The Diamonds, who are aiming to win Commonwealth Games gold for the first time since 2002, are set for the seventh and final game of the season against the Malawi Queens on the Gold Coast on Saturday night.
After dropping the opening Test to the Silver Ferns in Invercargill, the Diamonds have bounced back to win five consecutive Tests in a highly successful Test season against New Zealand and Malawi.
Along with reclaiming the Constellation Cup, the Australians head into next year’s Games with a huge shot of confidence after beating the archrivals in four consecutive Tests for the first time in 15 years.
“It’s been a long tour, we’ve had five games against the Silver Ferns, which is a lot, we’ve got one more game on the Gold Coast,” Australian Diamonds captain Laura Geitz said following the first Test against Malawi in Wollongong.
“We’re really happy and proud of the performances we’ve put out to date, one more to go and a great way to finish the international season this year.”
The players will enjoy a well-deserved rest following Saturday’s last Test against Malawi before returning to their ANZ Championship environments for pre-season training ahead of the opening round in March.
A mid-season selection camp will see the squad come together again before the team heads off to the northern hemisphere immediately following the season to contest the Commonwealth Games.
With limited opportunities to play as a team, this year’s seven Tests have provided coach Lisa Alexander and her charges with an opportunity to gel as a new unit following the loss of experienced personnel.
Without former captain Natalie von Bertouch, defender Mo’onia Gerrard and shooter Catherine Cox, the fresh-faced Diamonds have used the series to prepare combinations, which included the debuts of Kimberley Ravaillion, Paige Hadley and April Letton.
“This series is incredibly important, this is the last we played as a team in a Test environment before next year’s Commonwealth Games so getting those combinations working together takes time,” Geitz said.
“We all come off an ANZ Championship season, where we’re all working with different combinations in our clubs then all of a sudden we’re expected to gel and produce amazing netball, which doesn’t happen.
“I think that’s what this group has done really well, Lisa and the coaching staff have given the girls the opportunity to gel and work together, that’s all we can ask for heading into a Commonwealth Games.”
Geitz believes the two-Tests against the world’s fifth-ranked Queens is providing her side with great experience – even if the score line in Wollongong didn’t reflect the significance of the outing.
Malawi’s unique and unconventional style of play is great training for the Diamonds, who are expecting to come up against a similar opposition in the later stages of the Commonwealth Games competition.
“We don’t meet the likes of Jamaica before next year’s Commonwealth Games and they’re very aerial and love those high balls so they’re nice and strong in the air and really athletic as well which is a good test for us,” Geitz said.
“We only beat Malawi by 14 goals last time at world championships in 2011 so it just goes to show what they’re capable of doing as a team.”
The Australian Diamonds will take on the Malawi Queens in the final Test of the Coles Netball Test Series on Saturday night at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre from 7.00pm (AEST).