Tag: laura scherian

Constellation Cup: Every Diamond ranked

WITH the Constellation Cup over and Australia claiming victory for the seventh consecutive year we take a look at the performances from each Diamond across the four game series and rank them. They are listed in order of who influenced the contest most.

A+

Gretel Tippett:

There is no denying that Gretel Tippett well and truly announced herself on the world stage once more only missing a mere three goals and sinking 82 goals from 85 attempts at 96 per cent across the four games. She is a real game changer for the Diamonds with her strength in the air and at aground level with her strong drives and high leap. Although costly at times in terms of turnovers, Tippett thrives on the physicality of the contest and can exploit opponents with her sheer athleticism and dynamic movement. Her second phase work and work rate is impressive able to cover the court with ease and seamlessly rotate through the circle to remain a real threat.

Ash Brazill:

Fan favourite Ash Brazill, well and truly left her mark on the international stage claiming MVP honours in the final game of the Constellation Cup and showcasing her versatility switching from her typical wing defence role to centre. The explosive and highly athletic midcourter did not leave anything to chance especially in the final game running laps around her opponents. Despite taking some time to find her feet in the opening game Brazill was not overawed by the opportunity and did not look out of place credit to her defensive pressure.

A

Caitlin Bassett:

In her hundredth game the Diamonds captain put on an absolute masterclass, moving around the circle with ease and reeling in stray passes. It was a vintage performance from the goal shooter who turned back time making full use of her height and strength. Although her previous three games were not up to the same standard as her final performance Bassett was consistent and provided a strong target under the post sinking 87 goals from 99 attempts at 88 per cent for the series.

Caitlin Thwaites:

In what would be her last international campaign Thwaites made the most of her opportunities oozing composure and accuracy. The talented goaler made no mistake using her experience and silky movement to pose a threat under the post. She did not play in the second game of the series but featured in all three others playing a huge role in Game 3 with 16 goals from 17 attempts. She finished the series with 25 goals from 27 attempts and will be sorely missed in the Diamonds side.

Courtney Bruce:

Although she missed the first game, Bruce came back with a vengeance using her physicality to get into the heads of her opponents and wreak havoc in the defensive third. Her speed, lean over the shot and dynamic movement was a real feature in the Diamonds win in Game 2 with the goal keeper capitalising on anything that came her way. She notched up 16 gains for the series along with six intercepts credit to her impressive defensive prowess.

B+

Laura Scherian:

The 31-year-old made her debut for the green and gold and did not skip a beat. With speed to boot Scherian nipped around the court to receive the ball and deliver it into Bassett time and time again. She relished the extra court time and although she tired at times showed plenty of grit to work herself back into the contest and create clever second phase plays. She was a real energiser bunny often unmarked around the circle edge credit to her speed and grew with confidence as the series progressed.

Liz Watson:

The ever-reliable Watson was tasked with a challenging opponent, spending large amounts of time against Langman. However, she stood up in Game 2 taking it to the veteran Silver Fern using her strength, endurance and smarts to have an impact across the court. she went missing at times but ran hard both ways applying both offensive and defensive pressure. Watson worked hard on the circle edge with 63 goal assists credit to her vision and variety of feeds into the circle.

Sarah Klau:

She was relatively hot and cold throughout the Constellation Cup. Klau got the start in the first game but was and truly outclassed by Ferns shooting duo Maria Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio. When she came on as an impact player in future games she shut down her opponent and highlighted her versatility moving out to goal defence at times.

Jo Weston:

The Melbourne Vixens goal defence offered plenty of defensive pressure down back but was costly at times giving away her fair share of contacts and obstructions. She has plenty of speed and can read the play with ease able to pick off passes but struggled to maintain her pressure over four quarter fading in and out of games.

B

Maddy Turner:

The youngster made her much awaited debut in the last game of the series and had an immediate impact forcing a held ball on no other than Maria Folau along with a huge intercept. She played with confidence and backed herself in the short time she was given. An exciting prospect going forward for the Diamonds.

Paige Hadley:

A broken wrist in the second game ended, Hadley’s series early but when on court she offered plenty of versatility and strength. She hustled hard for prime position on the circle edge and made her opponent accountable with her strong drives and quick ball movement. Hadley faded in and out of games a bit unable to have a full four quarter impact against the likes of Katrina Rore and Laura Langman.

