Another big win by the Diamonds in the Birmingham 2022 group stages was marred by an unfortunate injury to midcourter Paige Hadley.
The NSW Swift came limping off during the second quarter, with ice being applied to her calf.
Reporters had been previously told by coach Stacey Marinkovich on Saturday that Hadley was managing her calf, but the extent was unknown. She had already been on limited minutes in the previous two games.
Looking unable to put much weight on her leg at all, the extent of the injury looks to still be unknown.
“We don’t have the full update on the injury yet. She’s obviously tweaked her calf and it’s the same injury niggle she’s been working through since she picked it up in Diamonds camp,” Marinkovich told reporters after the 74-49 win over South Africa.
The midcourt continued its strong work even without her though, with Kate Moloney taking up the centre bib alongside Vixens teammate Liz Watson.
Hadley’s absence could leave the Diamonds midcourt stretched thin for the later games of the tournament. They do have the privilege of Kiera Austin however, who can rotate into wing attack to assist Liz Watson.
Even without Hadley, the damage had been done in the first half in this game.
The Diamonds held a comfortable 16 goal lead going into the main break, and never quite looked threatened, finishing 25 goal victors.
Key pillars at either end Gretel Bueta and Courtney Bruce were the standouts early.Embed from Getty Images
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Continuing her dominance so far, Bueta didn’t miss a shot across her three quarters on court. She finished with 34 goals as the match-high scorer.
Her partnership with Steph Wood from the win against Scotland continued to be tested against the Proteas, and once again stood strong.
With Bueta playing a strong holding game when not using her strong aerial ability to fly at feeds, Phumza Maweni seemed to have few answers for the combination.
Wood’s long range shooting gave the South African defenders trouble as she created space for Bueta within the circle, drawing them out.
Flipping the script, Austin made an instant splash in the second half, replacing Wood in goal attack. Cara Koenen took over for Bueta in the final term, while Sunday Aryang made a brief cameo in goal defence before Jo Weston resumed duties.
There was a bib swap, with Weston moving to wing defence, Bruce to goal defence, and Sarah Klau to goal keeper.
While the partnership of Klau and Bruce seems to be Marinkovich’s preferred combination in the defensive circle, the coach played around with her pairing as the Proteas found shots.
Ine-Mari Venter proved to be hard work despite Bruce’s six deflections, five gains and two intercepts, shooting 31/38 and having two goal assists.
Ash Brazill did a strong job on South African midcourt superstars Bongiwe Msomi, who was kept to just 13 goal assists.
Australia will play Wales on Tuesday night for its fourth group match game.
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