Tag: australian diamonds

Where to next for Victorian Super Netball teams?

WITH Victoria sent back into lockdown for a minimum six week period due to the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases in the state it poses many questions for the upcoming Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) season. SSN is set to commence on August 1 but with Victorian borders shut there is no chance of teams flying in or out of the state on a weekly basis. The element of a required 14 day quarantine must also be taken into account when looking into the logistics of how the 2020 season will run and the implications this lockdown will have on the competition as a whole. Quarantine and a lack of facilities such as Melbourne Arena being unavailable as a result of the Victorian lockdown ultimately throw the competition into a spin when it comes to fixturing, since the league has agreed to hosting a complete 60 round season.

With both the Collingwood Magpies and Melbourne Vixens based in Melbourne, Super Netball have to make a decision on how to deal with the two clubs. As seen with the AFL, NRL and A-League, all of the Victorian teams have fled or are in the process of leaving the state to ensure the remainder of the season is viable, something SSN will have to consider in order for the season to actually go ahead. While it is an expensive prospect, weighing up the cost of accommodation, flights and facilities for both the Vixens and Magpies, it is one that must be done to ensure the longevity of the competition.

It is clear that for the season to go ahead the two Victorian teams must find a new home, despite already missing the cut off date to leave the state. But the big question is where do they go? As discussed on this week’s episode of the Centre Pass Podcast, the options of taking solace in New South Wales and Queensland are the glaringly obvious choices for the Victorian sides with both states playing host to two teams and also boasting recently refurbished stadiums. The Queensland Firebirds unveiled the Nissan Arena or Queensland State Netball centre last year fit with all the bells and whistles while the Sunshine Coast Lightning have already expressed their willingness for interstate teams to join them up in the Coast. The redevelopment of the Ken Rosewall Arena could also play a factor in getting the Victorian teams to set up shop in New South Wales. However, that is not to say that Western Australia and South Australia are not viable options given the quality of their facilities and are probably the cheaper option in terms of accommodation in comparison to the likes of Sydney and Queensland.

There is also a very limited chance of the SSN rescheduling or pushing the start back further as it runs into the international season with the Diamonds and Ferns confirming the annual Constellation Cup for late November. International netball is a huge drawcard for both countries and something Australia and New Zealand will be hoping to generate some money back into the netball sphere. Postponing the season could ultimately bring up issues surrounding venue fixturing as many sporting arenas are booked out years in advance given the high amounts of sport Australia plays host to.

While we all hope that it does not come to this stage, there is a small sliver of doubt that the season could not go ahead or that the Vixens and Magpies might not be able to compete given the recent developments in Victoria and the restrictions prohibiting them to travel. While the latter idea is unconventional and an extreme last resort, it could be the only way to salvage the season and ensure that some form of domestic netball is played in 2020.

Sharelle McMahon: Pushing the boundaries

IN the midst of COVID-19 confusion, umpire supervisors at Melbourne-based Parkville Netball Competitions have taken it upon themselves to continue as much umpire-based learning as possible while matches are postponed. The competition is one of two umpiring Centres of Excellence in the state, seeing its Tuesday Premier Open division umpire cohort come together weekly during the pandemic to further their skills. 

With a combination of theory-based learnings such as now-disused umpiring papers and examining footage of the Victorian Netball League (VNL), the group has been gathering online every week during the unprecedented break and enjoying the odd Q&A throughout thanks to connections its supervisors have forged over the years – namely former VNL coach, Leesa Maxfield, internationally accredited umpire, Kate Wright and most recently, Australian netballer, Sharelle McMahon.

A player who redefined the goal attack position, champion netballer McMahon has become a household name in Australia over the years, pulling on the green and gold 118 times over the course of an outstanding 13 years internationally as well as a number of years with both the Melbourne Phoenix and Melbourne Vixens. McMahon has racked up the accolades over the years, debuting for Australia in 1998 and making her mark on international netball with her match-winning goal at the 1999 World Netball Championships final

Growing up in Bamawm in country Victoria, McMahon grew up playing a combination of netball and athletics, playing in footy-netball and association competitions. McMahon was eventually picked up for the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) at age-16, with that aspect of her netball journey culminating in a move to Melbourne at a young age to pursue her netball.

“The legendary Marg Caldow rang me and asked me to move down to Melbourne and take up a scholarship at the VIS (Victorian Institute of Sport), so that meant going to school at Wesley College for year 11 and 12,” McMahon said. “That was really hard and initially I didn’t want to do that. Initially I thought ‘nah, I think I’ll stay, that sounds too hard!’” 

“With some encouragement and some really great support around me I took that jump at 16-years-old and moved down to Melbourne and, you know, it was a great experience, I’ve worked with some amazing people over the journey. And that started with Marg Caldow so I feel very lucky with the people that I’ve worked with.”