C

Jamie-Lee Price:

Price really struggled to find her feet throughout the series with the young up-and-coming wing defence relegated to the bench for majority of the Constellation Cup. However, when she did make an appearance she was a fraction off the pace given the amount of time out of the game. Did some really clever things though using her speed and defensive pressure to limit her oppositions access to the ball.

Tegan Philip:

The Melbourne Vixens goaler had an up and down international series standing up at times and crumbling at others when the pressure was on. Her movement was solid while her connection with Thwaites was undeniable with the two moving well to create space.

Head to Head: Constellation Cup Game 4

IT all comes down to the final match of the Constellation Cup to see whether New Zealand or Australia will take home the coveted trophy. With the match nearing, we cast an eye over a potential match-up between the two sides.

AUSTRALIAN DIAMONDS v. NEW ZEALAND SILVER FERNS

Liz Watson (C) v. Laura Langman (C)

Both players are renowned for their high endurance, class and ability to break a game wide open making for a tough battle. Liz Watson offers plenty versatility to the Diamonds line-up while veteran Laura Langman is a real barometer for the side.

The typical wing attack has adjusted exceptionally well to the centre role using her ball placement and good change of direction to make the most of her opportunities with ball in hand. Watson works hard both in attack and defence getting back to help out the defenders while also showcasing her smarts to fly down the court in transition. Her second phase work is impressive able to hit circle edge time and time again. Despite not playing with new Diamond Laura Scherian for long Watson has made the connection look easy with the two finding good space and swinging the circle to create multiple options for the goalers. Watson works seamlessly with the likes of Gretel Tippett and Caitlin Bassett executing well weighted passes while her already established connection with Caitlin Thwaites and Tegan Philip is undeniable.

Langman is as strong as they come able to hustle any opponent for space on the circle edge and commands the ball with her presence. She can do the unthinkable whether it be take a match winning intercept or deliver a cleverly weighted feed into the circle making her a key cog for the Ferns. Both her attacking prowess and defensive pressure is second to none able to deny her opponents any easy path to the top of the circle. Her connection with both Maria Folau is hard to stop with the two able to connect instantly to feed into the circle while she has shown that she can find Ameliaranne Ekenasio in the circle with ease. Langman is the gift that keeps on giving credit to her ability to re-offer across all areas of the court and knowledge to reset play and not force the ball into the circle. She is both patient and speedy making her a tough challenge for any opponent.

Constellation Cup: Game 4 Preview

THE fourth and final game of the Constellation Cup marks the decider with the Silver Ferns currently sitting one game clear – but the Diamonds can catch up if they win in Perth on Sunday. Australia suffered another one goal less in their last outing and will be seeking vengeance in Game 4 to maintain the trophy meanwhile the Ferns will be hoping to claim bragging rights over their Trans-Tasman rivals, having not held the Cup in seven years.

The loss of midcourter Paige Hadley has plagued the Diamonds, with the squad unable to have the same flexibility and versatility across the court. However, the loss has given Laura Scherian the chance to really cement her spot in the side using her speed, quick hands and confidence to deliver carefully crafted passes into the circle. But given that it is her first international test series, Scherian has gone missing at times credit to the immense pressure applied by Katrina Rore, with the towering wing defence blocking her vision and causing hesitation. Although not in her usual position of wing attack, Liz Watson has taken ownership of the centre bib and third for Australia, but has been beaten by the class and endurance of Silver Ferns opponent Laura Langman in both of Australia’s losses. Langman is simply the gift that keeps on giving, willing her side on and doing the unthinkable to spark New Zealand into action. Ash Brazill has gotten better as time goes on and has relished the court time displaying her sheer athleticism to deflect and pressure the passes going into the circle. Not typically renowned for her shut down style role, Brazill has adapted nullifying the likes of Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders by shutting down their space and mirroring their every move. Fellow wing defence, Jamie-Lee Price could also be an option in the final game given her tight marking and speed off the stop to shut down the New Zealand front end.

