GAME one of the Constellation Cup between the Diamonds and Silver Ferns is set to kick-off on Sunday, in New Zealand with both nations vying to claim the first win. Australia will be searching for vengeance after going down in the World Cup Gold Medal Match, whereas the Ferns will be hoping to start a dynasty of dominance against their old foes. There are some notable outs for the Diamonds with April Brandley announcing her pregnancy while speedster Kelsey Browne will miss out with an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury. But these absences have forged a way for up-and-coming Swifts defender Maddy Turner,Sunshine Coast Lightning speedster Laura Scherian and Collingwood star Ash Brazill. For the Ferns, Casey Kopua has hung up the netburners and left a big defensive hole in her wake.
Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston will be hoping to have an immediate impact with their physical nature and ability to go out hunting down in the defensive circle. New inclusion, Turner will pair nicely with fellow Swifts premiership winner Sarah Klau who showed her defensive prowess on the international scene in the World Cup. The duo have proven they have what it takes to shut down dominant shooting partnerships with their smothering pressure, making for an interesting contest up against the likes of Maria Folau, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Bailey Mes and Maia Wilson. All four New Zealand shooters pose a dominant threat with their rangy shots, athleticism and strong connections while their ability to rotate through goal attack and goal shooter makes them somewhat unpredictable.
The Diamonds have a wealth of options inside the circle with Caitlin Bassett and Caitlin Thwaites damaging prospects under the post. With Steph Wood taking time off from the big stage expect Gretel Tippett to get the start given her scintillating international and domestic form over the past 18 months. Tippett is not afraid to take the game on with her athletic and unpredictable game play making her a challenging prospect for the Ferns defenders. However, the Ferns have no shortage of star defenders with the likes of superstar Katrina Rore who just recently won another premiership with the Swifts along with Karin Burger, Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, Phoenix Karaka and Jane Watson all of whom have proven to have the class to stop the Diamonds shooting end.
Fan favourite, Brazill has also made her way back into the Diamonds side for the first time since debuting back in 2016. With a relatively new-look side Australia will be hoping to flex their muscles to outsmart and outplay their opposition. Brazill offers plenty of excitement with her dynamic movement, defensive pressure and versatility, able to switch between centre and wing defence – something the Diamonds sorely lacked in their World Cup campaign. Through the midcourt the Diamonds have plenty of options with Liz Watson deadly around circle edge with her precision passing, slick movement and strength while Paige Hadley has had a season to remember. Despite coming into the Diamonds for the first time, Scherian has an established connection with the Australian captain having played together in the Suncorp Super Netball in recent years, making her a real prospect to get a start if Watson pushes out to centre. Jamie-Lee Pricehas shown she oozes versatility, able to move between wing defence and centre with ease where required. The match up in the midcourt will provide plenty of interest with energiser bunny Laura Langman owning the centre third with her impressive endurance, strength and netball nous. Meanwhile, Gina Crampton is pivotal in the attacking third with her timely feeds while Shannon Saunders is crafty with ball in hand.