A big challenge at the time however was McMahon’s homesickness. While she had her support network in Melbourne, the young goaler still wanted some home comforts, one of which was getting to return to her hometown and close-knit family and friends to play in the footy-netball league where possible.

“One of the things we said to Marg Caldow when we were talking about whether I would come to Melbourne was as long as I can go home on the weekends and play! And so she allowed me to do that, but sometimes not as often as I would have liked.”

But heading home for the footy-netball league opened up a new can of worms for McMahon, who had progressed with Caldow from being a self-confessed ‘free spirit’ on the netball court, to having a bit more structure in her game play and having to adjust back to the country level.

“One of the things I do really clearly remember is working with my coach on my rebounding. I used to rebound from behind and kind of flick it over and take the ball, jump up and grab the ball, and I used to get called for contact a lot in the country doing that.”

“My coach got some umpires to have a look and was like, ‘she’s not touching them when she’s jumping up to get that ball!’” McMahon said. “I think my ability to be able to do that was surprising to some people and so I was getting called for contact when probably I wasn’t contacting, but you know there was that adjustment that I had to make when I was going back both with my play and what I was experiencing.”

Adjusting to the umpires continued throughout McMahon’s career, as McMahon brought up how there were times when, even at the top level, she sometimes had to adjust the way in which she played, not only for the players on court but the umpires who were officiating, whether it be at the domestic or international level.

“That happened right throughout my career. We spoke about this a lot in the Australian team … each country has a different style of play, each country has different strengths, so we would have to adjust what we did according to that. And we actually approached how we were being umpired in a very similar way.”

“Depending on which coach I had, Norma (Plummer) was very big on reading umpires and adjusting to that … we used to watch videos about what calls are being made and how we could adjust to that more quickly when we were in the game. So, you know, as you say at those different levels you have to adjust but that happens right through whatever level you’re at.”

With international umpires coming together from across the world to umpire world-class competitions such as the Netball World Cup (then-World Netball Championships) and Commonwealth Games, different interpretations between umpires and their respective experience can sometimes also factor into how matches play out and the quality of contests in those matches.

“They (some umpires) just interpreted things differently, they had a different style, just like us athletes, we had different styles when we were coming from different countries and I guess in those different levels that’s the same, everyone’s got a different style and different strengths and different ways of reading it, probably more so with the Australian level.”

McMahon says that where players and coaches have a massive influence over what happens on court, the umpires have just as big a role in how they officiate matches and to what extent they allow the contesting of play and testing of boundaries – with McMahon herself one who would time and time again try to push that boundary to the limits.

“One of the things I always liked about playing netball was not just the challenge against my opposition but the challenge against myself, looking at what moves I could make, how small was that gap that I could get through, really wanting to kind of challenge myself on that,” McMahon said. “And if I was allowed to get through that tiny gap, even though there was a bit of contact, well probably next time I’ll try and get through a smaller one!”

“If I was allowed to do that, probably next time I’ll do it a bit more until I find where that line is. And if the line is a little bit further than what you thought, well, that’s where the play will go. That’s kind of how I always approached it, rightly or wrongly, so I definitely think that the umpires can have a huge influence over the style of play and the contest, and how far that goes.”

While those were some of the on-court, boundary-pushing opportunities that McMahon took to gain the best positioning or access to the goals, she also spoke about some of the post-netball opportunities she has had in coaching and commentary roles after retiring from international duties in 2011 and netball overall in 2013.

“I think in many ways, when you’ve been around for as long as I had, you’re a coach even though you’re only a player anyway – you’re always working through tactics and helping your teammates out, figuring out what their strengths are and how to get the best out of them. So I’d always loved that part of it, and getting the best out of people is what drives me.”

“I went straight into broadcast, but I was given the opportunity to continue working with the group (Melbourne Vixens) and probably from a selfish standpoint, I was really keen to do that … I moved out of home when I was 16 and lived in an elite training environment where I had been around people like that, inspiring me I guess in many ways and supporting me for 20 years. So I think for me the thought of going cold turkey on that didn’t sit very well.”

“It’s always been about opportunity, you know, when I had the opportunity to move down to Melbourne I wasn’t sure but I took it and you know there’s been many moments like that in my life that I’ve kind of gone – ‘I don’t know if I should do that’. And it might be too hard or it might be outside my reach. But I’ve tried to always just say yes to those things, and give it a go.”

“People asked me how I chose netball over athletics. It was because the opportunity came up in netball first. And so that’s what I jumped at and went with,” McMahon said. “Those opportunities kept coming up in netball, and what I had to do was make a decision between coaching and commentary last year, which was really hard because I love commentary, I really enjoy that. But the opportunity to work with a group like this and Simone (McKinnis), and learn from her from that perspective was something I was really excited about.”