New Zealand have a plethora of options in the goal circle with the tried and tested duo of Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Maria Folau causing the most havoc for the Diamonds. Folau and Ekenasio can shoot from anywhere in the circle and rotate seamlessly through the circle creating headaches for the Aussie defenders. In what could be her last international game, long bomb specialist, Folau will be looking to continue her hot form and remain unfazed by the physical nature of Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston. Bailey Mes has proved to be an impact player for the Ferns with the goal shooter making the most of her athletic traits and ability to reel in stray passes. The Diamonds will be looking to assert themselves early in the defensive circle with both Bruce and Weston renowned for their attacking mentality and skill to hunt the ball. Despite being named in the squad, Maddy Turner has yet to get a game and could be an exciting option heading into the final game of the series especially given her combination with Sarah Klau. The Swifts defender has plenty of versatility able to switch out to goal defence if needed which could provide a different look for the Diamonds defensive unit and catch the Ferns off guard.

The shooting combination has chopped and changed for the Diamonds throughout the Constellation Cup, with coach Lisa Alexander not afraid to ring in the changes to find the winning combination. All in all, towering goal attack Gretel Tippett has been a shining light for the Aussies only missing two goals throughout the three matches and will be hoping to maintain her accuracy. She has imposed herself with her commanding presence, attacking mentality and strength making her hard to stop when on song. Captain, Caitlin Bassett has had an up and down series thus far while Caitlin Thwaites has showcased her accuracy and range when brought on, backing herself from range and converting. Although shaky at times when the pressure is piled on, Tegan Philip has been solid for the Diamonds but will have to work wonders if she is any chance to steal the starting position from Tippett. That being said, Philips’ combination with Thwaites is tried and true with the pair working well in tandem. The Ferns have toyed with their defensive pairings but the duo of Karin Burger and Jane Watson has paid dividends throughout the series. Watson is not afraid to hunt the ball using her speed, height and timing to full advantage while Burger uses her physicality to get under the skin of her opponents. Phoenix Karaka is also a handy inclusion with her aerial ability making for another tight and physical battle in the goal circle.

Constellation Cup: Game 3 – Langman and Ekenasio stand up in another nail-biter

AMELIARANNE Ekenasio and Laura Langman were the toast of New Zealand after three critical moments between them in the last 90 seconds to secure a remarkable come-from-behind Silver Ferns victory in game three of the Constellation Cup. For the third time in four games, New Zealand Silver Ferns got the better of their Trans-Tasman rivals, Australia Diamonds in a one-goal thriller to go 2-1 up in the series. The 54-53 victory in front of a packed crowd at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney was nail-biting to say the least with both benches up on their feet at times during the tense last couple of minutes to see the world’s two best netball sides go head-to-head.

The one-goal win to the Silver Ferns was not too dissimilar to their Game One triumph on home soil, having to come from behind to overrun the Diamonds in the last term. But unlike that match, the visitors had to come from four goals down at the half, get within a goal at the final break, and hold on under a pressure-cooker situation in the last quarter to win the term 12-10 and get home by the narrowest of margins. Both teams were incredibly accurate throughout the game, shooting at 90 per cent, with the Diamonds having double the turnovers (6-3), but also holding firm close to the post with eight rebounds to two throughout the game.

Of all the moments when both sides needed a hero to stand up, the Silver Ferns had two, with Ekenasio delivering a goal to go one-up with just over a minute remaining after Tegan Philip was called for held-ball just moments earlier up the other end. With 51 seconds left on the clock, Caitlin Thwaites levelled the score again, as New Zealand looked to eat up as much of the time as they could at 53 goals apiece. The visitors upset the defensive rhythm of the Aussies, with Folau darting out to win possession and producing a pin-point pass into Ekenasio who for the second time in 90 seconds, delivered with the roar of the Australian crowd trying to drown out her thoughts. With seconds remaining, Australia had one role of the dice remaining. They raced off the centre pass, but as Jo Weston attempted to slice through the defence, Langman – arguably, if not definitively the world’s best centre – read the play like a picture book, intercepted the ball sending it down the other end for the whistle to sound before another goal could be put on the board.

