In a game that had plenty of questions for the Australia Diamonds and New Zealand Silver Ferns, little preparation time and both teams looking to solidify key combinations, the Diamonds put out a clinical performance from start to finish, defeating the New Zealand Silver Ferns by 14 goals, 53-39.
Diamonds defensive pressure on song
Prior to the match, there were concerns that this Diamond squad would struggle to perform but right from the first whistle, the Diamonds put that concern to bed. Every Diamond player on the court whether they started the game or came off the bench made an impact and played their role completely and wholly disabling the Ferns. From Goal Shooter through to Goal Keeper every Ferns pass was contested resulting in 11 gains and 9 deflections. And with such a strong start from the Diamonds, the Ferns became stagnant in their attack with no options to the ball and often no second phase off their centre pass often opting to go backwards and “reset”.
It was clear that Nicole “Richo” Richardson had been working her magic with the Diamonds defensive end as Jo Weston, Ash Braz, Courtney Bruce and Paige Hadley often utilised their body and fancy footwork to corner the Ferns and force them into one pocket. Couple that with hands over every ball and rarely was it a smooth sailing play for the Silver Ferns.
Combinations clicking for Diamonds early in Quad Series
Following 2 years of heartbreak, injuries and limited game time, there were promising signs from the new Diamond combos emerging. Gretel Bueta and Steph Wood combined well in the circle and had lots of confidence and flair in their shots. Together they finished with 89% shooting accuracy.
Liz Watson and Paige Hadley were an unlikely coupling that was unstoppable. Once they hit the circle edge their feeds into the shooting circle were on song but it was their preliminary moves and sense to look forward that also made them shine.
Courtney Bruce and Jo Weston showed force and were able to win the ball back with ease pulling down rebounds and putting on the pressure in the Silver Ferns attack, forcing them into mistakes.
Gretel Bueta showing class
In her first cap post the birth of Bobby Bueta, Gretel Bueta put on a masterclass, being a dominant force in the shooting circle. Shooting 31/33 for the match, Bueta continued to be an option and created space for Wood to do what she does best in the attack. Bueta also did not disappoint in being “world class” with her signature jump shots and ability to keep the ball in court and in Diamond’s hands-on display. If it hadn’t been wildly broadcasted that it was her first game back, fans may not have realised and just considered her in form.
Ash Brazil continues to shine
Ash Brazil came out firing in game one with a point to prove, showing why she should be in the Diamonds environment. It’s no understatement saying Brazil is a beast on court and any opposition should be a little scared. It was truly poetry watching Brazil put on a masterclass, doing the 1%ers, winning the ball back and being hungry for more. It also did not go unnoticed how her footwork and many preliminary moves practically took Gina Crampton out of the game which was a huge blow for the Ferns.
Silver Ferns looking to bounce back
For the Silver Ferns, it was not the start they were looking for and will certainly be looking to bounce back after a disappointing first game. With the highest penalty counts on the day, they will be looking to address their game etiquette in today’s match against England. However, it wasn’t all bad, despite losing the first three quarters they found momentum and swung the last quarter 10-6 in their favour and had the return of powerhouse Kayla Johnson in the black dress and in GD where she looked more at home. There was also plenty of opportunities for their young shooting end to gain experience at the international level with both Grace Nweke and Tiana Metuarau taking the court. In the coming matches it will be interesting to see how the team develops and if we see Phoenix Karaka also make a return to the court.
What to look forward to!
The Origin Diamonds will look to continue to build from their first game when they face South Africa, whilst for the Silver Ferns, they look will look to put on a better performance against the England Roses.