Tune in later this week for PART 2.

Thank you to Sharelle McMahon and the supervising team at Parkville – Joel Owen, Juleen Maxfield and Penny Carlson – for giving Draft Central access to this session.

Note – All questions throughout the meeting were contributed by the aforementioned umpiring cohort and supervisors, with just snippets of the hour-long meeting making the cut and much of the conversation revolving around umpiring.

Top 20 players over 30: #19 Laura Scherian

THERE are a host of international players across the world that, much like a fine wine, have simply gotten better with age. With netball on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Draft Central takes a look at players that fall into the category of over 30 and still have plenty in the tank given their on-court prowess. Coming up next at number 19 is Australian Diamonds and Sunshine Coast Lightning speedster, Laura Scherian.

With impressive take-off speed to dart across the court, 31-year-old Scherian is a great accompaniment to any team with her sheer netball know-how and reliability down the middle of the court. Able to have an impact in both wing attack and centre, the classy speedster creates a formidable option on circle edge with an ability to find space and sit herself on circle edge to feed into the goalers. 

At only 167cm, Scherian is a real energiser bunny with her ability to evade opposition and zip her way around the court. She can apply pressure in attack despite her smaller build and use her strength to whip past defenders to feed the ball with ease. Her drive down the court and transition between attack and defence is seamless, able to create and manipulate the space to find the ball. Scherian can cause mayhem through the centre court with her consistency and constant press forward, always one step ahead of the play with her netball smarts.

With plenty of experience playing alongside one of the greatest midcourters in the game in Laura Langman, Scherian has been able to adapt her skills more so to present a defensive option too, able to apply as much pressure in centre from a defensive perspective as her skill up in attack. Scherian’s experience and ability to adapt to the game at hand gives her a clear advantage over her opposition, and in a team which regularly switches its goalers depending on the match, she is always able to form a formidable connection with whichever option is heading up the post.

TOP 20 PLAYERS OVER 30:

#20 Stacey Francis (West Coast Fever/England)
#19 Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning/Australia)

Players that got away: Chelsea Pitman

THERE are a number of netballers in the world that have pulled on the international dress for more than one country throughout the career. With netball on hold due to the outbreak of COVID-19 Draft Central has decided to take a look at those players and their international careers and what could have been. Next up is former Australian Diamond and current England Roses wing attack Chelsea Pitman.

It is fair to say that Pitman has had the best of both worlds and tasted her fair share of success with both Australia and England. The fancy footed midcourter burst onto the scene in 2011 with the Queensland Firebirds where she really made a name for herself with her composure and on-court brilliance. In fact, her impact was so profound in her first year at the Firebirds that she quickly caught the eye of the Australian Diamonds selectors. At the ripe age of 21, Pitman made her debut for the Diamonds and did not look back, seamlessly transitioning onto the international stage with great skill and movement. That year, she was also apart of the winning gold medal match at the Commonwealth Games.

Her ability to thread the needle and deliver the ball with pin-point accuracy into the goal circle made her near on impossible to stop. Her vision and connection into the likes of Nat Medhurst, Catherine Cox and Caitlin Bassett was simply undeniable and helped to push the Diamonds to victory. Although she is not the fastest player on court it is her understanding, spatial awareness and variety of passes that sets her apart from others.

But after spending times in the Australian Diamonds ranks, Pitman decided to jump ship and join the England Roses, something she was eligible to do thanks to her Yorkshire-born father. Pitman debuted for the Roses in 2017 and quickly became an integral member in their starting seven with her dynamic footwork and leadership.

Her experience both at an international and domestic level paid dividends for the Roses who were clearly building into becoming a powerhouse team. The classy wing attack, tasted her first lot of Roses success in 2018 on the Gold Coast after downing Australia by one goal in an epic gold medal match at the Commonwealth Games. Although they did not claim gold in the World Cup, Pitman also played a vital role in getting her side to challenge for bronze. Her ability to find Jo Harten, Helen Housby and Rachel Dunn under the post plus her strong connection with gut-running centre Serena Guthrie only makes her a more commanding presence for the Roses. She is reliable around the circle edge and works hard to tussle for prime feeding position.

Renowned for her skill out in wing attack, Pitman is quite versatile able to rotate into that goal attack position as shown at both an international and domestic level such as the Adelaide Thunderbirds. Since swapping countries, Pitman has played 38 caps in the red and white to go with her 15 for Australia. The New South Wales born talent has continued to elevate her game using her netball smarts to full effect.