Langman was absolutely phenomenal throughout the contest, producing a remarkable 26 goal assists from 43 feeds, as well as three intercepts and three gains to be the standout Most Valuable Player (MVP). In the attacking circle, Ekenasio was the standout player, rubbing salt into the wounds that the former Australian junior was in the all-black dress instead of the green and gold. She shot 27 of a possible 29 goals, while having five goal assists from six feeds – as well as New Zealand’s only two rebounds. Folau also had five goal assists from eight feeds and proved to be the long bomb specialist once again nailing 27 from 31. Up the other end, it was Jane Watson who did a strong job on Bassett forcing the Diamonds captain to the bench, picking up three gains and three intercepts, while Karin Burger had four and one, granted with 14 penalties – the most of any player.

The Australian netball fans were again left somewhat frustrated based on the social media feedback, with Gretel Tippett shooting 13 goals at 100 per cent accuracy, only to be replaced by Philip at a crucial time. Thwaites also stood tall in moments of upmost importance, slotting 16 goals from 17 attempts backing herself from anywhere in the goal circle. The Diamonds captain, shot 19 from 21 and was as reliable as ever under the post, but the predictability inside the goal circle seemed costly once again – especially taking the dead-eye Tippett out of the attack. In mid-court it was hard to believe Laura Scherian was only in her debut international series, picking up 24 goal assists from 29 feeds, with Liz Watson beaten by Langman, but still having 13 goal assists from 22 feeds. Ash Brazill started in wing defence and finished with two intercepts and three gains, replaced by Jamie-Lee Price later in the match, while Weston had an intercept and three gains, but 13 penalties, three more than Courtney Bruce who rotated with Sarah Klau.

While both sides showed why they are the two best teams in the world, once again it was New Zealand’s ability to stand up in the pressure-cooker moments and take their chances that got them home by one goal once again. It was so near, yet so far for the Diamonds who now have to lick their wounds and bounce back as they did in game two, to try and turn the tables on their rivals in Perth in the fourth and final match of the series. The fourth game will be held next Sunday at RAC Arena in what is predicted to be a full house.

Constellation Cup: Game 2 – Diamonds get one back in milestone 150th test match

IN their 150th encounter it was the Diamonds that reigned supreme over the Silver Ferns with a well-earned six-goal victory (48-42). Australia came out with a point to prove after a disappointing game one of the Constellation Cup, upping the intensity in defence and shutting down the New Zealand attack end. It was a relatively scrappy and low scoring game with both sides wrestling for momentum and forcing uncharacteristic turnovers, credit to the fast-paced nature of the game.

The Diamonds got out to a handy lead in the opening term with tall timber duo Gretel Tippett and Caitlin Bassett causing havoc in the attacking end. Tippett proved to be the difference, with the goal attack imposing herself both in defence and offence picking up a deflection early to go with seven straight goals. Laura Scherian got the start in wing attack, with the speedy midcourter opening up space with her dynamic movement and confidence on the pass. Scherian backed herself in the attacking third, hustling hard to hit the circle and delivering well-weighted passes into her goalers. After missing out on court time in game one, Courtney Bruce announced herself early using her speed, read of the play and physicality to disrupt the Ferns’ attack time and time again. She picked up two gains, one intercept and four deflections in the first alone, highlighting her defensive prowess. Maria Folau picked up where she left off with the experienced goaler unfazed by the physical nature of Bruce and despite being forced to shoot from range only missed one shot with seven goals from eight attempts. Veteran Laura Langman was crucial through the midcourt once again, using her strength to win the ball and feed it into the circle with six goal assists in the first term.

Australia steadily built on their lead in the second, playing with confidence down the court. Scherian started to tire midway through the second, credit to Katrina Rore working in overdrive applying strong hands over pressure and mirroring her every move, prompting Paige Hadley to enter the game in wing attack. Hadley worked well with Liz Watson through the midcourt, not skipping a beat with the two finding good space and looking into the circle to find an option under the post. Watson lifted her load in the centre third with her strong drives, clean hands and clever movement. Despite a couple of turnovers Tippett continued on her merry way, outscoring Bassett with nine goals straight displaying her ability to blow open a game. The defensive pressure applied by Karin Burger and Jane Watson intensified for the Ferns with the two contesting every pass and getting up to the high balls to create doubt in the feeders’ minds, notching up three deflections, one intercept and two gains between them. Up the other end, Bruce continued to be a thorn in the Ferns side denying easy access into the circle, swatting away passes and cleanly impacting the play, racking up another four gains and two intercepts.

