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Constellation Cup: Beating the Kiwis just for the fun of it

Australia continue to dominate in international netball. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Expert
20th October, 2015
5

After a gruelling two months, four days and 15 minutes without netball, the long suffering Australian supporters were finally rewarded by seeing our Diamonds back out on court for the Consolation (sorry, I mean Constellation) Cup.

The joy didn’t last long before everyone realised that we were due to play New Zealand for the 257th time this year.

To the surprise of everyone, New Zealand scored the first two goals of the game and looked pretty pleased with themselves.

While the players had heard of a mythical concept of ‘leading against the Diamonds’, it was something that had always been spoken about in hushed tones. No one was really sure whether or not it was actually possible, or just some fantastical dream that Jodi Brown once had.

While they all stood around pondering this concept, the Australians took the opportunity to return things to the status quo and score some goals.

However, the plucky Kiwis stayed in the match, thanks in part to goal shooter Caitlin Bassett being sure that every pass into the circle was actually meant for the ball girls and happily watching it sail over her head.

Once her teammates clued her in that they weren’t charitably trying to include the sweet little girls in the game, she was unstoppable and the Diamonds took a one-goal lead into the first break.

The second quarter rolled around and the Diamonds decided to up their intensity to 16 per cent (which equates to approximately 180 per cent on the New Zealand intensity scale).

After some trouble with her calf, new Australian player Renae Ingles called a time out. Ingles, who looks remarkably like former Australian player Renae Hallinan (hey, same first name too, isn’t that weird?), is apparently the team’s vice-captain, which is quite the coup for someone who appeared out of nowhere.

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An injury forced Ingles from the court and she was replaced by another debutant, 23-year-old Gabi Simpson. While Simpson was serviceable, she was obviously shaken by the incredible insult hurled at her by commentator Jenny Woods, who referred to her as a “Queenslander” as she took the court. Fortunately she didn’t mistake her for a Victorian, or things could really have got ugly.

The retirement of star goal defence Julie Corletto after the World Cup left big shoes to fill, so who else to fill them than Sharni Layton?

Never one to do things by halves, Layton insisted on flying to England, where Corletto now lives, and procuring an actual pair of the former Diamond’s shoes to ceremonially fill with the blood of every previous Australian captain before the game. The move seemed to pay off, as Layton was spectacular – harnessing all the energy she’d been storing in a box from the games she was physically restrained from taking part in at the World Cup.

By half-time the lead had stretched out to four and, like a rolling stone, the Diamonds were starting to gather momentum. Kim Ravaillion was seeing how many steps head start she could give her opposing player Laura Langman and still get the ball ahead of her, getting to 19 before dismissing the whole concept as ‘too easy’.

Our Lord and Saviour Natalie Medhurst was in outstanding form.

“When isn’t she?” I hear you ask. Stop asking things. I’m talking. Anyway, Medhurst, having already caused starting goal defence Leana de Bruin to run from the court crying, set about doing the same to her replacement Katrina Grant.

If ever, through some bizarre spell performed by a strange netball-loving witch, the game is scored by the best bemused look, cast at an opponent who has just been pulled up for contact, any team containing Medhurst will be unbeatable. Though that sadly isn’t in the current rules, fortunately she’s also fairly amazing at putting the ball through that funny net thing.

With the lead out to six at the final break, coach Lisa Alexander decided that although she had a wealth of shooters and mid-courters in the team, it would be a good idea to bring on the only other circle defender she had packed for the tour.

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Alexander first tried to put McMeniman into goal defence, before discovering that Layton had super glued the GD bibs to her uniform and hidden all the spares. So wing defence it would have to be.

The Diamonds cruised towards the finish, occasionally letting New Zealand score a few goals so they didn’t feel too bad about themselves. And for some reason New Zealanders think that we’re not nice?

The game ended with a (predictable) Diamonds victory, 50-44. Stay tuned for the next instalment of the series on Thursday October 22. Rumour has it that Diamonds captain Laura Geitz will play with her hands tied behind her back, just to give New Zealand a fighting chance.

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