Diamond Liz Watson focused on Super Netball success with Melbourne Vixens

LIZ Watson is one of the most recognisable names in the netball world. The Melbourne Vixens turned Australian Diamonds wing attack provides a vital cog through the midcourt, using her netball nous to deliver crucial ball to her goalers and provide an option on circle edge with her impressive hold and clean hands. But like much of the world, Watson is having an unprecedented break from netball, having to switch up her plan and structure for the year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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While it was tricky in the beginning, Watson said the adjustment to isolated training has come in time thanks to routine and constant contact with her Vixens teammates and friends.

“I guess it was a bit tricky at the start when it all kind of happened but now I’ve got a bit of a routine and I’m still keeping busy with uni, we check in with the girls every day at Vixens which is really helpful,” she said. “So it sets up the day on what we’re required to do.”

Settling into a routine has made social distancing that little bit easier, working into training plan that fits around other ways of keeping busy during the pandemic.

“Before we went into lockdown we were pretty much match fit and I guess building up to competition mode, and now we’ve kind of had to strip that back and go right back to basic kind of fitness and strength,” Watson said. “Our training plans have been sort of up and down, so that’s probably the most tricky part and I think now we’re just starting to incorporate a bit more footwork and netball specific drills.”

“I love going for a big long walk in the morning, that kind of gets me moving and I guess sets up the day, but we are following a training program from the coaches so it’s set out every day – there’s either gym, conditioning and a bit of footwork stuff, but I also am loving doing a bit of palates and yoga, which is good because I don’t usually do that as much throughout the year.”

The past weekend was shaping up to be a blockbuster round one battle against Queensland Firebirds in the Suncorp Super Netball, one that Watson would have hoped to see replicate their 2019 matches, during which they defeated the Firebirds on both occasions. 

“It’s probably just, you know, the mental and physical idea that you’re preparing for a match, but now we’re going right back to sort of that preseason fitness base kind of work,” Watson said.

“We’d be having a pretty much a normal week at training but I guess that it’d probably be a bit lighter and throughout the back end of the week we’d have a light training session at the venue which would have been at Melbourne Arena for us. “That’s where we were playing round one so we would have headed there on the Friday for a training session and then played there on the Saturday, so a lot different at the moment, but yeah it is what it is, I guess.”

On the international stage, Watson is vice-captain of the Australian Diamonds, joining forces with a number of her Super Netball rivals. She said the vice-captaincy has given her a lot of confidence in her game, able to share the leadership load with a number of her teammates.

“It’s really special,” she said. “I think the one thing I love the most about it is that you actually are voted in from the team and I think that it’s really important to have that belief and confidence and trust from the teammates to put you into that position. “That gives me a lot of confidence going out there and actually being able to be the vice captain alongside Bass (Caitlin Bassett) as captain so it’s a really special group. “Everyone has to come together, obviously we’re rivals throughout the year but then we are teammates.”

Teaming up with quality players from across the country, Watson has had to switch up her game style on the odd occasion, namely when taking the court with one of her round one opponents in dynamic goal attack, Gretel Bueta. Watson also took on somewhat of a different role in the Diamonds in 2019, playing more of a centre role than her typical wing attack.

“I absolutely love playing with Gretel because you don’t really know what she’s going to do,” Watson said. “I think that’s something that we’ve learned and are really encouraged, is to let Gretel play the way she plays and we kind of mold in around that.”

“I think I definitely feel it more in my lungs in centre, rather than wing attack. “But yeah, I think that they’re quite similar in their positions and the gameplay isn’t too different… in all our analysis sessions we’re always talking so I was across what centres have to do typically in a game so from a game sense it wasn’t too bad.”

At the Vixens, Watson feeds a couple more conventional – but not any less talented – goalers in Caitlin Thwaites, Tegan Philip and Mwai Kumwenda, typically teaming up with captain Kate Moloney to feed into the goal circle.

“A good mid courter, our job is to make our goalers look good and we need to do that by playing to their strengths,” Watson said. “So someone like Tegan is very fast and speedy and Caity, she can hold really well and get that high ball in, so as a mid courter it’s about working with each goaler and actually enhancing their strengths as much as possible and letting them do their thing and kind of fitting in around their their gameplay.” 

With plenty of talent coming up through the pathways, Watson is well aware of the Victorian netball pathways given she followed them through in the traditional sense, even playing much of her junior netball at the State Netball and Hockey Centre where the Vixens train and hosted their impressive semi-final against Collingwood Magpies last season.

“I’m very lucky I’ve played and pretty much followed the Netball Victoria pathway to a tee,” Watson said. “I’ve been there ever since I started really, 11-years-old.”

Watson said the Victorian pathway helped curate her competitive streak, with the winning culture something that helps push every young player to keep putting their best out onto the court. 