Only up by five goals at half-time, the Diamonds maintained their composure and worked the ball around to edge out to a 10 goal lead before the Ferns mounted a late comeback, piling on six consecutive goals. both sides made a host of changes heading into the second half with Folau moving out to goal attack, Bailey Mes entering as goal shooter and Ameliaranne Ekenasio (8 goals from 11 attempts) moving to the bench after being well held in the first half. Folau and Mes found their mojo with the two using the space in the goal circle to separate the Diamonds defence and capitalise. Mes brought a new element to the Ferns attacking end with her athleticism and aerial ability. Sarah Klau entered the game in goal defence using her height and hands over pressure to block Folau’s vision and while it took a while for the connection to click with Bruce she won her fair share of ball with three gains, one intercept and two deflections. After a stellar first half, Tippett found herself on the bench and replaced by Tegan Philip who injected plenty of speed and accuracy in the attacking third while Ash Brazill moved to the bench midway through the term as Jamie-Lee Price took the court. Youngster Whitney Souness was influential in wing attack for New Zealand with her well-timed drives, silky footwork around the circle edge and ability to help out defensively, picking up one intercept and two gains.

With the final quarter underway the Silver Ferns threw everything at the Diamonds with the defensive pressure increasing as the term went on. Coach Lisa Alexander proved she was not afraid to pull the changes, bringing on Jo Weston and Scherian throughout the term with the two providing fresh legs. Another new combination of Philip and Tippett under the post worked wonders with the two moving seamlessly, finding form quickly to create plenty of Diamonds momentum. Langman kicked it up another gear running up and down the court, contesting every pass that came her way while Burger and Watson tried gallantly in defence. But the Diamonds stuck strong to run out with a hard-fought win in Lisa Alexander’s 100th test cap as coach.

Bruce was named MVP after amassing 12 gains, five intercepts, nine deflections and five rebounds while Tippett showed her skill with 23 goals from 24 attempts at 96 per cent. Folau was the top scorer with 31 goals from 41 attempts at 76 perc ent proving that accuracy was the main cause of the Ferns’ problems in game two.

Constellation Cup wrap: Match 1 – Silver Ferns go back-to-back

A MASSIVE start to the 2019 Constellation Cup saw plenty of action and feisty gameplay from the start, with the Australian Diamonds travelling to Christchurch for the first of four test matches against the New Zealand Silver Ferns. Both came into this match with plenty to prove, given the Aussies were still hurting following their loss to the Ferns in June’s Netball World Cup decider, while the Ferns looked to build on that momentum and prove it wasn’t a one-off victory. It was the Ferns that got the goods in the first match of the series, dominating in the first and final quarters to defeat the Aussies by just one goal for the second time in the past six months.

Aussie fan favourite Ash Brazill got the start in her return to the Diamonds, finding the wing defence bib to much cheer from fans, while circle defender Sarah Klau got the start over Courtney Bruce proving coach, Lisa Alexander is willing to mix up positions to get an all-important win on the board. The Diamonds have plenty to offer on the bench with talent and excitement to boot, while Maddy Turner sat out the first match as the thirteenth player.

For the Silver Ferns, the retirement of Casey Kopua left the goal defence bib up for grabs while Gina Crampton was out of the mix with injury, meaning both teams had a number of different players coming into the match. New Zealand still had plenty of strong players to bring to the table however, with the likes of Laura Langman and Katrina Rore at ultimately the best form of their respective careers, while the speed and agility of Maria Folau and Ameliaranne Ekenasio in the goal circle will prove key to the attacking force of the Ferns.

The first quarter saw both sides go in hard for the loose ball, forcing plenty of turnovers and relatively evenly matched across the court. It was a quick start for the Diamonds before the Ferns were able to settle, with neither side able to find fluidity in attack and crowding around the circle in effort to find circle edge. While there were plenty of fumbles from New Zealand early, the side were quick to capitalise with Ekenasio well and truly taking the brunt of the goaling load in goal attack thanks to the defensive effort of Jo Weston and Klau keeping Folau out of the fray. It was a different story for the Aussies, with Gretel Tippett feeding well to Bassett though the defensive effort of Phoenix Karaka and Jane Watson caused difficulty for Liz Watson and Paige Hadley to feed with ease into the circle. Both sides brought physicality in spades from the get-go, contesting and causing turnovers aplenty to come to a 13 goals to 11 quarter time score with the home side leading the charge.

