The Australian Diamonds are Netball Quad Series champions for the sixth time, after changing the final against the English Roses completely in the last quarter.
England was held to just five goals for the final term to Australia’s 18, with four and six minute gaps between scores.
It was a stark contrast to a match that was otherwise tight and right down to the wire all the way through, with only a maximum of two goals separating both sides at the breaks.
After the Roses came back to tie their round robin match-up 24 hours prior, coach Stacey Marinkovich needed to prove that the Diamonds could do the same.
And while it took some tinkering with the circle defence all the way until that final term, it eventually paid dividends.
“Our hardness onto the ball was certainly better, and our court balance gave us the space to run,” the coach told media post-win.
“Defensively, I just thought our repeated efforts went for a little bit longer, which started to accumulate some pressure. Yesterday was really tough and set a standard, and we knew that we had to come out and be ready for that onslaught.”
Touching on her circle defence shifts, Marinkovich was pleased with how all three of Jo Weston, Courtney Bruce, and Sarah Klau performed.
Klau spent 45 minutes on court, finishing with seven deflections, three gains, two pickups, an intercept and a rebound. Weston played the same amount of time, taking seven centre pass receives as a more attacking option in goal defence, to go with four gains, three deflections and two rebounds.
Bruce meanwhile spent the least amount of time on court at 30 minutes, but still had an impact with two gains and two deflections.
“To be honest, when the [defenders] went out I thought they played the role they needed to play in that moment,” Marinkovich said.
“I thought the way Courtney came on, we got some good ball and won the court that third quarter. The way in which we were able to change things up, England… their shooters are in very good form.
“We needed to make sure we kept contesting and kept changing things up. The girls played the roles when they went out there.”
Goal shooter Gretel Bueta was awarded Player of the Match, and accordingly, Player of the Series, for her 41 goals at 97.6 per cent shooting, two rebounds, and two pick ups.
On her return to the national stage after missing the Constellation Cup after giving birth to son Bobby, the experienced goaler didn’t look like she’d missed a beat. Her strength under the post and chemistry with Steph Wood was one of the difference makers in the final term.
“I was really proud of the girls and how we just grinded out that game,” Bueta said.
“The connectedness of the team showed today out on court, so that was really exciting. To have my family out there was really special. I can’t thank Netball Australia enough for allowing me to have [son] Bobby out there with me, and my husband.
“They’ve definitely been embraced by the team and it’s been great.”
The game as it happened
England showed an early desire to hold up Australia, with players pushing up past the tranverse line after centre pass, while the defenders crowded the circle.
This didn’t stop Paige Hadley from doing what she does best, feeding Bueta for the first three goals of the game. Bruce and Ash Brazill also claimed early deflections to get back in possession.
Roses wing defence Beth Codben ran back hard to provide support for her circle defenders, helping Geva Mentor earn a turnover on the Diamonds’ centre pass. Eleanor Cardwell converted her shots truly to level scores at 4-4.
The Roses showed off their pinpoint passing for a quick feed, a stark contrast to how they held up the Diamonds with the blocking of passing lanes. Layla Guscoth pushed out of the defensive third to help the middies off centre pass, giving the Roses a two goal lead.
Last night’s star Helen Housby got herself on the board with six minutes to go, working a back and forth circle edge feed from Natalie Metcalf.
The difference between the centre passes became clearer and clearer, with the Roses able to find a pass through to the front third by the second phase, while the Diamonds looked to pass around.
Wood earned herself a caution after receiving a footwork penalty, not happy to give the ball up to Geva Mentor. For the first time all Series, the Diamonds entered the first break down, 14-12.
Metcalf was well and truly in the game, with seven goal assists from her eight feeds, while Cardwell continued her brilliant shooting form at 10/11. Mentor and Guscoth combined for three gains.
The Diamonds spread the feeding around a bit more, though Liz Watson could only turn four of her eight feeds into assists.
After a dominant start yesterday, Sarah Klau entered the game, taking up goalkeeper alongside Jo Weston at goal defence.Embed from Getty Images
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Housby and Guthrie’s connection through both the midcourt and at circle edge was on show, combining brilliantly.
Try as they may, the Diamonds just could not break through the Roses circle defence combination, and despite an intercept to win the ball back, gave up the turnover.
Klau seemed to make no difference to Cardwell’s form, managing to find separation from her playing from behind, making runs in and out of the circle.
Wood’s long range shooting to help stretch the circle was a lifesaver, but down the other end, Housby was doing the same with her bodywork, drawing both Weston and Klau to leave Cardwell all on her own.
Finally getting some direct feeds, Bueta’s strong holding got the better of Mentor, but the Diamonds still entered the long break two goals down, 27-25.
To start the second half, Bruce came back into the game, taking up the goal defence bib. For the Roses, Cardwell and Housby swapped goaling bibs.
Despite the changed circle, Cardwell didn’t appear bothered, converting her opportunities. Bruce finally found a little deflection on the Roses’ centre pass, giving the visitors a chance to work back that pesky two goal lead.
Klau joined in the fun to deflect it back into possession make it two goals for the Diamonds off the Roses’ possession in the third. Watson and Wood combined expertly at circle edge to swing the lead the other way.
Jess Thrilby shifted up her midcourt, with Guthrie moving into wing defence, Beth Cobden exiting the game, and Laura Malcolm taking up the centre bib. Malcolm immediately inserted herself with a quick circle edge feed into Cardwell, before the Diamonds midcourt went long into Bueta, swapping goals.
Trading blows back and forth, neither side could seem to gain ascendancy over the other. In a moment that may have proved to influence the result, Mentor grabbed an intercept with just seconds to go to keep the Roses one goal up into the final break.
Marinkovich switched up the circle defence once again, with Weston coming back on for Bruce. The Roses didn’t waste their first possession, with Cardwell shooting accordingly.
Watson and Bueta found the empty space at circle edge, while Klau made it two intercepts in an as many possessions.
To the roar of the crowd, George Fisher came off the bench into goal shooter for the Roses, while Eboni Usoro-Brown replaced Mentor in circle defence to try and stem the bleeding of the Diamonds’ scoring run.
For the first time in the game, the Diamonds led by seven goals with seven minutes to go.
Wood wasn’t just content to work the ball into the circle and shoot, also working up the court to claim an intercept in the middle third after the Roses earned themselves a turnover. Bueta made it nine goals, as the lead continued to grow.
After six minutes without a score, Fisher finally got one back for the Roses.
But it was too little too late for England, and in the first Quad Series in three years, Australia claimed the victory to make it four in a row.
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