“We always have a strong history of winning in Victoria, and right through nationals, Victoria were always expected to be in that top two, if not number one,” she said. “So it brings that competitive side and I think it’s great that we’ve got such a really structured pathway for young girls and they know the step by step to become a Vixen, and it’s easy when kids say to you, you know, how did you become a Vixen and I say ‘I followed this pathway, this is what you can do to get there’. “We’re very lucky in Victoria that we have that winning culture and that success and that’s because all our pathway is planned out right from when we’re juniors.”

Simone (McKinnis) has made a Vixens squad so we’ve got an extended squad of girls who are up and coming and I think that’s really important,” Watson said. “It’s so special. “As a young kid I remember going into the Vixens environment, even if it’s just for one training session, and you just see how they train and then you go back and you say, ‘that’s how I need to be training if I want to become a Vixen or be at that level’. “So I think it’s great that we’ve got this squad, and then they can go back to their clubs and I guess drive that standard with their local clubs too so I think having the extended squad has been really valuable for us.”

While the 2020 season is ultimately still up in the air, Watson said the Vixens’ season aims still ring true despite not yet taking the court. Having made finals last season but fallen short, the tenacious Vixens want to win back some of the glory that has evaded them in the Suncorp Super Netball and bring the trophy back to Victoria.

“We want to be the team that comes out of isolation the best… yes we can be fit and strong and deliver our programs but it’s that mental toughness that we’ve always been working on and that’s the side that I feel has let us down previously, that mental side of our game, and if we can come out of this isolation the toughest strongest team mentally, then nothing can really stop us,” Watson said.

As for fellow netballers who are itching to get back on the court and may be feeling a bit sluggish or unmotivated, Watson said it is useful to remember that everyone is in the same position and acknowledge that plenty of others are in far worse situations across the globe.

“I think it’s important to know that everyone’s probably feeling a little bit like that, even us as elite athletes do feel like that … I always think I’m so lucky – I am still playing, I still get to train and I still get to talk to my teammates every day, it’s just in a different way and that’s just the way it has to be right now,” she said. “I think just acknowledging that – yes it’s hard, but if we just sit here and say it’s hard then we’re not going to really move forward at all.”

“(We’re) all trying to work to come out as I guess, fitter and stronger but also just mentally ready to hit competition mode and, yeah, hopefully have a really good season. “Fingers crossed we do play some sort of netball in the back end of the year.”

Who will be the next captain of the Australian Diamonds?

WEST Australian born shooter, Caitlin Bassett is a focal part of the Diamonds and has been for almost 10 years. Since taking the role as captain in 2017, Bassett has not taken a backwards step paving the way for her teammates. She is cool, calm and collected under the post making her an imposing figure for any opposition outfit. But with the goal shooter turning 32 this year, Draft Central takes a look to the future and contemplates some potential players that could take the reins when Bassett retires from international duties.

Liz Watson:

The wing attack is one of, if not the classiest, midcourter in the world with her silky skills constantly on display. She is a smooth mover and works extremely hard across the court credit to her high endurance and netball IQ. With the vice-captaincy under her belt both at the Diamonds and Melbourne Vixens, Watson could be an ideal option to take the reins when the time comes. She is a versatile player that can easily control the tempo of the game with her change of pace. Watson has proven that she has what it takes to stand up under pressure and can make changes depending on what the team needs switching seamlessly into centre from her preferred wing attack position. her ability to understand the game, hit the circle edge with precision and treasure the ball makes her a key component of the Diamonds squad. She is not overawed by the physicality of the game and has strong connections across the court, allowing herself to assert her dominance when need be.

Gretel Bueta:

Bueta has quickly become one of the most damaging players on the netball court. Her sheer athleticism, dynamic movement and strength is unmatched and while she is not the most orthodox shooter that is what makes her so exciting. Her unpredictable game play provides that spark on the court and can lift a team when they are struggling to get going and generate that winning momentum. Over the past 12 months, Bueta blossomed into a key figure under the post for the Diamonds credit to her netball smarts and ability to adapt her game play. Her ability to consistently stand up under pressure and apply defensive pressure gives her that extra element of star power throw in her general spatial awareness and aerial ability and Bueta is one of the most influential players on court. She can move between goal attack and goal shooter with ease and while she plays with a unique sense of flair and physicality, Bueta has displayed that she is not afraid to take the game on and lead the team to success.

Courtney Bruce:

Already captain of the West Coast Fever, Bruce has shown that she has the leadership and general netball nous to lead a team both on and off the court. She helped to guide her side to the Suncorp Super Netball grand final in 2018 and while they did not win, she played an integral role. She oozes excitement and skill able to take the ball at full flight and swat away any passes. Although she can be costly at times when it comes to penalties, it is her innate ability to win ball back that makes her a true star. Bruce can easily sense the moment and force a turnover or create something out of nothing thanks to her read of the play, quick feet and sense of urgency. While the goal keeper is 26 she has been a key cog in the Diamonds line-up for a long time and has a wealth of experience at the highest level possible. Playing alongside the likes of Laura Geitz and fellow seasoned defenders Bruce has developed into a game changer and a source of inspiration on court for many teammates.