The Ferns came out to play in the second quarter with their forceful game style, coming off the body to clog the space and making it difficult for the Diamonds to find circle edge. While the Diamonds put in every effort to create turnover ball, it was to no avail with the side unable to capitalise, finding little separation in attack. While the Aussies had patches of greatness, the Ferns did not stop pushing and extended their lead to four goals early in the quarter. In a big move for the Aussies, Laura Scherian took the court in wing attack on her Diamonds debut as the oldest debutant in Diamonds history, replacing Watson and injecting her dynamic speed and feeding ability on circle edge. With under a minute left on the clock the diamonds drew back some momentum, denying the Ferns a goal opportunity and finishing the quarter down by one goal, 26-25. The Diamonds more than doubled the penalty count coming into halftime, proving that the cleanliness of the Ferns may be the Aussies’ downfall, while the Ferns dominated possession in the first half, taking much more care of the ball than Australia.

The third quarter started much the same with only one big change for the Diamonds, seeing Watson retake the court in centre while Hadley took the bench, with no changes made for the Ferns. Karaka came alive in the third, finding loose ball with relative ease and applying a mountain of pressure inside the defensive circle. Scherian slotted in well for the Diamonds, unafraid to turn and feed the ball and proving a worthy addition to the side which still seemed sluggish against the Ferns despite matching them almost goal for goal. The momentum swung the way of the Diamonds in the latter half of the quarter, with the side finally seeming to settle and creating issues for the Ferns, not allowing their opposition to stick to their structures. The Diamonds took the lead to five at the final change, taking up the heat in the end of the quarter to turn the tides of the match and set up a massive final quarter, leading 44-39.

The final quarter saw the contest step up a notch, with the Ferns unwilling to go down without a fight while the Diamonds had a sluggish start to lose their five goal buffer. The Diamonds made plenty of silly errors to begin the quarter, losing some of the polish they worked so hard to produce in the third, seeing Caitlin Thwaites sub in for captain, Bassett. An umpiring blind spot saw Ekenasio produce a turnover for the ages, gifting the Ferns a massive match-changing goal that swung the momentum well and truly out of the Diamonds’ hands. The Ferns ate up the final minute of the clock to win their first back-to-back victory against the Diamonds since 2015, defeating the Aussies 53-52 and taking in the confidence to the second match of the series in Auckland on Wednesday.

The Diamonds stayed confident in their attacking and defensive setup throughout, not making any changes and ensuring the side ironed through any issues. Bassett and Tippett produced the goods, shooting a respective 26 goals from 30 attempts and 24 from 25, while Thwaites put up two from two in her short stint on court. Weston and Klau combined for seven gains and 24 penalties, while Scherian put in the hard yards feeding with 10 assists from 13 feeds, second only to Watson who took charge with 22 from 30. For the victors, Ekenasio and Folau were outstanding with 29 and 24 goals respectively, while Langman and Shannon Saunders put on an attacking clinic around the circle combining for 42 assists.

Constellation Cup: Game 1 preview

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.

2019 SSN season team review: Sunshine Coast Lightning

THE Sunshine Coast Lightning almost made history in 2019, making it to their third consecutive grand final but falling at the last hurdle. They farewelled coaching mastermind Noeline Taurua while the future of Laura Langman is still unknown.

Position: 1st
Percentage: 112.65%
Win-loss: 12-2

2019 Overview:

The Lightning were dealt a relatively big blow over the off season with star goaler and Diamonds captain, Caitlin Bassett departing the club along with Geva Mentor and Kelsey Browne. But that did not seem to faze the Lightning who established themselves as fierce competitors once more, welcoming Phumza Maweni, Peace Proscovia and the returning Langman. All three players had a profound impact with Langman providing her telltale drive and dynamic movement across the court, accompanied by her experience and match winning ability. Maweni posed a dominant threat in the defensive circle, pairing well with fellow international Karla Pretorius to send any ball that came their way back up the court and picking off a host of intercepts. The wing defence bib rotated between Maddy McAuliffe and Jacqui Russell with the pair providing good coverage and hands over pressure. Through the midcourt, speedster Laura Scherian came into her own, relishing the reduced space that allowed her to perfect her feeds into the circle and build her connection with Proscovia. The Ugandan shooter displayed her strength, holding well and bodying up to take the ball on the baseline while Steph Wood continued on her merry way with her quick hands, netball nous and footwork on full display.

