Liz Watson was among the best for the Diamonds. (Photo: Elly McNerney)

The Diamonds have claimed their first win of the Constellation Cup, after a strong 15 goal win over the Silver Ferns.

The win marked the first time that the Diamonds played on home soil since the final test of the Constellation Cup back in 2019 in Perth.

The Diamonds were strong from the first whistle, with the defensive pressure going up a level since the last test match.

The Silver Ferns midcourt missed Peta Toeava, who wasn’t selected for the Australian leg of the tour. The Diamonds made the most of the opportunity, with the likes of Jamie Lee Price and Amy Parmenter strong in wing defence.

Sophie Garbin shines 

Sophie Garbin was among the standouts in game three of the Constellation Cup, after earning the starting goal shooter spot for the first time at international level. Garbin proved to be a key player in the Diamonds front half for all of the game, playing the full 60 minutes. 

Garbin played the role of the holding shooter extremely well, opening up space out the front for Steph Wood to sink the long shots when required.

The combination between Garbin and Wood was able to shut down the New Zealand defenders in Kelly Jury and Phoenix Karaka. The defensive duo were unable to have the same impact as the opening two matches of the series. Garbin finished the game with 34 goals, shooting at 89 per cent accuracy. 

Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich was pleased with Garbin’s performance, and said her time out at goal attack has allowed her to add to her game. 

“[Garbin’s] obviously very strong under the post. [I] thought she’s very creative with the way she moves her body and looks for the screens, but [she also] likes to set and create space for her goal attack,” Marinkovich said. 

“It’s the first time she’s started for Australia, and hasn’t played a lot in the goal shooter position [internationally]. I think her goal attack game has given her some other strings to her bow, and I think you’re starting to see that.”

Sophie Garbin in full flight. (Photo: Elly McNerney)

Diamonds midcourt on song 

It was a strong performance from the Diamonds’ midcourt. It had previously struggled to get the connection on circle edge, but it lifted in the third game of the series. 

The midcourt was led by captain Liz Watson, who was awarded player of the match. Watson finished the game with 28 goal assists and 57 feeds, with the skipper able to constantly find Wood and Garbin under the post. 

It helped that Watson was able to combine with her Vixens teammate in Kate Moloney, with the pair able to work the ball into the goal circle with ease much like netball fans are used to at Super Netball Level. Moloney was strong in the centre, finishing the game with 10 goal assists and 24 feeds.

Speaking post-match, Moloney said that she felt that the midcourt was a lot smoother on transition and in second phase.

“We’ve got some amazing playmakers out there. I think Steph and Liz did a great job and then you had Soph just holding so strong in the circle,” she said.

“I think when everyone’s moving and running hard, it makes it really easy to read. It did feel a lot smoother out there tonight, and hopefully we can continue to build on that.

“We know New Zealand are going to go away and look at what we did tonight and come back really strong for Gold Coast. So we’re going to have to look at it as well and continue to build.”

Kate Moloney in action. (Photo: Elly McNerney)

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Full four quarters 

For the first time in the series, the Diamonds were able to put together a four quarter performance. They took away all four quarters, putting together a clinical final quarter in particular, winning the final 15 minutes 16-9. 

The goal circle was on song, able to really put their foot on the gas with Garbin (8/8) and Wood (9/11) really strong under the post. Courtney Bruce was able to get her hands on plenty of the ball, sending the it back into the Diamonds’ attack end. 

The intensity from the Diamonds lifted from the first whistle, with Jamie-Lee Price and Jo Weston able to get fingertips to the ball within the first couple of minutes of the game. The Diamonds didn’t allow any momentum to go the way of the Silver Ferns. 

Marinkovich was pleased with the way the Diamonds have built into the series, and the performance they put out on the court in Melbourne. 

“I think for this group, [we’re] very firmly fixed on what our vision is, and we’re halfway there with the Commonwealth Games,” the coach said.

“But we’ve got a World Cup to chase, so we know that it’s going to be a build. These [are] things we’re trying to work through and build depth within our squad, so it’s definitely not a panic.

“I think it was actually just working through how, and the only way you can understand New Zealand or any other international teams is to get players out there and get that dynamic.

“[The focus] been learning… the thing that’s been progressive is the growth. We’re taking steps forward and that’s sort of the way that keeps everything at bay.” 

Nweke vs. Bruce match up

Goal keeper Courtney Bruce and goal shooter Grace Nweke had a great battle across most of the game.  Nweke proved to be strong under the post for the opening two games of the series, with the Australian defenders looking to shut down her impact coming into the third game. 

The pair were locked in for a fiery battle, with neither player giving up an inch. While Nweke was still strong under the post, shooting 30 goals for the game, Bruce was able to win the ball back for her team, finishing with three intercepts. 

Australia’s defence was able to slow down the feed into Nweke, which allowed the likes of Bruce and Weston to get fingertips to the ball. 

Grace Nweke and Courtney Bruce contesting for the ball. (Photo: Elly McNerney)

Return of Jo Weston

Jo Weston was an inclusion in the squad for the third test after Sunday Aryang couldn’t continue the series due to a calf strain. Weston was straight back into the action, named in the starting goal defence position and had a huge impact on the game. 

The impact of Weston saw the Silver Ferns continuously changing up the goal attack position She continued to have the upper hand, confusing the space when the ball went into that goal circle. 

Weston finished the game with two intercepts as well as 12 centre pass receives. Marinkovich was pleased with the way she was able to come straight back into the side. 

“So Sunday has a slight calf strain so wasn’t able to continue the series,” the coach explained.

“Jo’s has been training, as [have] other squad members so they haven’t been sort of sitting and doing not much. That’s why you can bring players in and play their role straight away. 

“I think that [she adds] just… a little bit of experience in the backline, but also what a great opportunity to see what our backline can do in that combination. It wouldn’t have been tested and tried for quite a while in how we’ve played it.

“Players are ready to step in, and anytime they walk into this environment [we] are prepared to put them on the court.”

The Diamonds and the Silver Ferns will play off in the deciding match of the Constellation Cup this Sunday on the Gold Coast.

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