Memorable matches: Silver Ferns defeat Diamonds in double extra-time – 2010 Commonwealth Games

WITH netball taking a back seat to coronavirus in 2020, Draft Central is taking a look back at memorable matches. Next up is the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medal match in Delhi, India, which saw the 100th test match between the Australian Diamonds and New Zealand Silver Ferns finish in magnificent fashion. For many Australian netball fans, this week’s memorable match is one that would be better left forgotten, with a devastating result for the Diamonds but the ultimate victory for the Ferns.

The two sides were unable to be split from the early stages and though Australia seemed to have the momentum, New Zealand never let up in their tough approach and whittled down the margin bit by bit to keep the Diamonds on their toes. With scores locked at 47 apiece at the end of regular time and the Diamonds fighting from seven goals down in the final term, the match would go on to be one of the longest ever official matches coming to 84 minutes in double extra-time.

Defensively the Aussies were on fire early, with Mo’onia Gerrard leading from the front, collecting loose ball left, right and centre, while Susan Fuhrmann stayed back in the goal circle keeping a crucial eye on Irene van Dyk. But while van Dyk was kept quiet, only shooting the 25 goals, Maria Folau had something to prove, providing that crucial long-range shot to shoot up a storm from anywhere in the circle. Folau finished the match with a whopping 41 goals from 50 attempts, well and truly dominating at the post with her silky movement and ability to not just finish plays, but also create them.

For the Diamonds, captain Sharelle McMahon had a stellar start credit to her cleanliness with ball in hand and quick footwork, aided by Lauren Nourse and Nat Medhurst out in goal attack, with the goaling duo influential against the Ferns’ defensive unit which had a slow start. But as it goes with the likes of Casey Kopua and Katrina Rore, they can never be discredited with the work they do off the ball, working their way into the game and proving to be a massive defensive threat to the Diamonds at the post on every opportunity later in the game to close the margin.

Through the midcourt, Renae Ingles was on fire in the first half blocking Temepara Bailey at every turn and using her hands over pressure and bodywork to force errors which the Diamonds took advantage of, seeing a combined eight crucial deflections from Gerrard and Fuhrmann. New Zealand centre Laura Langman was her usual workhorse self, constantly there to apply pressure on Natalie Bode in centre and create that run down the middle of the court.  The change through the midcourt in the second half had an immediate impact, with Anna Scarlett and Liana Leota replacing Joline Henry and Bailey respectively.

While Australia was ahead for majority of the early stages of the match, New Zealand flipped the switch in the third to lead at three quarter time, leading 35-33 after the major switch up to the midcourt unit saw the Diamonds fade away as tiredness began to set in. Cath Cox and Kim Green entered the court in the final term to have an immediate impact, pairing well with McMahon who topscored for the Diamonds with 30 goals at 88 per cent accuracy. The trio’s ability to move through the space was second to none, while Cox and McMahon’s experience together and respective ability to split and evade their opposition saw the unit play out the rest of the match – almost 25 more minutes than a regular game. 

Painful to watch for so many as the clock wound down in the second half of overtime, Australia had its chances to collect the win but the Ferns were just relentless in their pursuit for their second Commonwealth gold, denying Cox a goal to win the match and daring to go into double extra time, with the clock essentially stopped until one team was two goals ahead.

With the overall game time edging over 80 minutes and the two sides still going goal for goal, a final shot from Folau saw the Ferns take out the game with a crucial -and her specialty – long-range shot that rang true to finish in the most dramatic of fashions, ending with the ultimate celebration for the Ferns and devastation for the Aussies, 66-64. The gold medal match came to a head to be one of the greatest matches in recent history between the Trans-Tasman rivals.

AUSTRALIA 10 | 13 | 10 | 14 (47)
Extra time: 6 | 5 (58) | 6 (64)

NEW ZEALAND 9 | 11 | 15 | 12 (47)
Extra time: 5 | 6 (58) | 8 (66)

STARTING SEVEN

Australia
GS: Sharelle McMahon
GA: Nat Medhurst
WA: Lauren Nourse
C: Natalie Bode
WD: Renae Ingles
GD: Mo’onia Gerrard
GK: Susan Fuhrmann

BENCH: Cath Cox, Kim Green, Bec Bulley, Laura Geitz, Susan Pettitt
COACH: Norma Plummer

New Zealand
GS: Irene van Dyk
GA: Maria Folau
WA: Temepara Bailey
C: Laura Langman
WD: Joline Henry
GD: Casey Kopua
GK: Katrina Rore

BENCH: Anna Scarlett, Liana Leota (Nee Barrett-Chase), Leana de Bruin, Grace Rasmussen
COACH: Ruth Aitken

SHOOTING STATS

Australia:
Cath Cox 20/26
Sharelle McMahon 30/34
Nat Medhurst 14/18

New Zealand:
Maria Folau 41/50
Irene van Dyk 25/29

Compare the Pair: Natasha Chokljat and Kim Green

THE Draft Central Compare the Pair series will aim to analyse two players from different Australian Diamonds eras, with the next showcasing midcourters, Natasha Chokljat and Kim Green.