Shining light:

Cara Koenen elevated to a whole new level throughout the latter half of the season, absorbing every bit of pressure and commanding the ball time and time again. she continuously showcased her explosiveness with both her speed and strength while her versatility was crucial for the Lightning’s finals assault. The 23-year-old shooter made the goal shooter bib her own, working with Wood and Proscovia with ease and displaying her silky footwork to drive along the baseline or sweep across the top of the circle. Her ability to read the play, get up high and have a presence whenever the ball came her way enabled her to stay in the game and cause plenty of havoc. As she grew with confidence, the goal shooter backed herself from range proving accuracy and volume was no issue.

Predictions 2020:

With a couple of years under Silver Ferns coach and extraordinaire Noeline Taurua, newly appointed coach Kylee Byrne has plenty to offer when she takes the reins in 2020. Byrne has seen first-hand what it takes to match it with the best in the business and definitely has the clientele to replicate a similar outcome once again next year. She oozes experience and knowledge having been in the coaching game for the past 10 years, making her a key figure for the side going forward if they are to continue to succeed.

Diamonds dig up a few popular gems in Constellation Cup announcement

THE Australian netballing public looks set to be satisfied for the first time in a while following the announcement of the 2019 Australian Diamonds Constellation Cup team. Fan-favourite Ash Brazill has been included in the team following the dynamic midcourter being overlooked for the Netball World Cup. Her form in the Suncorp Super Netball (SSN) this season has earned her a spot in the side, included in a 23-player side that also saw a couple of popular picks in NSW Swifts’ Maddy Turner and Sunshine Coast Lightning’s Laura Scherian included in the 13-player side. The trio replaced injured Kelsey Browne, pregnant April Brandley, and the omitted Steph Wood, of whom the latter has still retained her spot in the 2019/20 Diamonds’ squad.

Alongside Wood are former Diamonds, Gabi Simpson, Kate Moloney and Emily Mannix, all of whom were training partners for the Netball World Cup, while youngster Kiera Austin has also been included in the extended squad of 18 following a terrific season broadening her game to wing attack.

2019 Samsung Australian Diamonds Constellation Cup Team:

Caitlin Bassett (GIANTS Netball)
Ash Brazill (Collingwood Magpies)
Courtney Bruce (West Coast Fever)
Paige Hadley (NSW Swifts)
Sarah Klau (NSW Swifts)
Tegan Philip (Melbourne Vixens)
Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS Netball)
Laura Scherian (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
Caitlin Thwaites (Melbourne Vixens)
Gretel Tippett (Queensland Firebirds)
Maddy Turner (NSW Swifts)
Liz Watson (Melbourne Vixens)
Jo Weston (Melbourne Vixens)

2019/20 Samsung Australian Diamonds Squad Members:

Kiera Austin (GIANTS Netball)
Emily Mannix (Melbourne Vixens)
Kate Moloney (Melbourne Vixens)
Gabi Simpson (Queensland Firebirds)
Steph Wood (Sunshine Coast Lightning)

NSW Swifts dash Lightning dreams of a three-peat

IT was a miraculous performance by the NSW Swifts who reigned supreme against the Lightning (47-64) to clench their first premiership since 2008. The win ended a five-game losing streak against the Lightning but most importantly gifted them with the trophy after a dominant 2019 season.

