18/04/2024

Grace Nweke was key to the Silver Ferns' game one victory. (Photo: Australian Diamonds/Twitter)

The Constellation Cup has officially kicked off, with the New Zealand Silver Ferns opening their series defence with a dominant 56-48 victory over the Australian Diamonds at Spark Arena.

The Silver Ferns came out strongly in the opening quarter, up by 11 goals, with all areas of the court flowing and limiting the Diamonds into unforced errors as they made numerous changes throughout the match.

Although the Diamonds made a comeback, cutting the Silver Ferns lead to three goals, the hosts continued to punish the Diamonds and kept the game on their terms, going one-nil in the series.

The Inner Sanctum looks at the key talking points out of game one.

Grace Nweke finding confidence in attack

20-year-old goaler Grace Nweke’s confidence grew as the match went on.

Whilst the Diamonds changed their defensive line with the likes of Courtney Bruce, Sarah Klau and Sunday Aryang rotating through, Nweke stook her ground and was able to pull in feeds from Peta Toeava and Whitney Souness.

The Diamonds’ defenders struggled to find ways to stop the ball from going into the goal circle and finding a suitable front position to stop Nweke from getting in front and converting.

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Finishing the match shooting at 40/42, a 95 per cent efficiency, she was a key target.

Whilst she was nervous at the Commonwealth Games, this match saw Nweke’s confidence fully realised, and she can only grow from there

Key players stand up

There were many players that stood out for the Silver Ferns in their first-up victory. The experience of Ameliaranne Ekenasio was key in the Silver Ferns attacking end.

She showed her experience, doing the little things well and playing a great supporting role for Nweke in the shooting circle. Ekenasio would finish the game shooting at 16/19, with 13 feeds and 19 centre pass receives.

In the midcourt, Peta Toeava’s feeding and vision into the circle was unstoppable, as the Diamonds struggled to contain her ability to find open space, with her ball movement near un-defendable.

The Silver Ferns had a plan that worked defensively, forcing the Diamonds to go backwards or sideways instead of running straight for the ball. It is a credit to the Ferns’ box defensive, one-on-one style of play, which the Diamonds will need to find alternatives to in order to get their goalers out in front.

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For the Diamonds, the injection of Jamie-Lee Price in the midcourt opened up options into the circle, finding the open space and feeding the ball into the circle. The energy and pressure she put on Souness was also a positive.

Sophie Garbin’s addition in the last quarter was a spark in the shooting circle, providing more movement and awareness, giving the Silver Ferns defensive circle something to think about.

Sophie Garbin shoots. (Photo: Australian Diamonds/Twitter)

One last positive the Diamonds can take away is whilst they had inconsistent patches, they were able to make mini-runs going into the half time break and converting off the Silver Ferns’ turnovers.

If the Diamonds address and correct treasuring possession under pressure, off the bench by Kiera Austin in the second quarter especially, they are in with a chance.

Basic turnovers hurt Diamonds

After a slow start to the series and game one, the Diamonds will be looking to rectify what went wrong in the first quarter. The Diamonds turnovers of loose balls will be something that they will look at.

Whilst turnovers were in favour of the Diamonds in the first half 9-8, they finished relatively even between the two teams, finishing 23-20.

Four quarters of consistent netball will be required, and staying in the moment under pressure and converting off winning ball will be key to game two.

Silver Ferns defensive line made Diamonds attack work for it

The defensive pressure of Kelly Jury and Phoenix Karaka was hard work for the Diamonds’ attack end, which is a credit to the setup and communication between the pair.

The hands over and long reach over the ball forced the Diamonds to shoot at a low volume, converting at just 79 per cent.

One name that went unnoticed was Kate Heffernan, who put in the hard work at wing defence. Whilst missing the Taini Jamison Trophy series against Jamaica due to injury, Heffernan was dominant and played her role superbly in game one.

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She forced Liz Watson to make uncharacteristic mistakes, and her defensive pressure was key in the Silver Ferns’ defensive end, getting plenty hands on the ball. Heffernan disrupted the Diamonds’ front line structure of pulling intercepts from anywhere.

Can the Silver Ferns produce that performance again?

With a short turnaround before both sides look to game two, the pressure will be on the Silver Ferns to deliver the same performance again.

Whilst they were clinical for the majority of the match, the question for the Silver Ferns will be can they back up and play four consistent quarters again for game two, or will the Diamonds come out firing with game one in the books and adjust their game plan?

The Australian Diamonds will be looking to bounce back in game two, when the two sides meet against October 16 at Trustpower Baypark Arena in Tauranga.

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