Two players with plenty of class and speed between them, Chokljat and Green have been some big highlights in the midcourt for the Diamonds in recent years. While Green was a specialist wing attack with flair and impeccable hands to match, Chokljat had the flexibility to rotate when required and was always able to shock her opposition with her quick feet and ability to find the ball no matter where she was on court. While the two players had different styles and approaches to the match, their respective dominance on the court is a testament to the confidence, fitness and consistency they brought to their time as Diamonds. With recognisable names across their respective eras of international netball, these two players were as tough as they get.

Throughout the early 2000s Chokljat was a key name amongst the Diamonds with her tenacity and versatility coming in droves. While she only collected the 29 international caps across three years with the Diamonds, her ability to create plays and work well with the likes of Sharelle McMahon, drawing on domestic experience, made her a crucial member for Australia. Chokljat was a real unknown quantity moving into wing attack, having played as a wing defence for majority of her career prior to Diamonds selection, but well and truly proved her place in the side with her defensive mindset delivering in droves to turnover the netball and spur on her team in attack. With speed to attack the ball and no qualms under pressure, Chokljat led the way with her no-nonsense attitude and constant pressure. While Chokljat may not have had the most star-studded career, with only the one major tournament under her belt, her work ethic and constant drive to improve and win made her a handy inclusion to have an immediate impact upon entering the court.

Green’s relatively early retirement from international netball came to a surprise to many, with the talented wing attack certainly able to continue at her prime well past 2015. However Green had achieved everything she could have by her retirement, finishing on the ultimate high with a 2015 Netball World Cup title – her second following the Diamonds 2011 victory – and a Commonwealth Games gold in 2014. Her star-studded career was no fluke however, with impeccable vision, an uncanny knack to hit circle edge and ability to feed the ball on a platter to her attackers. Green’s vision both on and off the ball was credit to her constant vigilance and high workrate even when the ball was at the other end, always keeping a keen eye on the game and using her leadership skills to build up those around her. Green was one of the most agile and well balanced wing attacks often tiptoeing around the circle edge and using her burst of speed to leave her opponent high and dry while her strength was second to none, hardly ever outmuscled in the contest. 

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Natasha Chokljat

29 caps, 2003-2006

Kim Green

74 caps, 2008-2015

Which Diamonds wing attack would you pick?
Natasha Chokljat
Kim Green
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What if… Laura Geitz played in the last quarter of the Commonwealth Games?

THE 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal loss is still etched in the memory of many Diamonds fans and players going down to the England Roses by a mere goal, 51-52. Roses sharp shooter, Helen Housby landed the final blow thanks to a shot after the whistle to gift her side their first gold medal in history. The Diamonds had a strong four-goal lead in the final term, before the tables started to turn and the Roses gathered momentum. Countering everything that Australia threw at them, tinkering their line-up and most importantly prevailing in the close contest to run out on top. The change up in the goal circle to switch Housby into goal shooter and push Jo Harten into goal attack paid dividends while bringing Nat Haythornthwaite on into wing attack to replace Chelsea Pitman gave them that extra spark in the attacking third. An element that the Diamonds simply could not contain.

So what if Laura Geitz was brought on in the final quarter? Could the Diamonds have won another Commonwealth Games gold medal?

As one of Australia’s most dominant and profound goal keepers in history, many were surprised to see Geitz not return to the court when the game was on the line. She has proven time and time again her ability to do the unthinkable and force a turnover out of nothing credit to her high netball nous, quick feet and sheer class. The talented goal keeper is renowned for her ability to stay away from the whistle and apply immense pressure with her three-foot marking and commanding figure something that the Diamonds could have used in the dying seconds of the game. Geitz is a real general down back with her leadership and ability to read the play constantly on display.

Prior to finding herself on the bench, Geitz impressed shutting down the Roses avenue to goal, blocking Harten with her strong movement and netball smarts to get ball-side and swat away any errant passes. Her long arms and skill to constantly get hands to ball and create deflections was a key aspect to the Diamonds winning ways. While her connection with the likes of Firebirds teammate Gabi Simpson and April Brandley enabled the Diamonds to win a wealth of ball back thanks to their swarming style of defence. Although both Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston put up a strong wall in defence, they were lacking that extra bit of experience and knowledge down back giving away a costly penalty after the final whistle.

