13/04/2024

It was Sunday Aryang's (pictured) efforts in defence alongside Courtney Bruce and Sarah Klau that took home victory for the Australians on Day One (Picture: Australian Diamonds/Twitter)

It was an exciting and action-packed first day of the Netball Quad Series as New Zealand and Australia both registered wins. Taking on South Africa and England respectively, the two Trans-Tasman teams won in widely different circumstances.

On Day One it was the Silver Ferns and the SPAR Proteas that played the first game, in which New Zealand used their all-round star power to get over the line. With stand-out performances from defender Kelly Jury and young shooting sensation Grace Nweke, the Silver Ferns truly trashed the SPAR Proteas, winning 41 to 61.

In the second game of the day, the Australian Diamonds came from behind to punish a sometimes wasteful England Roses outfit. For Australia it was the performances of defensive pair Sarah Klau and Courtney Bruce that helped seal victory 61 to 55.

The Inner Sanctum looks at the Five Takeaways from Day One of the 2023 Netball Quad Series.

Stopping Grace Nweke will be the key

Arguably the best young shooter in the world currently, New Zealand’s Grace Nweke will indeed be the key to Quad Series glory for the Silver Ferns. Having the mid-court service will be the key but with a shooter that is 193cm tall and as agile and mobile as Nweke, she will be hard to stop.

Her performance against the SPAR Proteas amongst the best in the game shooting at 95 per cent efficiency (42/44). Converting more shots than South Africa on her own (they scored 41/49), she may find her match with better equiped defenders from the other teams such as Geva Mentor, Funmi Fadoju, Courtney Bruce or Sarah Klau.

In addition to her shooting, Nweke’s height makes her a rebounding threat, netting five against South Africa. Not to be understated is the influence of her captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio in the circle, she brings the experience and class while also converting her fair share of goals.

Are the SPAR Proteas up to the might of the big three?

With the big three (England, Australia and New Zealand) ahead of them in the Quad Series, it will be interesting to see how the SPAR Proteas deal with the defeat suffered on Day One.

Coming up against what is one of the favourites to win the tournament in New Zealand, South Africa will look to rebound against the other winless team, the England Roses on Day Two.

The South Africans shot well considering the lack of supply from the mid-court, Lenize Potgieter (25/26) and Nichole Taljaard (13/15) made the most of their opportunities however it was Ine Marรญ Venter who was wasteful with only three goals from eight attempts.

Another telling statistic within the game was that South Africa conceded ten more gains, most of which ended as goals against them. Will the SPAR Proteas gel better in Game Two considering the changes to the line-up coming into the series, and will they do so against England, which had a tough first match against Australia?

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Funmi Fadoju needs to be the centre of England’s defence

One of the best individual performances for the game came in the first part of the Australia and England match, with young Roses defender Funmi Fadoju able to match up well on shooter Sophie Garbin. Her work in the air was unmatched and seemed to really unsettle the atackers.

It was a curious move by England Roses head coach Jess Thirlby that brought Fadoju off after proving that her presence was working against the Australians. It can be argued that this move cost them the game with Garbin and Steph Wood able to capitalise on their new-found dominance.

Fadoju had four intercepts and seven gains for the match, displaying the ball-winning prowess she has become known for.

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Stacey’s move pays dividends in defence

The comeback that was mounted by the Aussies was off the back of head coach Stacey Marinkovich moving Courtney Bruce to goal defence and Sarah Klau into goal keeper, sending Sunday Aryang to the bench.

This duo were able to quell the influence of goal shooter Eleanor Cardwell, who is possibly one of the most important players to the England line-up. In the first half of the game she was dominant with goal attack Helen Housby able to play a feeding role, getting the ball into her.

Her accuracy and range from goal was on show early, however the defensive mix got the better of her in the second half. She finished the game shooting at 92 per cent with 39 goals.

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Australia will be okay without star shooter

With the plethora of talent in the attacking end for the Diamonds, the loss of Gretel Bueta (personal reasons) ahead of the series looks to be a chance for some of the younger crop.

In Game One it was Garbin who again impressed alongside Wood, however with Kiera Austin and Cara Koenen also in the squad, Australia has a range of combinations for games going forward.

One factor was the change in personnel for the Roses with Alice Harvey playing into Garbin’s more traditional holding shooter style. She remained inside the goal circle with feeders able to get the ball to her to finish off.

The feeds coming in were also getting better throughout the second half, with experienced campaigners Liz Watson and Paige Hadley able to get to Garbin in better positions.

The Australian Diamonds will play the New Zealand Silver Ferns to see who will remain unbeaten in the Quad Series, while the South African SPAR Proteas look to atone for a poor performance against the England Roses on Day Two.

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