The Samsung Diamonds blooded another potential gem as they launched the Netball Quad Series with a 61-44 win against the South African SPAR Proteas at Spark Arena, Auckland.
Needing to find a new layer of depth following the departure of Laura Geitz, Susan Pettitt, Sharni Layton and Madi Robinson from the squad, Australia showed glimpses of confidence and cohesion in the first step towards next year’s World Cup in Liverpool.
Captain Caitlin Bassett (31/34) and her shooting circle partner Stephanie Wood (15/18) were brutally efficient once they overcame some early wobbles.
Wood, in particular, got the Diamonds out of trouble with her monstrous work rate and finished as the game’s most creative feeder with 18 goal assists in three quarters.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect was the confidence of debutante Kelsey Browne.
Browne slipped seamlessly into the wing attack position in the second half when the Diamonds turned a narrow lead into a crushing win.
The 17-goal win was not the perfect start to the international series, with Australia turning over plenty of possession as they settled into the game.
The midcourt remains a work in progress but at least the Diamonds now have a marker from where they can build towards Wednesday’s Commonwealth Games final rematch against England in Newcastle.
Every player except defender Emily Mannix received court time as the Diamonds once again demonstrated they can rotate their bench to keep energy levels high.
Australia coach Lisa Alexander entrusted Wood with the starting goal attack bib in the series opener, pitting the Queenslander into a duel with her Sunshine Coast Lightning teammate Karla Pretorius.
It was at the attack end where the Diamonds showed some first quarter nerves.
Proteas goal keeper Phumza Maweni heaped enormous pressure on her opposing goalers and collected two sharp gains for her efforts.
Neither side was capable of turning valuable defensive wins into scoreboard dominance as the game approached halftime.
The battle between Wood and Pretorius was the one constant. Pretorius, fresh from an outstanding Suncorp Super Netball finals series was a menace, forcing the Australian feeders into a handful of risky passes.
Wood had to supersize her workload and was her team’s most influential attacker throughout the first half.
The high volume of possession fed into the forward line helped Bassett to 22 goals as Australia wrestled to a 28-24 lead at halftime.
Needing a spark to rattle the Proteas troublesome defenders, Australia injected Browne at the start of the third term and her impact was immediate.
The two-time Lightning premiership star’s zip made a difference for there was no suitable match-up within the Proteas.
Space opened up for the Diamonds who broke South Africa’s resistance during the third quarter.
With goal keeper Courtney Bruce beginning to wear down Lenize Potgieter, Australia stretched its lead to a commanding 46-32 at the final change.
Q1: Diamonds 13 v Proteas 11
Q2: Diamonds 15 v Proteas 13
Q3: Diamonds 18 v Proteas 8
Q4: Diamonds 15 v Proteas 12
Diamonds shooting statistics
Caitlin Bassett 31/34
Stephanie Wood 15/18
Gretel Tippett 8/8
Caitlin Thwaites 7/9
Proteas shooting statistics
Lenize Potgieter 19/23
Maryka Holtzhausen 15/20
Ine-Mari Venter 10/10
Diamonds starting seven
GS: Caitlin Bassett, GA: Stephanie Wood, WA: Liz Watson, C: Kim Ravaillion, WD: Gabi Simpson, GD: Jo Weston, GK: Courtney Bruce.
Proteas starting seven
GS: Lenize Potgieter, GA Maryka Holtzhausen, WA: Bongiwe Msomi, C: Khanyisa Chawane, WD: Shadine Van der Merwe, GD: Karla Pretorius, GK: Phumza Maweni