Taking into account the skill, class and experience of Geitz it is not unfair to speculate that Australia could have taken the gold medal. The 2014 ANZ Championship showed just what Geitz can do when the pressure is on taking a match winning intercept with seconds left and propelling the ball back down the court to win their second grand final in two years. The Firebirds were two goals down with a minute left but it was the miracle work of their captain that got them over the line, something that could have been replicated if Geitz was gifted the opportunity to get back on court in the Commonwealth Games gold medal match.

In your opinion, would Australia have won the Gold Medal if Laura Geitz had finished on court?
Yes absolutely
No, it would not have changed the result
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Top 5 Australian shooters from the 90s to now

THROUGHOUT Diamonds history there have been a host of star players in the goal circle. Since entering a new decade, we found it fitting to rank the top five shooters since 1990 to now. This is an opinion-based article based on the perceptions of the individual writer and how they rank against other goalers. With Gretel Tippett only just bursting on the scene it was hard to fit her into the mix of an already stacked line-up with the likes of Susan Petitt also unlucky to miss out.

#1 Sharelle McMahon

There is no denying that Sharelle McMahon was one in a million with her dynamic game play, explosiveness across the court and sheer accuracy under the post. It was all but a given that any time McMahon had the ball in hand something special was going to happen. Whether it be a beautiful passage of play down the court or long bomb inside the goal circle, she always delivered. The talented shooter oozed class, composure and skill paired with versatility to switch between attack and shooter with ease. Her movement across the court was seamless, able to float in and out of the circle while also proving she was not afraid to take the hard drive and command the ball. McMahon was a real playmaker in the attacking third and was hardly ever beaten by an opponent, combating their every move with her quick footwork, netball nous and silky hands. She had a highly decorated career winning virtually every award available as well as playing a role in three World Cups and four Commonwealth Games highlighting her durability and skill.

#2 Catherine Cox

One of the most notable and experienced goal shooters in the world –  not just Australia. Cath Cox paved the way for many aspiring goalers with her silky movement in the circle, excellent timing and clean hands, hardly ever fumbling a ball. Cox made an impact whenever she entered the court, using her high release to sink long bombs. She was not afraid to back herself from range but was crafty with ball in hand to swing the ball around to edge closer to the post if she saw the opportunity. She averaged over 21 goals per game at an international level and was always reliable under the post thanks to her accuracy. Her career spanned over 16 years, having an influence on both the international and domestic scale and playing in three World Cups and two Commonwealth Games. Her on-court leadership was another key element of her game play, often providing a reassuring presence.

#3 Caitlin Bassett

The current Australian Diamonds captain is one of the most dominant goal shooters and has gone from strength to strength throughout her career. Standing at 196cm the shooter is a formidable force under the post, able to gobble up any passes that come her way thanks to her long reach and height. Bassett’s game has continuously developed throughout her career credit to her netball nous and imposing stature. Previously unable to wear the contact, the goal shooter has taken it all in her stride standing tall and using her body positioning and feet to create space in the goal circle. She is renowned for her accuracy to post and is predominantly a close range shooter not often straying too far from underneath the post. Bassett shot to fame nailing the winning goal in the 2011 World Cup to claim gold, showcasing her composure under pressure.

#4 Caitlin Thwaites

Arguably one of the hardest working and talented shooters Australia has ever seen and despite often playing second fiddle to other goal shooters, Thwaites was a clear impact player. She was extremely reliable, able to come on with a hot hand and score from anywhere in the circle thanks to her impressive range and confidence to post. Her movement across the court was effortless, able to open up space with rolls off the body or well-timed drives. Thwaites could change up her game style with ease, able to switch from the typical holding goal shooter to the more mobile goaler depending on her teammates, making her hard to stop when on song. Her general netball nous was impressive, able to direct traffic in the attacking third and demand the ball under the post. Thwaites was a part of the World Cup winning team in 2011 and also has a Commonwealth Games gold medal to her name.

#5 Nat Medhurst

It is hard to go past the skill and class that is Nat Medhurst, with the talented goal attack renowned for her impressive timing and game play. She is a real mastermind across the court, always three steps ahead of her opponent and using her vision to set up plays  well ahead of the ball. Though she is not renowned for her high volume of shots, her ability to stand up under pressure and convert sets her apart from many other Australian goalers. Medhurst is a cool customer, able to think her way through any situation and most importantly plays a solid support role, able to flick the ball around the circle edge to reposition and take the shot. Her silky footwork and ball speed is second to none, especially when paired with her baseline drives making her near on unstoppable when on song. She is clean with ball in hand and allows her ball placement to do the talking and dictate the space, making her a real threat to be reckoned with.