27/02/2024

Head coach Stacey Marinkovich and captain Liz Watson hold the Constellation Cup aloft. (Picture: Australian Diamonds/Twitter)

In the fourth game of the series against New Zealand, the Diamonds put in a phenomenal third quarter effort to reclaim the Constellation Cup. The Constellation Cup completes the set in addition to both the Commonwealth Games gold and the Quad Series Trophy.

Despite the emotions coming into the week, the Diamonds affirmed their position as the best team in the world. This marks the 10th time that Australia has won the series, winning back off New Zealand who won 3-1 in 2021.

Trailing by five goals at the main break, the Diamonds didn’t look like they would be able to soar above their rivals.

Steph Wood and Liz Watson were pivotal in the win to give the Australians the right to hoist the cup on goal difference. For the Kiwis it was Grace Nweke that got back to her best, getting the better of Courtney Bruce at times.

Nweke and Ekernasio are in the best shooting duos in the world

It was the first half that was the best display of what the shooting pair of Grace Nweke and Ameliaranne Ekenasio had to offer.

When the Kiwis were hot in the first quarter in particular, they both contributed strongly with extremely accurate figures (Ekenasio 3/3 and Nweke 13/14). This was repeated in the second with Nweke (10/11) and Ekenasio (4/4) combining for 14/15.

The fact that Nweke is only 20-years-old is testament to her talent and development. The tutelage of Ekenasio has only accelerated her progression at the level.

Sophie Garbin needs more opportunity to shine

Sophie Garbin’s star continues to rise and following on from game three, she produced another shooting masterclass. Playing the full game again, she has shown that with the absence of Gretel Bueta comes opportunity for the up and coming Australian shooters.

Pairing with Steph Wood who played at goal attack, they proved to be a new but very formidable pairing that worked well together. Garbin provided that holding shooter option with Wood being able to take the long shots.

Garbin shot 36/39 with three rebounds and two feeds, with 11 of her goals (11/12) coming in that third quarter flurry which ultimately won the Diamonds the game.

These last two performances show she needs to be given more game time at the Collingwood Magpies and the Diamonds in her preferred position at goal shooter because she will flourish.

Steph Wood is the forgotten Australian star shooter

With the first two games showing that the Australian team might have been missing experienced shooter Gretel Bueta, it was another that was the player of the match for game four.

Wood shot 21 goals with 17 assists, 22 feeds and 10 centre pass receives. She is not only a great shooter, but great at giving the ball carrier options down the court as well as being able to get the ball into the holding shooter in Garbin.

In that breakaway quarter from the Aussies, Wood shot 8/9, had six goal assists and eight feeds.

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Strong Diamonds third quarter was the difference

It was an even spread in the third quarter that helped the Diamonds lift to claim the win on Sunday night. Outside the circle, Liz Watson contributed seven goal assists, 11 feeds and two gains in this length of time alone.

Alongside her at centre, Jamie-Lee Price added four goal assists and 13 feeds helping with Watson to ensure the supply was getting down to the shooters who had the hot hands.

In this period, it was also the work of Courtney Bruce that was important. Adding a gain and an intercept to her tally that quarter, she helped to unsettle the attacking circle for New Zealand.

Between Nweke and Ekenasio, they only managed ten shots combined for eight goals total.

Is Liz Watson the best wing attack in the game?

When individuals are spoken about in Diamonds’ win, captain Liz Watson always puts her hand up for player of the match honours. Playing in wing attack, where she had a blistering season at SSN level for the Melbourne Vixens, she continued her push to become the current game’s best wing attack.

In this game she showcased her synergy with long-standing Diamonds teammate Wood to pull the series away from the Ferns. Playing a full game in wing attack is difficult, but Wood continues to do so continuously at the highest level.

On Sunday night she had 20 goal assists, 31 feeds, three gains and two intercepts. These statistics show her work up and down the court, playing not only an attacking game, but turning the ball over for her team too.

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