The Australian Diamonds will go into the final game of
the 2012 Quad-Series against the Silver Ferns undefeated after beating England
57-35 at TECT Arena in Tauranga, New Zealand, on Sunday.
Captain Natalie von Bertouch returned to the starting line up for her first
game back from injury as coach Lisa Alexander opted for the same seven that
defeated the New Zealand Silver Ferns in Sydney last week.
Both sides were guilty of sloppy starts, England conceded possession on nine
occasions while the Australians handed over the ball seven times as neither
team could find much rhythm in the first quarter.
Susan Pratley, celebrating her 50th international Test appearance, shouldered
much of shooting burden early while Catherine Cox found her range with the goal
attack converting seven goals from nine attempts as Cox went five from ten.
The Australians improved their ball retention in the second quarter which they
converted into scoreboard pressure as wing attack Madison Browne worked her
magic around the circle edge for 12 goal assists in the first-half alone.
A goal from Pratley on the stroke of half-time gave Australia their largest
margin of the game as they went into the break with a 13-goal lead.
Alexander made just the one change for the second half with Mo’onia Gerrard
introduced at wing attack for Renae Hallinan while keeping her faith in the Cox
and Pratley combination.
Cox, celebrating her 104th international appearance to equal Vicki Wilson as
the third most capped player in Australian netball, immediately repaid
Alexander with six quick goals to see the Diamonds extend their advantage to 19
goals before England called an injury time.
Despite England coach Anna Mayes reshuffling her on court line up, little could
be done to stem the Australian’s flow of scoring as the Quad-Series leaders
extended their advantage to 21 goals at three-quarter time.
With less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Diamonds were
forced to make another change in the attacking circle with the introduction of
WAIS athlete Caitlin Bassett at goal shooter after Cox suffered a knock on her
thigh, though it brought little reprieve for England.
Changes at three-quarter time saw shooter Erin Bell partner Bassett in attack
for the last 15 minutes while Gerrard was moved back to goal defence as
Hallinan was reintroduced at wing defence.
The physical encounter saw a number of players on the end of heavy knocks
throughout the game however it was a case of one to many when captain von
Bertouch was replaced late in the fourth quarter after hitting the court hard.
The fourth quarter saw little change to the margin as the Diamonds held on to a
22-goal victory to maintain their commanding lead at the top of the Quad-Series
table with just one game to come on Thursday against the Silver Ferns in Hamilton.
Browne’s work rate through the midcourt and around the edge of the circle was
recognised with the most valuable player (MVP) award.
Shooter Caitlin Thwaites pulled off a spectacular start
to her Diamonds career, nailing a perfect game in her adopted hometown to help
Australia to a 68-36 win over South Africa in Wellington.
Thwaites earned the 158th cap in Diamonds history on Thursday night
when she was came on at the start of the second half to partner Susan Pratley
in the circle. As soon as she stepped onto the court TSB Arena the crowd went
wild and Thwaites went on finish flawlessly, sinking 23 from 23, for possibly
the first time in her career.
"I can’t actually recall ever shooting 100 percent,” she said. "That’s pretty
good to be able to do that considering how nervous I was. Hopefully I can iron
out a few of those other things if I get another chance in the quad series.”
Thwaites also couldn’t have asked for a more perfect location for her first
Australian cap, playing in front of an adopted home crowd in Wellington.
The dual international, having also played volleyball for Australia, moved to
New Zealand’s capital at the start of the 2011 season to play for the Central
Pulse, where her role in the team’s ANZ Championship turnaround helped to put
her back on the Diamonds map.
The 25-year-old has been in and out of Australian squads since 2006, but it
took until half-time in the Quad-Series match between the Diamonds and the SPAR
Proteas for her international debut to come.
"It was very nice of Lisa to give me my first game in
Wellington, I feel like it’s a home crowd,” she said.
However she did ensure that crowd knew where her allegiance lay after the
"I’m an Aussie through and through, I’ll occasionally lend myself to the
Kiwis,” she said with a smile.
Overall, Thwaites said that while she did end with perfect statistics, she has
plenty she would like to improve on if she gets another chance in the
Quad-Series this year.
"It was good, we still have a lot to be able to improve on I guess with the
timing issues and reading the spaces of my hold, it’s a little bit different to
the other girls,” she said.
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said the plan to start Thwaites with Pratley had
paid off, as the pair worked seamlessly to extend the lead.
"Susan is such a creative goal attack,” Alexander said. "So what we were hoping
for was that she would really brought Caity into the game and gave her lots of
confidence so that she had a good debut.”
Alexander mixed up the line-up for each half, but said she was happy with both
performances as the Diamonds kept their quad series undeafeted run intact.
"I thought our attacking play was really good in that first, when we got
started after that time out we put the foot down and got a bit more of an easy
passage, I thought Chelsea Pittman provided some really good drive in that
first quarter,” she said.
"But I think our defence started to get on top in the second half, I think
Chanel Gomes in GD, she doesn’t play wing defence a lot so going back to
familiar territory was better for her and then Mo’onia (Gerrard) supported her
well and so did Renee (Hallinan).”
- Netball Australia