The Australian Diamonds have opened their Netball Quad Series campaign with a convincing 68 – 43 victory over South Africa Spar Proteas in Auckland.
Kristiana Manu’a and Stephanie Wood became the 169th and 170th athletes to represent the Australian Netball Team, entering in the fourth quarter at goal keeper and goal attack respectively.
The win was also a triumphant return to the green and gold for Madi Robinson, who last played for Australia 675 days ago, with an ACL injury seeing her miss the 2015 international season and 2016 Tour of England. She was rewarded for a dominant performance, named Player of the Match.
The team displayed defensive prowess and strength, standing up to a fitter, stronger South African side than the last time they met at Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015.
“I’m really pleased with their performance, they stood up to some quite physical pressure and I think they did that very well,” said Coach Lisa Alexander.
“They were disciplined, they pulled the ball in strongly and I think the ball was delivered beautifully on most occasions so I am very pleased with that.”
The depth of the Diamonds was also on display, with all 12 players taking to court at various times during the match.
“There was new combinations out on court, I think we’ll probably see that not just from our team but from all of the teams across this series,” said Acting Captain Clare McMeniman.
“That’s not only good for us as netballers, but also good for netball fans as well. They are getting exposed to a whole new group of athletes and players which that’s part of the charm that comes with the Quad Series.”
The Australians started with vigor, applying defensive pressure from the first whistle. They turned it up a gear to close out the opening term, scoring the final five goals of the first quarter to end the term 19 – 10.
Both teams opted to keep their starting seven lineups for the second quarter, with the Diamonds again holding their opposition to just 10 goals. Through confident passages of play and a vocal bench, they opened up the lead to 36-20 to close out the first half.
The third term saw Caitlin Thwaites move into goal shooter, where she shot at 100 per cent accuracy, netting 23 goals in the half. Liz Watson also played the second half in the centre bib, with April Brandley into goal defence and with McMeniman shifting to wing defence.
Again the Diamonds kept the Proteas to a 10 goal quarter, heading into the final term 50 – 30.
The Diamonds’ coaches made further changes for the fourth quarter, with Gabi Simpson moving back into wing defence, and Wood and Manu’a making their debuts.
Attention now shifts to the second Test against England Roses next Wednesday in Adelaide. Limited tickets are still available via Ticketek.
Photography: Michael Bradley
Australian Diamonds shooting statistics
Caitlin Bassett 28/30 (93%)
Natalie Medhurst 12/16 (75%)
Caitlin Thwaites 23/23 (100%)
Stephanie Wood 5/6 (83%)
South Africa Spar Proteas shooting statistics
Lenzie Potgieter 30/37 (81%)
Lindie Lombard 6/9 (67%)
Renske Stolz 7/11 (64%)
Australia starting seven – GS: Caitlin Bassett, GA: Nat Medhurst, WA: Madi Robinson C: Kim Ravaillion, WD: Gabi Simpson, GD: Clare McMeniman, GK: Sharni Layton
South Africa starting seven – GS: Lenize Potgieter, GA: Lindie Lombard, WA: Bongiwe Msomi, C: Erin Burger, WD: Precious Mthembu, GD: Karla Mostert, GK: Phumza Maweni
Match MVP: Madi Robinson (Australia)