From the first whistle, the battle was on with both sides competing hard and not giving an inch. But it was the Swifts that jumped out of the blocks going on a three-goal shooting spree thanks to Sam Wallace. Uncharacteristic turnovers from the Lightning gifted their counterparts with easy avenues to goal before Cara Koenen answered with a couple of goals of her own but it was not enough to quell the influence of the Swifts who threw everything at them. With momentum swinging back and forth the Swifts took the game by the scruff off the neck with Wallace and Sarah Klau completely dominating their opponent with their pressure and silky skills. Klau imposed herself on every single pass contesting the high balls time and time again and using her feet to cleanly get around the body of Koenen. The Swifts goal keeper notched up three gains, one intercept, two deflections and two rebounds. Inaccuracy cost the Lightning with Steph Wood missing a sitter resulting in a turnover and giving the Swifts another shot at goal. Wallace was on song early relishing the space and dominating under the post with her split and aerial skill. At the 12 and a half minute mark, Noeline Taurua swung the axe forcing Wood to the bench, pushing Koenen out to goal attack and Peace Proscovia into goal shooter. The combination between the two paid dividends, going on a scoring rampage to peg the margin back before the Swifts called a timeout to calm the troops. The Swifts headed into the first break up by four goals.

The game continued at a frenetic pace but it was the Lightning that struck first with a quick fire goal. But the Swifts did not ease up with Housby quickly answering before the Lightning mounted pressure with Proscovia and Koenen putting on a masterclass in the goal circle with their movement and ball placement. The ball bubbled up and down the court woth both sides unable to settle before Proscovia showed good composure under the post to take her three seconds and nail the goal to get the Lightning back within a goal. The Lightning were coming hard credit to the defensive duo of Phumza Maweni and Karla Pretouris winning ball back while Koenen lifted her work load in attack to deliver the ball into Proscovia and provide an option out the front. Pretoirus took a breathtaking intercept miday through the term but the Lightning lost it through transition with the ball firing back down into the circle resulting in yet another Wallace goal. With seven minutes down in the second term Sophie Garbin entered the game with the goal attack taking control and throwing her body around to work the ball into the circle. The physicality lifted up another notch with bodies flying everywhere with Pretorius finding the floorboards twice within a couple of minutes. But a costly turnover in the middle third for the Lightning allowed the Swifts to push back out to three goal lead and build from there. Lightning once again looked to the bench bringing Wood back on but it was not enough with the Sunshine Coast down by eight at half-time.

Up by eight goals after the main break, the Swifts maintained their intensity nullifying the influence of the Lightning and working in overdrive to extend their lead. Wood failed to impact the scoreboard missing a crucial goal in the opening minutes of the quarter and allowing the Swifts to pile on a quick couple of goals. Wood did not slot her first goal until four minute of the term but up the other end Wallace and Housby dominated with Maweni and Pretorius struggling despite a couple of good attempts to regain possession for their side. The Lightning nailed two goals in a row prompting a Swifts timeout but that attacking thrust was quickly quashed with the Swifts owning the rest of the term. Nat Haythornthwaite lifted her load in attack while Paige Hadley continued to find good space. Maweni took a ridiculous intercept but was equally matched by Klau up the other end reading the flight of the ball and propelling the ball back down the court with ease. the third quarter was dominated by plenty of whistle with the umpires having a huge influence on the Lightning defensive unit. With the Sunshine Coast struggling Jacqui Russell entered the game while Koenen made her way back on in goal shooter at the 13 minute mark but it made no impact with the Swifts nudging out to a 10-goal lead.

With only 15 minutes left in the game, the Swifts ran it home making the most of their opportunities under the post. They answered every challenge posed controlling the game with their clever passes and strong structures. In possibly her last game, veteran Laura Langman played her heart out running hard both ways but it was not enough to drag her side over the line. NSW were simply too good and ran rampant in the last term with the fans well and truly riding every bump, goal and intercept. Sophie Halpin made her way onto the court in the final five minutes while Garbin (six from seven) also re-entered replacing Wallace at the post. With three minutes left Annika-Lee Jones pulled on the goal keeper bib while Tayla Fraser also came on for the Swifts. Wallace dominated with (40 from 44) winning the Player of the Match award while Housby notched up (18 from 22). For the Lightning Koenen topscored with (23 from 27).

STARTING LINE-UPS:

Sunshine Coast Lightning:

GS | Cara Koenen
GA | Steph Wood
WA | Laura Scherian
C | Laura Langman
WD | Maddy McAuliffe
GD | Karla Pretorius
GK | Phumza Maweni

NSW Swifts:

GS | Sam Wallace
GA | Helen Housby
WA | Nat Haythornthwaite
C | Paige Hadley
WD | Katrina Rore
GD | Maddy Turner
GK | Sarah Klau