippett  7/9 (78%)
Tegan Philip 4/5 (80%)

England Roses statistics
Kadeen Corbin 20/25 (80%)
Helen Housby 30/34 (88%)

Match MVP: Courtney Bruce (Australia)