Diamonds prepared for new Silver Ferns challenge

The Australian Diamonds will be out to maintain their recent dominance over New Zealand when the two arch rivals meet in the 2015 Constellation Cup series that begins next week.

The four-Test series gets underway in Christchurch on Tuesday 20 October with games to follow in Auckland (22 October), Melbourne (25 October) and Perth (30 October).

The series will be the first meeting between the two countries since the final of the Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015 in August where the Diamonds triumphed by three goals.

The Diamonds have won 10 of the last 11 Tests played between the two countries stretching back to September 2013.

The Silver Ferns stopped Australia equaling its all-time record of 10 consecutive wins against them in the pool matches at the Netball World Cup before the Diamonds turned the tables in the final at Allphones Arena.

The Diamonds will be keen to keep the Constellation Cup – first played for in 2010 – in their hands for the third consecutive year.

The Diamonds team has undergone some changes to the triumphant 12 that won the world title following the retirements of Julie Corletto, Rebecca Bulley and Kimberlee Green.

Queensland Firebirds’ Clare McMeniman, Gabi Simpson and Gretel Tippett will travel to New Zealand for the opening two Tests of the series.

April Letton, Ashleigh Brazill and Jo Weston are also in line for a call up when the series heads to Australia for the Melbourne and Perth Tests.

_MCA0136LiDiamonds coach Lisa Alexander said it’s exciting to be starting a new era for the team.

“This group is really driven to keep improving and that’s what you want as a coach,” Alexander said.

“The motivation is still there. It’s really exciting … when you bring new talent into the group, particularly talent that’s been knocking on the door, they really appreciate that opportunity and they bring fresh enthusiasm to the group and that helps everybody else.”

The loss of Corletto and Bulley means the Diamonds will have a new-look defence for the series and Alexander said she will look to trial many different combinations over the four Tests with captain Laura Geitz and Sharni Layton.

“We will try and do a bit of tinkering,” Alexander said. “It’s important to refresh team and set new challenges but we want to make sure we’re winning and the athletes are really driven for that.

“So we’re looking to win every game.”

New Zealand made one change to its Netball World Cup squad with shooter Ameliaranne Wells replacing Maria Tutaia.

The series opener will be the first time the Diamonds have played in Christchurch since 2012 – but they have won seven of the nine Tests hosted between the two countries by the South Island city.

This will be the last series that Alexander and Wai Taumaunu will coach against each other with the Silver Ferns leader stepping down from her role after the Perth Test.

Since their first meeting in October 2011, they have coached against each other on 20 occasions with Alexander leading overall head-to-head 14-6.

Both coaches will also reach their 50-Test milestones during the series – Taumaunu in Christchurch and Alexander in Perth.

The 2015 Constellation Cup Series will be broadcast on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten and the Netball Live app. Limited tickets available via Ticketek.