The Samsung Diamonds were defeated by the New Zealand Silver Ferns 57-47 in Invercargill, in the final test of the Netball Quad Series.
The Silver Ferns claimed the Quad Series title, finishing higher than the Diamonds on the ladder based on percentage.
It is the first time since the 2012 Constellation Cup that New Zealand has won a series over the Diamonds.
Coach Lisa Alexander reverted back to her starting seven from the opening test of the Netball Quad Series to begin the game.
It was the first time Australia has come up against New Zealand’s infamous zone defence all year, after the establishment of a new national netball league in each country, with the Diamonds under visible pressure from the first centre pass.
New Zealand youngster, 192cm goal keeper Kelly Jury, caused havoc in the Australian shooting circle, with the Diamonds having to rethink their feed into Bassett in the opening quarter. The attackers were missing cohesion, with the space confused by the Silver Ferns.
A high penalty count in the first term hurt the Diamonds, the defensive end lacking some discipline with 14 contacts and three obstructions. The Silver Ferns lead at the first break, 18 – 10.
“It’s who takes that ascendancy psychologically in that first quarter and we played into their hands, we talked about not doing that but unfortunately we did,” said Alexander.
“We know about all our strategies against the zone, we simply just didn’t do it.”
The Diamonds failed to capitalise on turnovers across the court, particularly in the opening half.
“Our defenders were also guilty of not getting the ball through, they made too many errors of their own on attack. In general, we didn’t play the Silver Ferns well,” said Alexander.
Liz Watson was introduced into centre for the second quarter, immediately making an impact feeding into the goal circle. The Diamonds outscored the Ferns 14-13 in the second term, but the Ferns lead at halftime 31 – 24.
Captain Caitlin Bassett said, “once we got the ball in the circle there was no issue, it was getting the ball into the circle where we had the problem tonight. Whether it was lack of drive, I guess that meant I started moving a bit more which is not my normal game.”
The second half saw multiple changes across the court, with the Australian coaches searching for answers.
Tegan Philip was introduced at goal attack, Kim Ravaillion back into centre and Liz Watson moved out to wing attack at the start of the second half. Further changes were made with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, with Caitlin Thwaites entering the game at goal shooter. The Diamonds trailed at the final break, 44 – 33.
Bassett identified that the Ferns broke down the connections within the usually interconnected Diamonds.
“Tonight I think we lost our connection,” she said.
“We didn’t play as a team, we were doing too much individual work and not enough unit work. They split us apart. They exposed that for us, put us into individual units, we didn’t step up and get back together again.”
Emily Mannix made her Australian netball debut in the final quarter, coming on at goal keeper, becoming the 173rd player to represent Australia.
Gretel Tippett also re-joined the game at wing attack, providing more height into the midcourt, with Liz Watson back to centre.
Alexander tinkered with the combinations one final time with seven minutes remaining, introducing Jo Weston at goal keeper and Madi Robinson returning to wing attack. It was too little too late, but the experience under pressure was valuable for some of the less-experienced combinations.
Bassett identified that the Diamonds had problems finding the circle edge and continuing on improving in the final game.
“The things that we’ve been doing in the last couple of games and the things that we’ve been building, unfortunately didn’t come out tonight,” she said.
“I guess that is up to us to look at as we have a four game series ahead against New Zealand.
“We’ll take the positives that we can from tonight and the positives are Emily Mannix getting out there for her debut which was fantastic.”