The Australian Diamonds have suffered a shock loss to the New Zealand Silver Ferns in the third game of the Constellation Cup in Melbourne, going do 50 – 47.
The Diamonds, who are missing many of their World Cup stars from earlier this year, took the opportunity to debut two new players, Ashleigh Brazill and hometown girl, Joanna Weston.
Despite missing the likes of Julie Corletto, Kimberlee Green and Rebecca Bulley, who retired after the world cup, and Laura Geitz and Renae Ingles (nee’ Hallinan) who were rested, the Diamonds did not miss a beat in the opening quarter.
Brazill was named in the starting seven for her first Australian Diamonds appearance and played the whole game, producing some exciting intercepts, whilst young up-and-comer, Weston, made her debut in the final three minutes of the match.
Natalie Medhurst, acting captain in Geitz’s absence, was outstanding in the first quarter, from snatching intercepts to shooting long-bombs.
Her form in the first quarter prompted a change in the New Zealand defensive end, with Katrina Grant getting the nod to try to minimise the goal attack’s effect.
Gretel Tippet, who made her debut just last week in New Zealand, proved to have an engaging tussle with New Zealand’s Kayla Cullen.
The unconventionally tall wing-attack brought a different dynamic to the Diamonds’ attacking line and took New Zealand half of the game to contain.
Australia wasn’t the only team not at full-strength, the New Zealand’s star shooter, Maria Tutaia, missing the series also.
A slow start earlier in the first quarter did not hinder the Diamonds, leading 15 – 9 at the end of the first period.
Changes made by New Zealand going into the second quarter, with Grant taking the court in goal defence and Jodi Brown making her way in at goal attack, did not immediately have an impact on the game, with the margin increasing by one goal going into the main break.
Australia’s first change of the game was made going into the second half, with Caitlin Bassett being benched after a foot injury and Caitlin Thwaites taking the court at goal shooter.
Bassett scored 24 goals from 25 attempts for her half of netball.
The move however disrupted Australia’s momentum in attack, as New Zealand closed the gap to four.
Sharni Layton was outstanding in the early parts of the third quarter, with her hard work against New Zealand’s Bailey Mes starting to provide dividends.
Not to be bettered, Mes came out after an injury-time out to shoot eight goals in a row, five before three-quarter time to equal the scores, and three after.
In a last effort bid to counter New Zealand’s Casey Kopua’s dominance in defence in her 100th test match, Australia inserted Erin Bell into the game in goal shooter to pair-up with Medhurst.
Bell shot beautifully in the last quarter, scoring eight goals from nine attempts.
Despite the move, it was New Zealand who rallied first and gained three-goal lead that Australia could not regain in the final minutes of the match.
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said the most disappointing part of today’s game was letting their nine-goal lead slip away in the third quarter.
“I think we should’ve and could’ve won and gone on with it in the second half and it was very disappointing,” Alexander said.
“That’s what’s most disappointing; that we didn’t put the foot down in the second quarter.”
Bailey Mes was named MVP for the game, after scoring 29 goals from 40 attempts, however was shocked after getting named the most valuable player.
“I was a little [shocked]. Obviously the first half wasn’t amazing but definitely was good to be able to push on,” Mes said.
“I think I made it a little harder for myself in that first half.”
The final test will be played in Perth on Friday and will determine the winner of the Constellation Cup.